“Unstuff” the Planet | Share Your “Stuff”
I am an impact entrepreneur on an exquisite journey. Among all the life lessons of which this pursuit has informed me, I stand unshaken in my belief that efficiency compels markets and, as such, the market is blindly indifferent to anything other than that which is most efficient — the economic manifestation of mother natures’ elegantly simple “survival of the fittest” paradigm.
Consumerism as an economic model has led many nations into becoming fat, flaccid societies valuing ownership of an abundance of stuff as indicative of status and economic prowess – ironically, the antithesis of “survival of the fittest” in biological terms.
Millennials — true to the tradition of any given generation questioning the values of their preceding generation — are questioning the value of consumerism – particularly, the repetitive behavior of consume/discard, consume/discard, consume/discard stuff, stuff and more stuff.
We all understand how consumerism drives GDP and yet – landfills upon landfills are overflowing with discarded stuff – fat flaccid underground tombs of unwanted, unnecessary stuff.
So, as a question: are we not treating ourselves and our planet in a stifling, “stuffing” way — seeking satisfaction by exercising power over things — controlling them in order to get what we want, not merely what we need?
- Simple observation of our fellows shows us that most humans have inside their natural being a strong desire to share.
- What if we could stimulate that desire such that consumerist behavior was impacted?
- Impacted in a way that led us to consume less and enjoy it more.
- Would that not have a powerful impact towards conserving our natural resources?
Achieving that objective is the hidden sustainability promise embedded in the concept known as “the sharing economy”.
Airbnb, Zipcar, Uber and wework show signs of “the sharing economy” promise. What they all have in common is that they convert standardized large-scale, high-value assets into sharable goods and services.
Their successes with large-scale assets begs the question: what about the small stuff? The unique stuff? The stuff to which many of us are emotionally attached?
The common stuff that populates our homes and workplaces and – unlike high value assets — doesn’t cost too much.
Our opportunity right now is to include that enormous ubiquitous untapped unruly resource – the universe of small, inexpensive stuff — into the sharing economy.
Most of the items (i.e., “stuff”) we own, other than what we use daily, are severely under-utilized, perhaps by as much as 95%. Producing items that we only use to a level of 5-15% of their life expectancy constitutes a colossal waste of natural resources.
The sharing economy holds the promise of democratizing access to any/all items through peer-to-peer networked sharing. The life expectancy utilization of almost any item can be dramatically improved through renting, bartering, lending, selling or other sharing transactions.
Imagine the impact on precious planetary resources if, through the successful implementation of the “stuff-sharing” economy, we globally reduce unnecessary resource consumption by as little as 5% — which may not sound like much – yet when multiplied by 8 billion people – is hugely impactful and translates into 1.068 billion USDol 1.5 billion tons!
For years, visionaries have been launching startups, attempting to establish the sharing economy at local levels in communities around the world, yet to date the rate of adoption remains low.
Why is that so, since the model is appealing and has a proven track-record with standardized large scale, high value items?
The primary factor that our research and analysis reveals as the likely root cause is that the value of most small, common items is relatively low and, therefore, the cost of sharing it must also be commensurately low in order to attract a large number of people.
Additionally, to bring the massive universe of small, inexpensive stuff into the mainstream of the sharing economy, any solution must make shared items easy to track, so that both parties to a sharing transaction can efficiently manage and account for the items shared. Also, it must fit into our mobile-minute lifestyles.
We believe that what is needed towards that end is a tracking technology that meets the above criteria.
Several such solutions are currently on the market, although their potential for adaptation in the sharing economy is yet to be recognized. Our own company will soon be introducing an RFID-based personal item tracking kit that organizes items into searchable categories by description and location, much like what a playlist does for music. With a person’s item list in the cloud, they can make money and save money by renting, bartering, sharing or selling their stuff.
In economic terms, the sharing economy is simple: it can deliver a higher standard of living at a lower cost and enhance the daily lives of billions of people globally.
In financial terms, the sharing economy is sensible: it can convert a wasting asset into a performing one through any monetized trading process such as rental, barter, sale or donation.
In practical terms, the sharing economy is appealing: it can have people choosing better quality items which, although generally acquired at a higher “first cost”, have an inherently longer life expectancy and provide a lower “cost-per-use”.
In emotional terms, the sharing economy is all-inclusive: helping us realize that the things we do with our stuff may be only half of its value. The other half may be in sharing it with others.
* * *
by Nadine Cino, LEED AP
CEO and co-Inventor TygaBox Systems, Inc.
Footnotes for statistics represented in chart: