|Image courtesy Flickr/Gavin Anderson.|
In the last few years, the phenomenon known as the “sharing economy” has exploded, and it is providing terrific opportunities for people who care about creating a better world to live more aligned with their values and to even flex their changemaking muscles. Here are just 3 ways it’s a helpful tool for humane citizens and changemakers:
1. It’s easier to make choices that do more good and less harm for people, animals, and the earth.
According to a recent feature in Forbes about the growing trend of the sharing economy, an entire generation is growing up with a different lens about what “consumption” means. As they say:
“Millennials, the ascendant economic force in America, have been culturally programmed to borrow, rent and share. They don’t buy newspapers; they grab and disseminate stories a la carte via Facebook and Twitter. They don’t buy DVD sets; they stream shows. They don’t buy CDs; they subscribe to music on services such as Spotify or Pandora ….”
With new sharing services, we don’t necessarily have to own a car, vacation home, lawn mower, or house full of stuff. We can rent, borrow, trade, etc., with the bonus of not having to support big corporations with often destructive policies and practices. And sharing also helps build community with others who share our values, from talking circles, to child-care co-ops, to neighborhood car sharing.
2. There are a growing number of micro-enterprise opportunities.
As the Forbes article mentions, more people are turning to a sharing economy for extra — or even a primary source of — income. People with extra space, infrequently-used cars, a love of dogs, etc., are finding ways to bring in cash.
Imagine the opportunities for humane citizens serving other humane citizens. You could rent out your eco-friendly spare room which has cruelty-free products in the bathroom and healthy vegan goodies in the efficient mini-fridge. Rent your electric or hybrid car. Board dogs at your place and give other dog guardians a sense of peace knowing that their pooch is safe and cared for by someone who shares their values. You could connect your large yard with a veganic gardener, so that she has the space and you get a share of the bounty. The opportunities are only as limited as our imaginations (and practical realities of course). As Neal Gorenflo, founder of Shareable, said in a recent Grist interview:
“I believe the sharing economy is a fundamental shift in the way we produce and govern. Broadly speaking, it’s becoming more democratic. The cost of interactions and production are low enough that individuals and small groups now have the power that only large corporations had a few years ago.
Look at the whole “maker” movement: People now have shared access, through hacker spaces and all the open-source software, to a wide range of production tools like 3D printers, CNC routers. You can go to Brightidea and get an idea, prototype it at Techshop, where you have access to three-quarters of a million dollars in machine tools in practically every medium – plastic, metal, wood – and then you go on Kickstarter and get funded. Once you have a product, go on eBay, Etsy, or Shoplift and sell it. One person can become a manufacturer in weeks.
On one hand, it’s never been more difficult to find a job. On the other hand, it’s never been easier to create your own. We’re shifting from a top-down factory-style society to a peer-to-peer, network-driven society.”
3. The chance to create sustainable, humane, restorative systems is vast.
As the Forbes article says, “FORBES estimates the revenue flowing through the share economy directly into people’s wallets will surpass $3.5 billion this year, with growth exceeding 25%. At that rate peer-to-peer sharing is moving from an income boost in a stagnant wage market into a disruptive economic force.”
So the sharing economy is likely to continue to grow, which means that humane entrepreneurs (and even people in their neighborhoods) can create new services and products that integrate humane values into every aspect (whether for-profit or not). The car-sharing company that uses only fuel-efficient cars. The microfinance enterprise that helps launch humane businesses. The company that creates eco-friendly, reusable containers for food carts. The citizen who launches a tool-sharing project, or community garden, or co-op, or mini-library in his neighborhood. Initiatives like these pave the way for more people to have easier opportunities to make humane choices, and to experience the positive peer pressure of becoming more conscious citizens, which leads to whole systems changing.
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