How the sharing economy is improving our lives
Most of us have a complicated relationship with the notion of sharing – it’s something we’re told to do from a young age (despite our best attempts to keep our toys and treats all to ourselves!). As we grow, capitalism teaches us that through hard work and determination, we should look to attain greater wealth and accumulate more stuff.
However, this has now resulted in some of us, ironically, having too much… and we’re at breaking point. So, in the midst of economic uncertainty and with the environment high on our agendas, it seems to be the perfect time to go back to basics and start sharing.
Estimated to grow to a worth of $335 billion by 2025 (from $15 billion in 2014), what’s known as the ‘Sharing Economy’ is mid-boom. Based on the idea of collective consumption, the concept is built around peer-to-peer borrowing, lending, donating and giving of goods and services. With almost everything now shareable – from workspaces to the contents of your fridge – the sharing economy is having a significant impact on the way we live.
POWER IN NUMBERS
Take its presence in our working lives. In recent years there’s been a steep rise in the number of co-working spaces, with an estimated 35,000 flexible workspaces existing in the world today with a global market value of approximately $26 billion.
Offering members flexibility, a place in which to share skills, socialise and network, co-working challenges the rigid form of the conventional nine-to-five desk job. Popular with small businesses, start-ups and freelancers, many co-working spaces in London offer a range of perks, including on-site gym facilities and cafés, regular talks and events, and a whole lot more.
Research has found that the additional workplace perks offered in co-working spaces can help to increase worker productivity, satisfaction and reduce employee turnover. Not to mention it encourages greater socialisation beyond your direct work colleagues, which may not prove quite so appealing for more introverted types.
In central London alone, 10.7 million square feet are now currently occupied by co-working space. Just a few of the workspaces available to London workers across the city, offering a plethora of perks and benefits, include Fora, Uncommon and Ministry of Startups.
ALL TOGETHER NOW
With sky-high rental and purchasing prices continuing to soar in the capital, it’s now not only our workplaces that we are willing to share, but also our homes.
Billed as a much-needed solution to the current housing crisis, co-living – which is also known as ‘semi-dwelling’, ‘semi-hotel’ and ‘semi-community’, offers a number of enticing perks without the drawbacks of conventional renting. Aimed mainly at young city-dwelling professionals, co-living offers a sense of community, providing opportunities to meet like-minded people outside of the workplace from a diverse range of backgrounds that might not be possible through conventional renting.
In 2016 this innovative new way of living made its way over to the UK from China and the US in the form of The Collective. Based in Canary Wharf and Old Oak, its modern co-living buildings offer a 24/7 concierge service, gym membership, all-inclusive bills, cleaning and amenities, plus co-working space and a cultural events programme.
Reimagining the way we live, The Collective spaces are specifically designed to connect and inspire their tenants. Founder Reza Merchant says: “Our mission at The Collective is to build and activate spaces that foster human connection and enable people to lead more fulfilling lives.”
RENTING IS EN VOGUE
In a time when fast fashion rules the roost, there has never been a better moment to assess what we already have in our wardrobes and how to reduce our rapid consumption and disposal of textiles.
Due to our obsession with clothing, an estimated £140 million (350,000 tonnes) of used garments go to landfill in the UK every year. Working to conquer this are a number of apps and online platforms that allow fashion lovers to regularly rotate what’s in their closet through lending and renting.
By Rotation, the UK’s first peer-to-peer fashion rental app, allows users to rent mid to high-end luxury clothes across the country. Describing the concept behind the app, founder Eshita Kabra-Davies explains that the platform allows users to “Rotate your wardrobe at your fingertips: do good for the planet, your wardrobe and wallet at the same time.”
Connecting fashion-conscious individuals and encouraging them to lend the items that they rarely use, and borrow items that are missing from their current wardrobe, By Rotation is reducing the need for fast fashion – in turn cutting down on waste and production.
Similarly, The Endless Wardrobe allows users to browse a collection of designer dresses to rent across a four to 16-day period, all for a small, one-off payment. And for those who like to indulge, Front Row offers users short-term rentals of the latest designer clothes, bags, accessories and shoes.
FEEDING THE 5,000
And so from our bedroom closets to our kitchen cupboards. The time has come for us to even share the food straight from our own fridges.
Across the planet, we currently waste roughly one-third of the food produced for human consumption every year, equal to approximately 1.3 billion tonnes. Working to tackle the UK’s portion of the problem is the waste reduction app Olio. By connecting neighbours with each other as well as local businesses, the app encourages users to share food rather than throw it away.
The items shared could be food nearing its sell-by date or ingredients that have been over-purchased – or even non-food household items such as books, toys, utensils and more.
According to Olio co-founder Tessa Clarke, half of all food waste takes place in the home. “If food waste were a country,” she says, “it would be the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after the USA and China.”
By using the Olio app and sharing unwanted food, not only are we loving our fellow neighbour, but also the planet. So if you haven’t already, download the app and get sharing!
AS AND WHEN
Sharing can apply to anything – take pets, for example. As we all know, the benefits of spending time with a furry friend are numerous. So for those who are desperate for a de-stressing cuddle with a pooch while being restricted by the hours they work or a landlord who won’t let them keep an animal, there are a plethora of canine-borrowing apps and websites. These include the appropriately named BorrowMyDoggy, Rover and Share Your Pet.
How about travel? Well, if you’re a die-hard public transport user but find yourself in need of a car from time to time, look no further than Zipcar and hiyacar. Allowing you to rent a car at short notice, these last-minute services provide us with the freedom that we may not otherwise have.
The availability of these services also helps to reduce the number of cars on our roads and the impact on the planet, all by providing customers with the opportunity to only use the vehicles when they truly need them.
In a time in which caring for the planet is absolutely vital, the sharing economy is allowing us to satisfy our wants and needs at a reduced detriment to the world around us.