The UK’s sharing community is growing by the day, with peer-to-peer sharing platforms steadily coming to the forefront of the so-called “sharing revolution”. Sharing platforms operate by connecting individuals and allowing them to share the use or consumption of particular products. Many immediate impacts can be seen, but what are the longer-term advantages of platforms like these? And what does peer-peer sharing mean for our environment? Let’s take a look at the ways in which the sharing revolution can benefit the environment, as well as your bank balance.
The trouble with private ownership is that, more often than not, a surplus of resources already exists, and yet more is constantly produced to meet individual demand. Not only can the production of said resources lead to an unhealthy increase in our carbon footprint, but this sort of stockpiling also results in a level of waste which can have a devastating effect on the environment. We are steadily becoming more conscious about the ways in which we obtain and use our resources, with greater attention being drawn to the negative impact of things like fast fashion, pollution and food waste. This being the case, peer-to-peer sharing has an increasingly eco-friendly appeal.
Car-sharing is one well-known example of the sharing economy. Peer-to-peer car-sharing, however, may be a new concept to some people, and yet it’s something that can potentially have a big impact on our environment. Companies like hiyacar, a London based peer-to-peer car sharing platform, work by connecting owners and renters, allowing users to rent a car when they need it, instead of owning one. The benefits of this kind of system are important to note given the ever-growing impact of the issue of carbon emissions.
"Nice practical car that also gets good mileage. Easy rental experience. Overall really pleased with my first hiyacar rental!" Nicholas
Pollution from cars, bikes, trucks and vans, not to mention the level of fossil fuels used in their production all have damaging environmental consequences, particularly in congested and over crowded cities. With peer-to-peer car sharing, however, pollution can be eased simply due to the fact that fewer people will own and use their own cars. This, in turn, will result in a decrease in traffic congestion alongside a decrease in emissions from vehicle production, and will eventually lead to some material changes in infrastructure such as less car parks and more green spaces. Likewise, with car-sharing being a paid service, users are less likely to make journeys that could be done by other means, meaning a shift to public transport, especially for shorter urban journeys which are also the higher producers of CO2 emissions.
At its essence, peer-to peer sharing relies on the consumption and distribution of underused, idle or surplus goods and services, effectively helping to combat damaging levels of waste. If we look at OLIO, a food sharing platform, we can see how something like this allows for the reduction in food waste. Every year, approximately one third of the food produced in the world is wasted, which, in context, roughly translates to a number close to 1.3 billion tonnes. This means 1.3 billion tonnes worth of energy, money and resources have been used up on food that has never been eaten - and it’s this issue that OLIO hopes to address by allowing surplus food to be shared and not wasted. Their organisation connects people with each other and local businesses, allowing unsold food nearing its expiration date, spare home-grown vegetables, off-cut bread or just groceries that won’t be eaten to be used up, and not simply thrown away.
But it’s not just food waste that is damaging to the environment. Fast fashion is a term that is being used more and more. It refers to the rapid production of low-cost garments to keep up with the latest trends, and the consequent quick movement of garments from people’s wardrobes into the rubbish bin. The environmental impact of this kind of production cycle is significant. Not only are there emissions associated with the production and transport of the clothes themselves, but there’s a large volume of water needed in the finishing of the textiles that has to be taken into account; with it taking 200 tonnes of water to dye just one tonne of fabric, it’s no wonder fashion is one the biggest environmental impactors.
This is why clothes sharing is becoming an even more viable option. Clothes sharing companies like Tulerie are hoping to dictate consumer habits and decrease our reliance on fast fashion by allowing users to rent out and borrow items of high-quality clothing. By doing this, they can decrease the amount of clothing produced in the name of fast fashion, as well as decreasing the amount of clothing that are subsequently thrown away into the landfill when they’re no longer worn.
Having a sharing economy that allows for a reduction of all of these changes is a significant step in living a greener lifestyle. But it’s also worth noting the monetary benefits of the sharing revolution. Ultimately, the biggest reduction in costs will come from the act of borrowing instead of buying. Take Storemates, for instance, which allows users to rent out nearby storage in people's homes instead of forking out for commercial self-storage. Likewise, car-sharing comes with obvious financial benefits. The fact is, owning a vehicle can be extremely costly, particularly in a city like London where you often have very little option when it comes to parking, and need to account for the congestion charge as well as the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)- and this is on top of tax, insurance, MOT, fuel, and any other maintenance that may be needed. For these reasons, car-sharing is a lot kinder on your bank balance because, with no additional costs to worry about, drivers need only pay for the time they use the car.
The financial benefits extend to owners as well. With all of the above examples of clothes, food, vehicle and storage sharing platforms, the owner receives money in exchange for whatever goods or space they’re providing. This is particularly beneficial given that the products being shared are done so only when they’re not required. In essence, this means owners can make money back on things they’ve purchased but are now under- or un-used.
"Absolute pleasure to deal with. The whole transaction and experience made very easy and seamless. Valerie and her husband will be my go to people when I next need to hire a 7 seater car. Car is a great drive and was very clean and has everything you need to make your journey enjoyable." Emmanuel
Despite the rise of the sharing economy we still live in a society where ownership is the norm; people drive their own cars, buy their own clothes and eat their own food, sometimes unaware of the true impact of such consumption habits. However, with increasing conversation surrounding the future of our environment and the benefits of a shared economy, sharing platforms are steadily becoming more normalised. The sharing revolution is building pace. More and more people are now pulling together to share resources, hoping to save themselves some money whilst also saving the planet - and given the benefits, everyone should try to take the chance to realise the benefits for themselves, starting today.