Activist Annie Leonard told the story of Earth-killing consumerism all too well in her animated video, "The Story of Stuff": shopping equals garbage and a waste of the Earth's precious resources.
But that story, according to author and former corporate consultant Rachel Botsman, is the old story. In the book she co-authored, What's Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, she writes that our world is shifting from consumption to collaboration. Ownership is so 20th century; the 21st will be about access.
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If you've ever couch-surfed, car-shared, rented a movie, or borrowed a book from the library, you've already got one foot in the door of this new world. In cyber-space, networks link consumers to owners who can loan, rent or swap, and consumers can get access to all kinds of goods, from wedding dresses to cars. If an item's not in use, it's only taking up space. The average car owner, for example, only uses his or her car eight per cent of the time. The collaborative economy looks for ways to make that car work for the owner the other 92 per cent of the time.
As part of this revolution, the old-fashioned library is being re-invented as well: how about a library where you can borrow a power drill and only get charged with late fees? After paying a lifetime membership of $20, and $30 in yearly maintenance fees, members of Vancouver's Tool Library (opened in July 2011) can do just that.
Of course, you don't always need a platform on the Internet or a library to share your stuff. Most of the time, knowing your neighbours is a simple way to facilitate a trade/swap/buy/borrow. But maybe we need a little infrastructure to help us kick our society's collective shopping habit. After all, Black Friday's not about borrowing... not yet, at least.