Can the Share Economy Save the World?

share economy photo of consignment clothing against a blue backgroundThere are so many ways to describe the share economy–including  “sharing economy,”  “collaborative consumption” and “circular economy.” But the essential concept is the same: Access to goods and services is more important than owning them. In this way, the share economy could solve some of the environment’s biggest problems.

Problem: Smog

Access to goods and services is more important than owning them. In this way, the share economy could solve some of the environment’s biggest problems.

Cars cause 75% of America’s carbon monoxide pollution problem, according to the EPA. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates that transportation causes 27% of our greenhouse gas emissions, and 30% of the air pollution that causes smog.

Solution: Ride/Bike Sharing

Ridesharing services like Lyft Line reduce pollution by adding more riders and using less cars; local bike sharing programs cut emissions to zero.

Problem: Fast Fashion

Fashion is the world’s second biggest water polluting industry, after agriculture. The average American woman spends $60 per month on clothes, and throws six pounds of textile waste into the landfill—a “shop and drop” cycle that’s dependent on environmentally toxic fast fashion. 

Solution: Preloved

Explore “preloved” fashion, either through swapping with friends, or shopping at a thrift, consignment or online consignment store like thredUP. Through the Shop Drop Challenge, I ask my community to do this for 30 days each January; sign up for the newsletter to find out when sign ups kick off this year. If the 160 million women living in America all got together for a 30-day new shopping pause, we could save $10 billion and 1 billion pounds of textile waste from going into the landfill. 

Problem: Landfill Dump

Landfills are clogged with waste. According to Duke University, he average American generates 4.3 pounds of waste each day, a 1.6 pound increase over what we dumped in 1960. Landfills are the second-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S. 

Solution: Rent, Don’t Own

Don’t buy rarely used goods like bikes, surfboards and skis, use the Spinlister app to rent directly from an owner, or list your stuff for rent.

Problem: Food Waste

A Natural Resources Defense Council study found that Americans toss 40% of our food—the equivalent of $165 billion, annually—which is about 50% more per person than we wasted in the 1970s. More than 80% of our water is used for growing food—some estimate that half a hamburger is equivalent to a one-hour shower, in terms of water consumption. Also, as it decays in landfills food produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Solution: Find/Share Food

Organizations like Falling Fruit connect map the “urban harvest,” basically food-growing trees and bushes grown on public land that you can harvest in your neighborhood (they also map dumpsters available for diving, but that’s another story.) And the Leftover Swap app lets you share leftovers with neighbors.

Good for the environment; good for business: Fast Company projected the share economy will be worth more than $100 billion this year.

How does the share economy touch your life? I’d love to know the apps and hacks that make it happen, in comments below. Thanks!

Photo: thredUP.


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