I was recently hit with the insatiable desire to revisit my childhood through the eyes of Nancy Drew. Knowing that the series sits dormant on bookshelves across the country, I refused to plunk down my hard-earned money for a new copy at a book store. I walked to the local library to quell my nostalgia, only to be met by locked doors. (Ah, Sunday!) I found myself wishing there was a tool or app that would show people in my area who have Nancy Drew books available for borrowing. After doing a little research, I discovered I wasn’t the only person yearning for a simple method for efficiently and sustainably locating the goods I want.
Collaborative consumption, a movement recently highlighted by Morgan Clendaniel for Co.Design, encourages communities to monetize their unused goods through a system of borrowing. Zip Car and bike sharing programs are excellent examples of rethinking consumption, enabling people to borrow a method of transportation for the few hours it’s needed. “You might own some tools that you never use, or perhaps you have a backyard that you just don’t have the time to do anything interesting with,” explains Clendaniel. “Today, they can look like revenue streams, not wastes of money.”
Yet more important than making some extra money, collaborative consumption might just free us from the burdens that come along with ownership. “What’s truly important about collaborative consumption is much more world-altering than just supplementing incomes,” says Clendaniel. “If you don’t need to buy a circular saw or a leaf blower just to use them once a year, but can use one when you need it, it could fundamentally impact how we consume.”
Sharing is one of the first lessons taught to children. Can it continue to remain a fundamental tenet in our adult lives?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.