23 October 2012 – Collaborative consumption is a new form of business that transforms rampant consumerism and makes commerce more sustainable. It has taken off in a very big way, particularly in Melbourne. It’s environmentally sustainable commerce that could reshape business. It’s the answer to hyper consumption. And it has the potential to change the development industry.

The collaborative consumption model describes the increasing number of businesses engaged in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping. It’s very much old market behaviours but it’s been reinvented through technology and social networks on a scale and in ways never possible before.

Never heard of it before? Think of the three most successful examples: eBay https://www.ebay.com.au/, Craigslist https://www.craigslist.org/about/sites/ and FlickR https://www.flickr.com/

Social innovator and collaborative consumption champion Rachel Botsman https://www.rachelbotsman.com/ gives a great explanation of it at TedTalks. where she talks about how technology and social networks are taking us back to the old market strategies of sharing and bartering.  After all, we come from monkeys, we are wired for sharing, she says.

Botsman explains how we are moving from passive consumers to collaborators, how the Internet is removing the middle man and how Gen Y, the digital natives, will drive this change.

To find out more about collaborative consumption, check out the web site. https://www.collaborativeconsumption.com/events-and-speaking/ or Facebook www.facebook.com/events/399461176757848

Potentially, collaborative consumption could transform the building industry. Fast Company https://www.fastcompany.com/1723546/collaborative-consumption-contractor-yard-sale describes one outfit in the US called Contactor Yard Sale.https://www.contractoryardsale.com/

It’s a simple model that protects the environment: Fast Company’s Glenn Croston describes how it works: “A large variety of material ordered by contractors often can’t be returned from the job site such as lumber, lighting, plumbing, doors, or windows, from the smallest screws to the kitchen sink. This material is still perfectly usable in the right hands for the right job, but the trick is matching up those who have these surplus building supplies with those who need them …

“Contractors can post their materials on the site for a small fee, and anyone looking for low cost building materials can get in touch with them to buy it. It’s that simple …

“Using the Internet to facilitate transactions like this is part of the growing trend of collaborative consumption. The power of the Internet has been unleashed through websites like Craigslist bringing together what sits unused in one person’s garage into the hands of someone who can really use it. Swapping, sharing, and reusing are all part of this trend, and the economic pressure of the Great Recession has driven its growth, forcing people and businesses to rethink how they get things to save money. This trend also happens to be pretty green, saving resources and helping the environment as well as boosting the bottom line.”

In Australia, a number of new and green collaborative consumption web sites are springing up. One is GoGetCars https://www.goget.com.au/. Companies and individuals simply book a GoGet car for as little as one hour over the Internet. They book it whenever they need a car. These cars are located in “pods”, car parks or garages in close proximity to the office. People swipe smart cards to access the cars. Each car comes equipped with a sophisticated black-box style system that monitors fuel consumption, duration of trip and kilometres covered. The data is matched to the swipe card. The pods are now located in business and industrial areas.  Business parks such as Australian Technology Park in Sydney’s Redfern now host GoGet pods. The pods have to be in walking distance of where people are located, otherwise, they’re not going to use them.

It’s cheaper too. Business will pay $6.25 an hour and 40 cents a kilometre. Every month, you get an invoice. You don’t have to pay for registration, insurance and service costs. It’s much cheaper than maintaining a company car which can cost the firm up to $20,000 a year. And better still, the cars are only used when you need them. GoGetCars has 20,000 members Australia-wide, and it’s growing.

An alternative is Drive My Car Rentals https://www.drivemycarrentals.com.au/ where people basically make money by renting their car out when they’re not using it. It’s simple: you register online for free, you list your vehicle for free, you enter your car details, you calculate the rental return using a special rental valuator. People looking for a car for a short while get in touch with you by email or SMS and you decide whether to accept the deal or not within 24 to 48 hours. There’s a similar sort of arrangement with Car Next Door https://www.carnextdoor.com.au/

Another one is the New Joneses campaign www.facebook.com/TheNewJoneses. It saw two Melburnians, Adam Stayfer, a comedian, and Camilla Jackson, an actress and film-maker, living side-by-side in pre-fab, sustainable, pop-up apartments in Melbourne’s Fed Square for five days early this month. The homes were furnished by auction house Leonard Joel providing second-hand goods. Food came from Sustainable Table, https://www.sustainabletable.org.au/ a not-for-profit that aims to create a fair and sustainable food system in Australia and globally

Or take Landshare https://www.landshareaustralia.com.au/. It’s a horticultural matchmaking service, connecting those who lack access to land, with those who have land to share. Almost 70,000 people have become “landsharers” in the UK, and a sister scheme in Australia has almost 2000 members. In effect, it’s a social networking service that connects people who want to grow their own fruit and vegetables but have nowhere to do it with those who have spare land and who are willing to share. The Australian operation is run by gardening broadcaster and writer Phil Dudman.

For renters, there is Open Shed https://www.openshed.com.au/ which allows people to share tools, exercise equipment, toys and more with their neighbours. It connects people and it saves money.

Or SpaceOut https://www.spaceout.com.au/, where people rent out unused space. Almost everyone has unused space around their home, apartment their business. It might be your garage, your parking spot, your shed, a spare room or even your fridge. Look around, there will always be someone out there willing to pay you to use it. You list your space for a small fee and a space seeker will find it. Storeroom Rental https://www.storeroomrental.com.au/ works on the same principle.

All this raises a number of questions. Does collaborative consumption suggest a dramatic shift in our economic system? Are we moving away from a monetary-based economy to a sharing economy that recognizes the Earth’s limits? And what does that mean for growth?