The sharing economy is a system built by communities sharing resources like bikes, cars, tools, books, and other goods. It reduces environmental impacts, saves money, and can create stronger bonds between the community.
As a result of today’s consumer culture and individualized lifestyles, individual ownership is commonplace. Individual ownership can lead to hoarding, uneven distribution of resources, and inefficiency. In the United States, around 40 percent of the food supply is wasted, ending up in landfills instead of feeding the 13.8 million food-insecure households across the nation. This is just one example of how individualism leads to unjust outcomes.
The sharing economy in North America originated in indigenous communities prior to colonization. The model of the sharing economy requires fewer resources, with less waste and emissions. In Shanghai, bicycle sharing reduced CO2 emissions by 25,000 tons and nitrogen oxide emissions by 64 tons in 2016. The success of this initiative can be largely attributed to the consumer demand for more environmentally sustainable options, and the willingness of people to reconsider individual ownership.
The sharing economy also saves money. For example, using a bicycle share program to ride when you need is cheaper than buying an expensive bike that you may ride just a few times. Other examples of the sharing economy, like renting tools, also saves money. If you need a specialized tool for a few household projects, it will be much cheaper and environmentally sustainable to rent the tool and return it once you’re done.
In the United States, there are some examples of sharing economies, the most successful being Uber. However, in a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers have found that car services such as Uber have contributed to increased carbon emissions. This is because, around 40 percent of mileage across the U.S. can be attributed to deadheading, or driving with no customer. This goes to show that the sharing economy model is not always climate-friendly if not implemented correctly.
Successfully establishing sharing economies may seem like an overwhelming task, but real change starts with your local community.
Food pantries, community gardens, community-led libraries or parks, mutual aid funds, and other community spaces are all examples of shared resources that stem from sharing culture. None of these examples occur on a nationwide scale, but rather they are locally led. Sharing items with neighbors, passing on old clothes to younger kids in the community, and sharing school supplies, are all part of the sharing economy. In fact, one could argue that some of the best sharing economies today in the U.S. are in neighborhoods and communities that are willing to share resources in order to support one another.
The fact that sharing economies have survived across the nation on a smaller scale, despite thriving ideals of individualism, indicates that maybe sharing culture is not so out of reach. Perhaps it is not a matter of progress that will sustain transformation but rather returning to a way of life that is healthier for humans and the plane