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Can the sharing economy help slow down climate change?

Posting in Cities

Much has been made of the new "sharing economy," in which owners rent out things they have - spare bedroom, car, parking space - to people who want them for short periods of time. Not only has it been giving established industry players - like hotels and car rental services - heart palpitations, it can in many ways make us more conscientious consumers.

Where climate change is concerned, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase believes resource-sharing can create exponential change. At the recent Mesh 2013 conference, Chase went through Zipcar's successes:

760,000 members, 11,000 cars, and for every well-used Zipcar, 20 people sell or avoid buying a car. Members also drive 80% fewer miles than if they were driving their own car because they’re paying costs in real time. And the kicker: Zipcar prevented 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 from being put into the atmosphere last year. That’s a week’s worth of emissions from the metro New York area.

Quoting Stanford professor Banny Banerjee, Chase added: "You can't solve exponential problems with linear solutions." Indeed, if the sharing economy can make us think twice before using resources, that could make a sizable dent in our collective carbon footprint.

But as Co.Exist rightly notes, one of the basic requirements of a sharing economy is universal internet access. This is improving around the world, but even in Asia, home to some of the fastest-growing cities, overall internet penetration is just 27.5%. Until that improves, it will be difficult for resource-sharing to become more than a developed-world phenomenon.

Photo: Zipcar

via [Co.Exist]

— By on May 5, 2013, 9:39 PM PST

Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure