2011 Trend: Collaborative Consumption (What’s Mine is Yours)

The holiday season puts us all in a giving and sharing mood. In fact, this spirit of sharing may be more than a mood; it may be a trend that’s going to gain increased traction in the New Year. The trend’s name is Collaborative Consumption and we’re seeing it take off in many different ways. If you’ve been engaged in social lending, bartering, swapping and trading, gifting and sharing then you’re already participating in this trend.

What is Collaborative Consumption?

As the name suggests, collaborative consumption is a new model of ownership through which one individual doesn’t own one item but instead many individuals share ownership of this certain item. For so many decades the consumer mindset has been all about sole ownership of the items that we select to purchase for ourselves. In this new model of consumption, individuals accept only a share of the item, essentially taking what they need while letting others take what they need.

Huh? Here are some examples:

Some of the most common examples of collaborative consumption that we’re already familiar with include:

  • Car sharing programs. Zipcar and City Car Share are examples of programs through which members own access to vehicles but do not retain sole ownership of a car. As a member, you pay to take the car out when you need it and leave the car available for others to use when they need it. There are many other examples of programs through which members share ownership of items ranging from traditional vacation timeshares to newer industries like handbag sharing stores.
  • Temporary room rentals. Sites like AirBnB and iStopOver allow people to rent out the extra space in their homes to vacationers for short periods of time. The American Dream may be to own your own home but the American reality is that sharing your space and splitting the bills makes a whole lot more sense in today’s economy.
  • Resale of items and purchase of used goods. The throwaway mentality that we as a consumer society have had for so long has given way to a new way of thinking. It’s both greener and more cost-effective to resell our gently used items instead of simply throwing them away. We may be the sole owner of a piece of clothing or consumer electronics for some time but when we no longer need it we sell the item at a lower price to a new owner and both parties win.
  • Clothing swaps. This is a current craze that’s taking over many cities across the nation. People bring in their old clothing for donation to the swap. They receive a a bag in exchange for their donation and they can fill up the bag with items that others have brought to the swap. Everyone gets new clothes, no one spends any money and the items go home with new owners. Swaps of all kinds (trading, bartering and even borrowing) are increasingly common in this new society.
  • Social lending. Sites like Lending Club and Zopa allow individuals to get personal loans from others. The loan isn’t funded by one single individual but tens or even hundreds of people all contributing together to share their money. The lenders get a little bit of interest and everyone wins.

Why Collaborative Consumption Makes Sense

The benefits of this new model of materialism make sense in the modern world. The benefits include:

  • Saves money. The core individual benefit of this new consumerism is that everyone saves money. When you only have partial ownership of an item or you only pay for the ownership of the item over a short period of time, your own investment is lower.
  • Collaborative Consumption is social. The sharing of resources has been facilitated by a general gravitation towards sharing with others in the modern world. The advent of social networking and the ease of sharing through online sites (eBay, Freecycle, etc.) have come together to make it simple and sensible to share ownership of items in today’s society. We want to share with others in the 21st century. Additionally, we are increasingly defining ourselves by our social profiles and what we share rather than what we own.
  • It’s green. We save the earth by sharing our resources.

What to Expect in Collaborative Consumption in 2011

Many of the sites and tools that people use to engage in collaborative consumption have been around for a few years now. So what’s different in 2011? It has finally been recognized that all of these different tools fall under one umbrella. Being a member of Zipcar and borrowing a designer handbag may seem like very different things but they’re really all about reducing sole ownership of items for the benefit of everyone. Putting a name to this trend will facilitate growth across all areas of the trend. Some of the biggest changes we will likely see in this trend in 2011 include:

  • More organized sites for sharing. The sites that exist now are primarily single-purpose sites; AirBnB for room rentals or Zipcar for car sharing, for example. Increasingly we’ll see sites like Bartercard where collaborative consumption is facilitated across industries.
  • Bigger numbers. Reports indicate that numerous aspects of collaborative consumption are on the rise. The New York Post says that sectors of serious growth include social lending (a $5 billion business), peer to peer item rentals (a $26 billion industry) and clothing swaps (up to $3 billion in the U.S. alone).
  • Increased acceptance of the trend. As more and more people jump on the bandwagon, even more will want ti join in.

Share your stories: How have you been a collaborative consumer?

5 Responses to 2011 Trend: Collaborative Consumption (What’s Mine is Yours)

  1. LOVE this idea. WalletPop had a recent post on this “How to Save Money by Sharing Stuff”. Between that post and this one Mrs. SPF and I are going to make a concerted effort to set up a tool co-op in our neighbourhood, likely starting next spring (it will take some time to organize). We are lucky to have the type of neighbourhood where this concept may actually work as neighbours lend each other tools all the time informally. We feel that organizing neighbour’s resources could really help us all save money!

  2. @Sustainable PF … I missed the article on Wallet Pop but will definitely check it out now. I am also a big fan of sharing stuff informally and greatly appreciate that more concentrated efforts are now being made to organize that option.

  3. I’ve done the Airbnb thing once and loved it. Saved me several hundred dollars, gave me some great content for the blog, and provided some income to help someone out directly. Good point in highlighting the entire trend here. I guess I didn’t look at it that way initially.

  4. This article is a vision of where we are going, and have to go.

    It is the ‘old’ is ‘new’ principle. And was the way everyone lived (albeit in simpler versions) before consumerism kicked into high-gear (after WW2).

    This is one way for us to have our cake, share it, and eat it too.

  5. SO excited by Collab. Consumption. I feel like we’re finally settling into a comfortable and happy relationship with technology in which we can use it to improve our ‘old-fashioned’ ways of getting things done.

    I’m part of a cool young entrepreneurship program in Canada (kind of like The Apprentice) and our team wanted to make this idea fly. We’ve created http://tradyo.com. I’d love your thoughts and suggestions (feedback bar on the righthand side).

    It’s been a real thrill and pleasure to work on. I hope that we can boost the movement in Canada and beyond one day!

    Thanks for the article,

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