Posts Tagged ‘sharing economy’

Glass of Chocolate Milk with Two StrawsEvery time I hear about the sharing economy, I think it’s an idea so great it has to catch on like wildfire. What could make more sense than eschewing rampant consumerism in favor of sharing? It’s clear we need to stop buying stuff we’ll rarely use and instead move to sharing, so we can access that stuff just when we need it.

But I live in San Francisco, where I’m surrounded by like-minded people. Is the sharing economy really the next big thing that’s already happening?

The truth is, we already do a lot of sharing. Think about it this way. Have you ever bought a slice of pizza? When you did that, you didn’t pay for the whole pizza, did you? Bingo — you were sharing! Have you ever ridden a bus or subway? Again, sharing! Come to think of it, even driving your own car involves sharing — of the roads we all help pay for.

But while buying a slice of pizza or riding a subway have become so acceptable that we don’t even think of them as sharing, other similar activities just aren’t as accepted yet. Sharing taxis is a case in point: not only does sharing make it easier to get a cab when they’re scarce, but you can also save money by splitting the fare. Yet most people are reluctant to share a taxi.

Recently we’ve seen some breakthroughs to this reluctance, and last week, a panel of four prominent members of the sharing economy explored how this is happening.

Superstorm Sandy put sharing in the spotlight, at least for a while. As a panelist from Weeels described, because his company facilitates ride sharing, they were called in to help after the storm. When taxis were scarce, their service helped both drivers and riders make the best use of the few vehicles that were available.

Well, we all know that during disasters people are more likely to share and help one another. But while recessions and natural disasters help make sharing palatable, we need to get beyond that for sharing to prosper.

And that will mean changing our perspective about what’s okay to share. The idea can’t be forced on people — they have to see what’s in it for them.

The panelists contributed great examples of the benefits. In addition to Weels, there was representation from SolarCity, which sells solar leases to homeowners, making it much easier for many Americans to go solar; BrightFarms, a company that provides a kind of “produce purchase agreement” to supermarkets, ensuring that both the stores and customers will get fresh produce; and Krrb, an online peer-to-peer marketplace that differs from Craigslist in operating more like a store, with accountability to customers for the products sold there.

We’re seeing added benefits to sharing when it comes to crowdfunding, which lets people pool their resources to make all kinds of projects happen. A great example is Mosaic’s new online marketplace, which is making it possible for people to invest in community solar projects and earn solid returns.

Despite the benefits, some barriers remain — perceptions being a major one. Another is the built environment. Sharing on a large scale is far more popular in urban areas, where it’s also more of a necessity and provides more obvious benefits. It’s a challenge to promote the idea in more rural or even suburban areas, especially in a culture built on the ideas of space and individualism.

Of course, our culture is also increasingly urban, and that will help advance the sharing economy. So too will the fact that so many resources are becoming more scarce, which leads to a real need to share them.

The conclusion of this panel? At the moment, getting people to participate in the sharing economy is still a challenge. But whether or not we want it to, sharing is bound to become the norm.

This post was originally published at Mosaic.


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’Tis the season for sharing. We share meals, drinks, and presents with friends and family, and maybe even dollars with charities. But must sharing and its many benefits be limited to the holidays?

The year-round benefits of sharing are nowhere more clear than when it comes to driving. Apart from saving money for those who prefer not to buy a car, car sharing takes a significant number of cars off the road, thereby reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Moving to electric vehicles (EVs) would take reducing GHG emissions to another level. But this promises to be a slow transition as people’s concerns about EVs often prevent them from buying one themselves.

What to do about this conundrum? All in a day’s work for the Sharing Economy! Yes — sharing is coming to the rescue as a powerful way to help spread the adoption of electric cars.

Sharing driving experiences

Even the car manufacturers that support EVs in a big way aren’t shouting about them from the rooftops. Whatever the reason for their lack of marketing, a new service, DrivingElectric, is stepping in to help.

An organization based on sharing among communities, DrivingElectric focuses on pooling neighbors’ resources to spread the good EV word. Felix Kramer, the founder, got the idea for DrivingElectric after seeing how much fun EV drivers have showing their cars. And he realized that EV owners, himself included, were essentially selling electric cars!

Why is this kind of marketing so effective? DrivingElectric is based on the idea that “it takes a driver to make a driver.” The “EV curious” can use DrivingElectic to connect with EV drivers in their area. This connection gives them a more realistic and positive picture of the experience.

And it often leads to taking a spin in a nearby EV. As Kramer describes the typical experience, “You get in the car, you close the door, and it’s solid, and you sit in there and you say, ‘This is a real car!’ It’s not a golf cart … And you can’t get that until you actually sit in the car and drive in the car.”

EV drivers can share not only their cars but also their experiences, both on the DrivingElectric website and in person — thereby helping alleviate concerns like range anxiety.

Sharing chargers

Say I’ve connected on DrivingElectric with EV drivers who have convinced me that an electric car would serve my driving needs on most days. But I’m still nervous about those rare times when I drive farther than their range allows.

Once again, sharing comes to the rescue! This time it’s in the form of PlugShare, an EV charging network. Using the PlugShare website or mobile phone app, you can find chargers on your route where you can plug in, sometimes for free. Even a non-EV driver can sign up to share their wall outlet.

Range anxiety alleviated!

Sharing cars

If you’re still not ready to buy an EV, or if you want more opportunities to try one out before purchasing, you can turn to car sharing. As car sharing becomes increasingly popular, companies like Car2GoMoveabout, and Getaround are including EVs in their fleets — providing the benefits of EVs while mitigating drivers’ concerns:

  • Range anxiety: Since people generally use car sharing for short urban trips, range is rarely an issue.
  • Charging: For the rare cases when customers do need a charge, companies with EV fleets provide easy ways to find charging locations — some even provide chargers.
  • Cost: Low maintenance and charging costs save money for the sharing company, and users save by not having to purchase an EV.

Some EVs are even being designed specifically for sharing in cities — a car used for this purpose can be smaller, and therefore easier to park and charge, and need not include extra features that would drive up the price.

Sharing the EV love

Moving to EVs is a crucial part of combatting climate change — and sharing in various forms can help us get there. If you own an EV or are curious about them, check out DrivingElectric. The more we share our experiences, the sooner we can make a real transition to cleaner cars.

This post was originally published on Mosaic.

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