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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

It's not just what you consume, but how you do it...

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Rachel Botsman's TEDxSydney talk "The Rise of Collaborative Consumption"

One of the ways to avoid buying new things all the time is to share them with others. This is the reasoning behind taxis and public transport, libraries and movie rental shops. These are called ‘product service systems’, and they’ve been around for a while. But new technology and greener attitudes are making them more flexible and interesting these days.

Some of the more modern product-sharing services include car-share businesses organised through a member website. Or there are tool libraries associated with community groups. There's even handbag rental websites for special occasions! Bike-sharing is more common these days, with small payments made on the spot.

Think about it: do you really want a new cordless drill for itself, or do you just want a hole you can put a hook in so you can hang a picture in your bedroom? Do you want the maintenance and expense of a 4WD vehicle, or do you want to be able to go on a camping holiday once a year with your whole family and the dog?

The idea is that what we really want is the service that the product gives us, not the product itself. More and more 21st century sustainable businesses are looking at this concept so they can make money without having to drain all the planet’s resources. One cordless drill is helping many people, instead of 20 of them gathering dust in cupboards and sheds.

I know that for myself, I’m looking for more ways to rent or borrow what I need instead of buying it. Just last weekend I rented a fancy-dress costume instead of buying things to make my own. I use Quickflix to rent DVDs through the mail (saving myself a car trip as well). My husband is borrowing a mulcher from a friend for some garden work, and lending his PS3 games to a friend who’s on holidays. I'd love to hear more ideas from your own experience.

If you’re interested in this idea, and want to see more examples of it, check out this talk from Rachel Botsman, one of the authors of “What’s Mine Is Yours”. She’s collected a lot of stories from people who are already expanding product-service systems into new areas, and reckons it’s more than just a trend.