Give and take

G Magazine

In the green marketplace, renting and swapping is the new currency. Change the way you shop and get to know your neighbours with collaborative consumption.


Credit: The Clothing Exchange

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Our garages, wardrobes, kitchen drawers and that hidden cupboard under the stairs are chock-a-block with stuff. Some stuff we use often, some we seldom use and – be honest – a significant portion simply gathers dust. And we know it’s not healthy, either for the natural resources consumed in the making of said stuff or for our collective hip pocket.

But it is increasingly possible to outsource ownership and still enjoy the full benefits. Introducing collaborative consumption – an international movement that encourages the distribution of shared goods and services to a community of online users.

“Collaborative consumption describes a resurgence in recent years to old market behaviours such as swapping, bartering, renting, trading and exchanging,” says Lauren Anderson, innovation director of Collaborative Lab (the brainchild of collaborative consumption guru Rachel Botsman). “But this time these behaviours have been reinvented through peer-to-peer networks and real-time technologies, allowing us to connect and collaborate in ways that have never actually been possible before.”

Following in the footsteps of eBay, the grandad of collaborative consumption now popular with the grey-haired set, there’s a raft of online services open for business in the global village that give new meaning to online shopping. Rent out power tools for extra cash, exchange unwanted clothes for designer threads or swap homes with a complete stranger for a unique holiday experience.

“The behaviours aren’t new, but the way they can now occur is, and this is what the collaborative consumption movement is all about,” says Lisa Fox, director and co-founder of Open Shed, a peer-to-peer rental site. “Utilising the internet, communities can now connect, exchange and share products and skills with ever-decreasing levels of friction.

We can now more efficiently match ‘wants’ and ‘haves’ – drills, space, skills and meals can be shared with the click of a mouse.”

Last year TIME magazine lauded collaborative consumption as one of the ten ideas that will change the world, and we’re inclined to agree. Here’s your guide to consuming more and owning less.

Redistribution markets:

In her book, What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, Rachel Botsman says collaborative consumption enterprises can be separated into three categories. The first and most common of these is redistribution markets.

Q&A with Kate Luckins, founder of The Clothing Exchange

How does the exchange work?
“Swappers bring six items they value but no longer wear to swap for those they will. We use buttons as the currency for a one-for-one exchange. We screen garments to ensure they are of a swappable quality. This is not a style judgement, but insurance that garments are clean and in good condition.”

Can you swap your trackies for designer threads?
“Our screening process mediates the quality control of the garments exchanged, so those tracksuit pants would not make the cut. But our exchange would allow a good basic garment to be traded for a designer dress, as the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

What are some of the best items you’ve seen traded?
“We’ve seen an array of great garments swapped, including a Max Mara suit, a Gucci dress, a Chloé jacket and some great vintage pieces. The funniest finds have been a furry vest, tulle tutu and a T-shirt with handpainted poodles on it that made one lady’s night!”

How to compose a winning ad on Gumtree; tips from Nat Thomas at Gumtree Australia.

- Be accurate. People want to know the condition of the item they’re buying and what specific features or aspects of the item are important.
- Include lots of good quality photos. The more good photos you include, the easier it is for buyers to get a sense of what you’re selling.
- Set a fair price. Have a look on Gumtree and see what prices similar items are selling for so you don’t price yourself out of a sale or sell for too little.

Statistic: Australians generate approximately 32 million tonnes of solid waste annually, about 1,400kg per person. This gives new meaning to redistributing and recycling!

For more information:
www.ziilch.com.au lists whitegoods, bunk beds, car parts and everything in between. All items are free to list and free to take.
www.findauniform.com.au helps you find second hand school and sports uniforms. Specific school and team details are listed for each item.
www.swapshuffleshare.com connects food gardeners across Australia to swap produce, ideas, inspiration and experience. Plan a food swap and get to know your neighbours.
www.swapitbaby.com.au is an online community for swapping everything your kids have grown out of for second hand clothes and toys. It operates on a points system so you can ‘buy’ without necessarily having anything to ‘sell’.

Collaborative lifestyles:

Left of centre

Of the three frameworks, collaborative lifestyles require the most imagination – but they have great potential to generate a reduced eco-footprint in the most unlikely of transactions. And they’re at the forefront of Australia’s collaborative consumption movement.

“The collaborative consumption movement has been growing globally for a number of years,” says Fox. “It had been slow to gain traction in Australia; however, in the last 12 months a number of new Australian businesses and initiatives have embraced collaborative consumption principles, and there is certainly now a burgeoning movement in Australia. We are seeing a move towards collaborative lifestyles, where people are coming together to share and exchange time, space, skills, and money.”

Case study: MeeMeep

MeeMeep (www.meemeep.com) connects people who have stuff to move with people who are on the move. An introduction is given online, a fee negotiated between the two parties and the goods are delivered.
For example, a commuter who travels to five times a week to a particular suburb could connect to a box maker who regularly needs boxes delivered to the same suburb. The box maker gets in touch with the commuter, together they work out a reasonable delivery fee and the commuter becomes a courier on the side.

“There is a huge market out there for pick-up only items from sites like eBay and Gumtree,” says co-founder Rob Emmett. “Not to mention a lot of interstate movement of items like a bed, a picture frame, a hard drive or a wardrobe.”

Statistic: For every litre of petrol used, 2.3kg of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere. The average passenger vehicle emits four tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Share a ride and cut your emissions with carpooling services like www.jayride.com.au and www.needaride.com.au.

For more information:
www.landshareaustralia.com.au connects growers with those who have a spare plot of land. Grow your spuds in a neighbour’s backyard or give apartment-dwellers access to your big backyard.
www.spaceout.com.au links people who need space with those who have extra. Storage, office, parking and commercial space are popular rentals.
www.mamabake.com brings mothers together in a group cooking session. Each mama cooks or brings along
a big batch meal, and each leaves with a booty of
family favourites.
www.airbnb.com is a community marketplace for booking accommodation around the world. Five million guest nights have been booked since 2008.

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