What's Mine is Yours: What is the Collaborative Consumption Movement?

BlogHer Original Post

When you buy a used book from Amazon and check the seller's ratings before you make your choice, you are participating in a movement known as collaborative consumption. The same thing applies when you use a Zipcar, go online to rent a tool from someone near you, or use a website to swap your DVD of "Call of Duty" for someone else's DVD of "Halo."

collaborative consumption infographic
Infographic courtesy of CollaborativeConsumption.com

If you've done any of those things you were part of the collaborative consumption movement, even if you didn't know there was a "movement." I've done some of those things, but I didn't know they were part of a philosophy and social phenomena fueled by technology that involved a lot more than buying used books or swapping goods with a stranger.

I learned about the movement in an inspiring book called What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. It explains all the ways that technology has enabled us to return to "the sharing and exchange of all kinds of assets from spaces to skills to cars in ways and on a scale never possible before."

Technology allows innovative sites to set up safe ways to exchange money or goods or services, rating systems that mean only the honest get business, and keep track of all sorts of information about goods and services. In a sense, technology is taking us back to a time when we experienced collaboration and community as a natural way to live.

Here's a video by Rachel Botsman explaining collaborative comsumption.

WHAT'S MINE IS YOURS from rachel botsman on Vimeo.

The depth and scope of what can be done using technology to reuse, recycle, redistribute, repurpose, and exchange is astonishing when you look at it as a whole. When you buy or sell on eBay, rent a textbook from CampusBookRentals, list a room for rent on craigslist, give away a stack of cinder blocks on Freecycle, or donate $25 to a Kickstarter project you are part of this movement. Awareness is the first step.

With awareness comes the realization you are engaged in a social movement. That makes you think about the implications of what you're doing. Here are a few of the social implications:

  • You're saving money
  • You keeping stuff out of the landfill
  • You're getting goods and services in a safe but green way
  • You're forming communities
  • You're using technology to help yourself, others, and the planet

Being aware of some of the benefits of all this sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping can expand your ideas of how to live in the world. It makes you think about ways to do more.

For example, could you use Airbnb to find housing for your next trip? (Or to occasionally rent out an unused bedroom in your own house?) Could you use Citizen Space as a co-working space to get you out of your pajamas and into a social working space? Could you give and get support among people in your own neighborhood using WeCommune? Could you exchange your child's outgrown clothing for something in a larger size using SwapKidsClothes?

At collaborativecomsumption.com there are dozens of examples of websites where you can share, exchange, swap, barter or, sell collaboratively. The list is a gold mine. Even though the list is a gold mine, it's hardly the complete and definitive list. Innovative sites appear constantly and many good collaborative consumption sites are not in this list of examples.

Have you done anything that qualifies as collaborative consumption? Would you like to do more?

Virginia DeBolt, BlogHer Section Editor for Tech
Virginia blogs at Web Teacher and First 50 Words.

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