Can the sharing economy help slow down climate change?
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.