You know a grassroots trend has become much bigger than fringe thinking when governments get in on the act.
Take this week’s news from the Victorian Government that it has made a deal with Airbnb to help provide accommodation for people affected by disasters.
It’s something that has happened before, for example in the aftermath of Black Saturday when households opened their doors to those people and pets that were displaced by the fires. To see it formalised, however, now that’s new.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews signed the agreement with Airbnb in California while on a US trip, and his government will now incorporate the partnership into its disaster planning and management, utilising about 10,000 Airbnb listings, many in regional and bushfire-prone areas.
Airbnb recently tested its disaster response tool during the Fort McMurray wildfires in Canada, where around 90,000 people had to evacuate their homes.
The company’s head of global disaster relief and recovery Kelly Bentz said the tool aimed to make it as easy as possible for hosts to open their homes.
It’s probably something the other states might do well to emulate, with the recent East Coast Low storm event showing just how real and present the impacts of climate change are becoming.
Another way to share resources is with food waste to compost, as the mutually beneficially arrangement between Veolia and Sydney Markets shows.
The markets’ wholesale trade supplies fresh food to about two-thirds of the entire country, trading produce from approximately 20,000 fruit and vegetable growers.
With that volume of food also comes a massive volume of waste. Working with Veolia and its subsidiary Earth Power, the markets now diverts 5000 tonnes of organic waste from landfill annually, instead sending it to Earth Power’s facility where it is processed via a bio-digester system to create enough biogas to generate 1800 megawatt-hours of electricity – enough to power 247 homes a year.
The residual material after the gas is created is on-sold as fertiliser pellets to the horticultural sector and other customers – who in turn grow produce, some of which is probably destined to pass through Sydney Markets.
What goes around, comes around, given the chance.
The apparel industry is also becoming a hot-bed of resource sharing in closing the loop innovation. A number of other companies practising take-back-and-re-use approaches to their raw materials.
Research by Accenture has highlighted that the selfie-taking Millennials are actually more likely to be concerned about sustainability and social impact of what they buy and who they work for than older age groups. In fact, the expectation is that the circular economy could be worth $4.5 trillion in the next 15 years.
And it’s being driven by digital technology, the Millennial’s natural habitat. They’d rather share a train than own a car, they’d rather call Uber than a taxi and, most likely, they probably share housing – and they tie all that sharing together with apps and social media.
In a media statement ahead of this month’s Sustainable Brands conference in Sydney, keynote speaker Bert van Son, chief executive of MUD Jeans and inventor of the “Lease A Jeans” formula, said the circular approach was more attractive to young people than the linear economy.
“For decades supply chains and products flowed in one direction: from manufacturing to consumption, ending in landfill, yet we live in a world with limited resources, so it’s time to consider the wellbeing of the earth and its resources across all industries including fashion,” van Son said.
“Brands need to reduce their dependencies on the world’s scarce natural resources and benefit from the opportunity to generate revenue from waste, to create more innovative, responsive and customer-centric product and services that millennials engage with. It’s not about losing money; it’s about boosting competitiveness in saturated markets.”
He said that not only is cotton one of the worst things we grow, but the churn factor of fashion sees so many unwanted garments being burned it equates to about 10 per cent of global CO2 emissions.
“All in all, bad for humans and bad for space ship ‘earth’.”
The Lease A Jeans model ensures the products come back for recycling, and that the company is squarely targeting the market of millennials, “our conscious explorers”.
At an even more basic level, op shops are also taking part in the sharing economy, where unwanted clothes not only get snapped up by others but also generate a revenue stream for charities that provide for the most vulnerable.
Other sharing trends we’re seeing that give us cause to feel upbeat in amongst the horror of what’s happened to the reef, houses falling into the sea, lives being lost and ecosystems changed beyond all repair include the way libraries refused to lie down and die and instead are one of the key pieces of social infrastructure for any major urban renewal or infill precinct development.
Northshore Hamilton in Brisbane, Wentworth Point in Sydney and the award-winning Library at the Dock in Docklands just to name a few. We remember when people said the internet would kill libraries, but instead they’ve evolved and become a hub for the sharing economy.
The books are still there, along with computers for public use, spaces for public gatherings, and active knowledge-sharing, such as courses that help seniors and others go on-line – and all of it is generally mostly free for members.
And what’s in a park? Shared open space, shared BBQs, shared dog-walking areas and cycle paths. Some are even putting in shared vegetable growing. A park is also something every self-respecting estate developer is adding to the masterplan. They’re even going in new commercial office buildings.
Property Council working with the Greens
There’s also been plenty to feel positive about this week in terms of what we are seeing with the sharing of ideas between groups and individuals that in the past would always be on opposite sides of the table.
Who would have though a decade ago that the Property Council would work the Greens, a university and major architecture firms to generate a new vision to make one of our capital cities more sustainable as it grows?
Or that the Australian Industry Group is involved in the Victorian Government’s move to get to net zero by 2050. The Property Council’s onboard with that vision too.
Or take a look at how the Citizen Jury model developed by the newDemocracy Foundation has taken off and is delivering the kind of results we wanted from the old form of democracy. The old form of democracy lumbers on, more full of hot air than usual this week with all the electioneering going on, but perhaps karma is catching up with it.
The power of the people doing good and growing stronger through doing so is gaining its own momentum, and that’s a king tide that could well deliver lasting, positive gains for all of us.
“Democracy is an impossible thing until the power is shared by all … Even a pariah, a labourer, who makes it possible for you to earn your living, will have his share in self-government” – Gandhi