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Goodbye Hyper-Consumption, Hello Collaborative Consumption

Posted: 09/14/10 11:36 AM ET

A "big shift" from the 20th century, a time defined by hyper-consumption, to a 21st-century age of Collaborative Consumption is underway. The convergence of social technologies, a renewed belief in the importance of community, pressing environmental concerns, and cost consciousness are moving us away from the old top-heavy, centralized, and controlled forms of consumerism toward one of sharing, aggregation, openness, and cooperation.

We now live in a global village where we can mimic the exchanges that used to take place face-to-face but on a scale and in ways that never been possible before. The inherent efficiency of the internet, combined with its ability to create trust between strangers (two qualities the likes of eBay and Freecycle have proven on steroids), has created an unbound marketplace for efficient exchanges between producer and consumer, lender and borrower, and neighbor and neighbor, with no middlemen in between. As we explain in our upcoming book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption:

The collaboration at the heart of Collaborative Consumption may be local and face-to-face, or it may use the Internet to connect, combine, form groups, and find something or someone to create "many to many" peer-to-peer interactions. Simply put, people are sharing again with their community--be it an office, a neighborhood, an apartment building, a school, or a Facebook network. But this sharing and collaboration is happening in ways and at a scale never before possible, creating a culture and economy of what's mine is yours.

Every day people are using Collaborative Consumption--traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping, redefined through technology and peer communities. Collaborative Consumption is enabling people to realize the enormous benefits of access to products and services over ownership, and at the same time save money, space, and time; make new friends; and become active citizens once again.

So how big and far-reaching is this emerging socioeconomic groundswell? Watch this.

Collaborative Consumption Groundswell Video from rachel botsman on Vimeo.

The likes of Zipcar and Netflix were started a decade ago and have rapidly become household names. But what do the next generation of businesses based on shared resources and reinvented market behaviors look like? We have picked four Collaborative Consumption "hot ideas" that we believe will rapidly grow as we enter a new era of consumerism market by trust between strangers, access over ownership and the primacy of experiences over more stuff.

    Bike sharing systems such as B-Cycle and Bixi are great but the start-up and maintenance costs are high, making them a challenge to scale, especially outside of city centers. Social Bicycles (SoBi) uses GPS, mobile technologies, and a secure lock that can attach to almost any existing bike rack and personal bicycle.

    Why is it a hot idea?
    SoBi is a smarter form of bike sharing at a third of the cost. "SoBi could be come a new form of personalized public transportation that changes the way people move through cities," explained founder Ryan Rzepecki.

    How could the physical objects we own, from books to gifts to kitchenware, be transformed into social experiences? Through TRACKit tags, each embedded with unique QR barcodes, the online platform Itizen lets you tell, share, and follow the "life stories" of objects.

    Why is it a hot idea?

    With the advent of smart phones and code reader apps, we are just at the start of seeing how QR codes will transform our relationship to things. "Itizen has the potential to influence a shift in how people view their possessions," founder Dori Graff commented.

    Zipcar brought the idea of car sharing to the mainstream, but what about suburbs? And why did we need to introduce new cars when there are millions already sitting idle on the streets for an average of 23 hours a day? Peer-to-peer car sharing provides the technology and insurance to enable car owners to share their cars with their neighbors for an affordable hourly fee.

    Why is it a hot idea?

    RelayRides enables owners and renters to use the "idling capacity" of personally owned and underused cars. Not only does this enable car owners to make extra money, but as founder Shelby Clark explains, "It gives the community an affordable transportation option, making it easier to live a car-free lifestyle."

    We all have books, DVDs, games, and other media lying around our house that we are unlikely to use again but can't quite bring ourselves to throw away. Swap marketplaces are like match.com for our unwanted media, enabling us to swap things we have for the things we want.

    Why is it a hot idea?
    Swapping is an old market idea gaining new relevance through technology. It helps people save money and eek out the use of items, which has a direct impact on the environment.

    The rapid growth of Groupon has shown the power of consumers banding together for discounts. One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) is applying the same idea to solar power. By using social media to get neighbors to group together they can negotiate massive discounts with trusted providers.

    Why is it a hot idea?
    Outside from reducing the hassles and costs of solar installation, once a group of neighbors are in a collective there are other opportunities for the group discount to be applied to other green improvements

SoBi, Itizen, RelayRides, Swap, and 1BOG show how we can use social networks, smart grids, and real-time technologies to reinvent outdated modes of business, leapfrog over wasteful consumerism, and have the potential to fundamentally change our consumer habits, for the better.

Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers are the coauthors of What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. Check out the online hub for Collaborative Consumption for cool infographics, videos, stories, and resources for you to use and share. You can even swap, barter, or gift your copy of What's Mine is Yours and track where it travels!

Excerpt from What's Mine Is Yours by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Copyright © 2010 by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Posted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.