The sharing economy refers to the temporary transfer of product use that is lent, traded, or shared. This can be observed both in private and business settings.
The sharing, renting and exchanging of services in the sharing economy has a major environmental impact. This is usually viewed from a sustainability perspective. It is associated with decreased resource consumption and increased resource efficiency.
Let’s learn more about the sustainability of the sharing economy!
What is the sharing economy?
The sharing economy is the systematic lending and mutually transferred of tangible (e.g. objects, premises) or intangible property (e.g. knowledge).
The sharing economy has already disrupted many industries and is expected continue to grow.
Four characteristics are common to sharing economies:
They are digital platforms that allow offline transactions between users.
They allow peer-to-peer transactions, in which both consumers and suppliers are mainly ordinary citizens or micro-entrepreneurs, rather than large corporations or businesses.
They emphasize temporary access over ownership.
They provide access to unused human or physical opportunities (an empty space, a parked seat or car, a barbecue, someone’s skills, talent, or time).
For more information, you can also visit our article on what is the sharing economy.
Basic conditions of the Sharing Economy
The following are the most important trends-promoting conditions for the sharing economy:
Digitalization has increased (apps, mobile internet, and social media platforms act like online marketplaces for more efficient sharing);
Changing values and consumption preferences
The following are examples of concepts or business models that make up the sharing economy:
Mobility (BlaBlaCar Turo): Transport-sharing systems – mobility
Tutors-sharing Systems – Knowledge (superprof).
Renting (peerby), a system for sharing goods
Accommodation-sharing systems – accommodation (Airbnb, Homeaway, Couchsurfing).
Service-sharing systems – Shipping (piggybee).
Here are some inspiring pioneers of the sharing economy.
What is the impact of the sharing economy on the environment?
The sharing economy can reduce negative environmental impacts on the one hand.
Fundamentally, reduced material and resource usage
In some cases, water consumption may be lower
Reduced soil sealing (e.g. Due to the increased use of AirBnB and Couchsurfing, there are fewer hotel buildings.
Change the basic conditions of production or consumption.
Education for sustainable development is also a context in which sharing is important. Knowledge of alternative uses and their effects provides a solid basis for making decisions about different consumption options.
The priority of a service or good is not the possession of a product, but the actual benefit to the provider.
This results in many advantages for the user, which can be both economically and socially motivated.
The supply structure is varied and includes both well-established models as well as highly specialized offers such as the rental or leasing of luxury bags, tools, or a living room couch for overnight accommodation.
Based on technological and social transformation processes, rental, exchanging and sharing options are increasing at a rapid rate and are often supported by (social) media.
Internet platforms also offer many opportunities for actors to get involved in these processes and change the basic conditions that govern production and consumption.
…. has an environmental impact
Concepts for transport-sharing
It is difficult to assess the environmental impact of ridesharing because of the complexity of the new industry. However, ride-sharing does have its clear benefits.
Transport-sharing vehicles such as planes and cars have a lot of potential for resource and energy savings. They also emit fewer pollutants than other modes of transport.
This is due to the fact that most transport-sharing vehicles are low-powered, technologically new, small or even microcars.
Car-sharing services can help alleviate traffic congestion.
Studies show that four to eight cars can be replaced for each car-sharing vehicle. Users can often forgo purchasing a private car or second car.
A possible reduction in the number cars could result in emission and resource savings, and less pressure on public transport areas.
Station-based car sharing offers enormous potential to promote electric mobility through charging stations and to integrate it into daily life of users.
Airbnb and similar initiatives offer homestay accommodation.
These properties can produce fewer CO2 emissions than hotels, which can lead to lower CO2 emissions.
This is because hotels have more energy-intensive facilities like bars, restaurants, swimming pool, and 24-hour operation.
Reduce water consumption and waste by using less hotel accommodation.
Airbnb commissioned a study that found that Airbnb users had a lower energy consumption than hotel guests.
Long-term, less demand for new hotels
This will reduce CO2 emissions, local pollution, and the production of building material. It also helps to generate waste from leftover materials.
Concepts for goods-sharing
Many share economy initiatives allow people to rent small items such as clothes and tools.
This sharing concept can also help to reduce emissions.
Private tools are rarely used. According to one study, an average electric drill’s lifetime use is 18 minutes.
For example, a dress that is supposed be worn six times and then thrown out can be recycled several times. This could reduce CO2 emissions and/or the cost of buying new clothes.
Sharing economy companies offer correspondence services such small goods transport, errands and cleaning services.
Their environmental impact is affected by whether they can be provided remotely or require that the user be present to provide them.
The provider’s ability to drive more will determine the environmental impact of these shared services. It all depends on the alternative service.
The sharing economy model is based upon values such as sustainability and ethics, and the equitable distribution of wealth among all members. To make this system work, there must be trust in the idea, the product and the platform.
The long-term impact of sharing economic initiatives might be different than it is today. Car-sharing programs, for example, could be part of an intermodal transport system.
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