The rise of collaborative consumption as a viable economic and social model could be the answer to the modern day dilemmas present in our ever-changing society. Also known as the 'sharing economy', collaborative consumption refers to when people are provided with access to a good rather than owning it outright. It is different to normal consumption in that the costs are not borne by one individual yet shared across a much larger group. In recent years, due to the financial crisis and rising environmental concerns, collaborative consumption has gained popularity as a new consumer paradigm contrary to the current 'hyper consumer' society we live in today, that is 'consumerism for the sake of consuming'.
The looming issues we face as a society, such as increased, increasing urban population, waste management issues, climate change and rising physiological challenges emphasize the need to change our lifestyles to reflect a more sustainable approach to living.
The new evolving millennial generation has developed in an age of sharing information via the click of a button. The millennials have access to a wide variety of product service systems that encourage users to reap the benefits of peer-to-peer collaboration in a trustworthy and sustainable manner. Common peer-to-peer platforms in Australia include eBay and AirBnb, which allow buyers and sellers of particular goods/services to engage with one another without going through traditional providers. Other lifestyle sharing systems allow users to pay for the usage of products without needing to own them outright such as, ride sharing apps like GoGet where you pay a subscription to rent a car for a certain period of time throughout the week along with online tool libraries that you can borrow or lend tools through.
The idea behind these peer-to-peer systems is to reduce the under-utilisation of products in our economy so that products are consumed only when they are needed. A TedX talk entitled 'A case for collaborative consumption', spoken by Rachel Botsman, highlighted the idle time experienced by power drills that were purchased by consumers. On average power drills were utilised for only 12-13 minutes during its overall product lifecycle. This indicates the need for more effective utilisation of products and the preferred stance of access over ownership given the lower costs when sharing goods.
Collaborative consumption encourages the borrowing and swapping of products in communities to help minimise our impact on the environment, as fewer resources will be needed to meet every individual demand. Instead of every person needing a power tool, only a few power tools will be required for community lending.
Collaborative consumption is a powerful cultural and economic force, emphasising on not what we consume, but how we consume our goods or services. It is more than just a money savings scheme; it is a progressive sustainable consumption system where it thrives on community involvement and real time connection.
We have seen the rise in mental health services within the past decade, with development issues such as cocooning and depression prevalent in young adolescent people. Mission Australia conduct a 5-year interval mental health survey that has evidenced the increasing prevalence of mental illness in young people from 2012 to 2017.
In order for a sharing economy to work, the systems require trust mechanisms on complete strangers based on enabling major behavioural changes. By encouraging community involvement, humans are breaking the shackles of their own safe havens, and forging long lasting community and individual ties with those around them.
The concept is not new, rather an ancient practice that has been reinvigorated by technology and the use of social media. The fast growing collaborative consumption is not to be feared but rather embraced as it creates more sustainable systems built to service all of our innate needs and wants, both at individual and community levels.
Sharing is not exclusively for goods but also skills, time and spaces. Anybody can share and contribute to this brand new system and I believe it can serve a role to counteract the modern day dilemmas of our time and provide all of us with a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle.
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