Although sometimes criticised for its perhaps dubious approach to workers, the shared economy is helping to boost environmental protection.
Think about it: people are renting and borrowing assets owned by individuals in what is often termed “collaborative consumption”.
The shared economy, which is estimated to grow from $14bn in 2014 to $335bn by 2021 according to D.C.-based Brookings Institution, is green – and has the potential to become more so.
Here are 5 ways the shared economy boosts environmental protection today.
1. Less water drained
Organisations like Airbnb, HomeExchange and HomeAway all offer the opportunity to lodge in someone’s home.
This means that each individual in the house can decide exactly when they’re going to use a large amount of water, say for washing clothes and towels. Usually in hotels, the maids are instructed to add every towel to the washing pile, resulting in a whole lot of water wasted on washing clean items.
Living in a home away from home means you’re probably not going to wash something that doesn’t need washing every day and so you use less water. And then when you do wash towels or clothes, you’ll end up doing it in tandem with your travel group, saving even more water than a hotel ever would.
2. Less waste of other products
It’s almost as though there is one big family when travellers use home-sharing apps. There is a large group of people sharing one home, sharing the same meals, doing all of their laundry together and riding in the same car or taxi.
Often in the Western world we’re consumption-focused – to the point where overconsumption is a real problem.
With the shared economy, there is less scope for overconsumption as everyone is making use of the assets a few have purchased by using them to their full capacity.
Less waste equals less landfill and pollution and a better world.
3. Preservation of natural beauties
With the increase of home-sharing for travellers (usually down to the price tag), there is less demand for the construction of new hotels.
When fewer hotels are built, there is less of a destruction of the immediate, surrounding environment. Beaches can still be marvelled at from afar and the local culture can be preserved, without having to bend to the whims of tourism and lose valuable land.
If this continues, it should hopefully mean a future where – believe it or not – we might be able to breathe in some cities.
4. CO2 is reduced
The shared economy has meant that, according to UC Berkeley researchers, for every one car made widely available, ten are taken off of the streets.
With apps like Uber and Lyft making it in major cities, there are big savings for travellers and commuters alike and it comes as a big sigh of relief for the environment. More sharing of taxis means less CO2 is emitted.
This same process is also happening with boats. Some organisations, like Boat Angel, are able to rent out other people’s boats that have either been donated or subscribed to being rented out.
Once again, the common interest of people is made profitable and environmentally friendly, resulting in less pollution and CO2.
5. The shared economy can be sustainable
If controlled properly and if its growth goes ahead as predicted, the shared economy can become sustainable. And sustainability is the buzz word in environmental work.
For many workers the shared economy is flexible and easy. For the environment, it can be a true source of good.
The shared economy is more than just a new economic approach. It may be a change in the mindset of many: we are able to become used to the idea of not over-consuming and making use of what we have, something we appear to have forgotten in the 21st Century.