The sharing economy

This is discussed in two stories: The Assassin and The Award Ceremony

‘In season two of Sun Ying in Manhattan. Sun Ying’s boyfriend, Grady was now running a trendy new bug burger stand. Sun had converted her walk-in wardrobe into a fashion library, and created a fashion swap app that was taking the world by storm. ‘Reality mirrored fiction with new fashion apps emerging every month. Women were switching to pre-loved clothes, swapping, sharing, repairing and upcycling all over the globe. The most popular Christmas present that year was a membership to the fashion libraries of Macy’s, Harrods, David Jones and even Galeries Lafayette in Paris. ‘Season three, and Sun Ying broadened her range to menswear. You could wear a different outfit every day with no need for vast amounts of wardrobe space. Ownership was increasingly portrayed as a burden, not a benefit. Stores caught on, converting their toys, games and sports departments into libraries. Sun Ying had a fictional baby and MotherCare reinvented itself as MotherShare.’

The Award Ceremony

Imagine,’ said the lady, ‘if you could clear out everything in your attic, sheds and cupboards that you only use now and then, but get access to it anytime you wanted?’

‘I’d love that,’ said Barry, hooked.

‘Well, that’s the principle behind the library of things. The most popular items are the ones you talked about – toys and items that are rarely used. We find gardening tools such as strimmers are popular, carpet cleaners, kitchen items. Fun stuff too, like party gear, golf clubs, instruments, games.’

The Assassin

Solution 3: Sharing economy and libraries of things

Think of all the resources and expense in every household having a drill for example, or large suitcases, bikes etc. Wouldn’t it be more efficient and save a lot of space and resources if we could easily just borrow stuff we only need now and then? What about an Amazon of borrowing rather than buying? Libraries of Things in every neighbourhood? Could the next John Lewis Christmas ad: be ‘Buy a year’s membership to sports department or fashion department for your friends and relatives?’

In The Award Ceremony you may remember the extract that mentions the countless sharing apps such as Mother Share instead of Mother Care, but did you know that solutions like this exist NOW? We simply need more of them and for them to be better adopted. How do we get there? Through policy changes that will incentivise businesses to make the switch to the sharing economy. Also through using the numerous sharing apps for fashion – swaps/re-use, car sharing and household items that already exist.

Circos – rent clothes for children. . • fashion rental app. Vinted | Sell and buy clothes, shoes and accessories. Urban Outfitters rent out clothing in US. Rent the Runway – borrow designer clothes for a monthly payment. Hire Street borrow dresses and jumpsuits. My Wardrobe HQ loans high-end gowns. •  Choose 5 items to rent every month from top brands and vintage pieces. Free delivery, laundry and free accidental damage cover included. thredUp fashion resale platform. Cos Resell. •

The Assassin also mention car share apps. This makes sense – the 28 million cars in the UK are used on average just four hours a week – adopt airbnb model to lease out unused assets. For example, or

How does this solution rate on:

Climate impact: tonnes of carbon saved/removedhigh
Climate adaptation-resilienceHigh as it is likely as local libraries of things mean we are less vulnerable in the event of infrastructure/supply chain breakdown.
Social justice i.e. addresses inequalities, diversity, inclusionhigh
Cost of action needed to progress goallow
Which location is the solution most needed/applicableeverywhere – but easiest in dense urban areas

Do your own research on the solution

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Resource 1: Rachel Botsman TED talk on the case for collaborative consumption (sharing economy)

Resource 2: Article about the Olio borrowing app

Resource 3: Academic articles on the sharing economy

Baden, D., Peattie, K., & Oke, A. (2020). Access over ownership: case studies of Libraries of ThingsSustainability12(17), [7180]. DOI: 10.3390/su12177180

Baden, D., & Frei, R. (2022). Product Returns: An Opportunity to Shift towards an Access-Based Economy?. Sustainability14(1), 410.

Abstract: Over the last decade there has been increasing interest in the concept of the sharing economy, which replaces the focus on individual ownership with a focus on access to goods and services through borrowing, hiring or sharing. This study investigates the efficacy of extending the library concept to include more items, such as those that are used infrequently. The aim is to explore how Libraries of Things (LoTs) operate and the potential to broaden their appeal, reach and sustainability. This study adopts a multiple case study method to provide a snapshot of six LoTs in the UK. Findings indicate that all LoTs shared common environmental and social values, with the most prevalent values being to use the library concept to reduce resource use and waste and to enable more equitable access to goods. All relied on volunteers and public support, in the form of free or discounted space and none were yet economically self-sufficient. This poses important questions about the future for LoTs and whether they could or even should, transition towards the mainstream to make a more substantive contribution to creating a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable economy.

In terms of environmental benefits, Library of Things London calculated that each year their activities save 11 tonnes of waste from going to landfill and 60 tonnes of CO2. They also anticipate indirect benefits through stimulating wider behaviour and systems change (e.g. amongst manufacturers, retailers, policymakers) resulting from thousands of people being incentivised to borrow rather than buy. Also, the local re-use and repair economy is stimulated by this activity, for example, 60% of borrowers surveyed said they were now 60% more likely to recycle and repair items. This suggests that engagement with an LoT could prompt users into the types of pro-sustainability behavioural “spill-overs”

For example, a study by Skjelvik et al., (2017) found that drills are typically used only 18 minutes per year and emissions from their use are just two percent of the total emissions, the rest coming from their manufacture, distribution and disposal. Five drills each rented six times instead of 30 drills being purchased would save an estimated 700 kg CO2e. The manufacture and transport of goods also gives rise to environmental issues such as deforestation, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity, pollution, congestion and toxic waste (Castellani et al., 2019).

Castellani, V., A. Beylot and S. Sala: 2019, ‘Environmental impacts of household consumption in Europe: Comparing process-based LCA and environmentally extended input-output analysis’, Journal of Cleaner Production 240 117966.

Skjelvik, J. M., A. M. Erlandsen and O. Haavardsholm: 2017. ‘Environmental impacts and potential of the sharing economy’,  (Nordic Council of Ministers). Read the book here.

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Interested in progressing this solution further?

Actions for policymakers (e.g. central/local governmentFund libraries of things from tax payers money like book libraries; Make local authority space available at no cost for libraries of things, tax goods rather than labour to incentivize job creation and resource minimization. Green taxation to make re-use more financially advantageous than buying new.
Actions for funding bodies Award grant funding to libraries of things
Actions for businessesMake space available for second hand-preloved goods in storesMake rental/borrowing attractive to consumers e.g. see  product returns an opportunity to shift towards the sharing economy.pdf. Use your marketing clout to promote re-use over buy-use-dispose. Manufacture products for quality and long life and easy repair. Examples of a fashion swap/repair hub are here
Actions for publicMake use of your local libraries of things, fashion swap apps, rental services, car share services (add links to these – be aware this is an international project). Promote sharing solutions via your social networks. Write to your local authority/MP asking them to support the sharing economy. Write to relevant businesses to ask them to make borrowing/renting more financially attractive. Or set up your own Facebook group to borrow items in your locality, or a shared shed for items like tools. garden equipment.