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How the Sharing Economy is Booming Without Hurting the Environment

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Share and share alike? The sharing economy isn't just a way for you to save money—it can also save the environment.


Uber, Lyft and others shave the number of cars on the road. Leftover and Food Runners claim they're finding a place for all of our wasted food. Listia helps you trade in all the items you don't use anymore and are cluttering up your house. AirBnB is a famous example of a sharing economy business. These companies help create a more organic approach to a green mindset, if you will forgive the pun. They appeal to many people because technology is making what they do easier and more cost-effective than it has been.

Related: How Green Power Can Benefit Both Small Retailers and the Environment

Maybe you don't have a need for those Gucci shoes anymore, but you're in the market for a new leather jacket. On some sites you can trade directly with someone, while on others you can trade in goods for credit that you can ultimately shop with. However, the person benefiting from this the most may be Mother Earth. Here's how:

1. Minimizes manufacturing costs

To manufacture a product, no matter how small or large, complex or simple, is taxing on the environment. Even that little mascara wand you just bought deepened your carbon footprint, all because of the resources it took to create it. When you trade and engage in the sharing economy, there are far fewer, or even zero, manufacturing costs. Unless an item is repurposed through a manufacturing process, every item in the world is only manufactured once.

Why should only one person or business benefit from that manufacturing process? The production of the mascara wand made an impact on the Earth that cannot be undone. However, you can "even things out" by sharing, thrifting or buying used. You save money and there's no additional manufacturing for you to get a product. Everybody wins.

2. Minimizes distribution costs

There are environmental impacts when something is manufactured, as well as when it is distributed. The shipping and logistics involved in getting products from a manufacturer to various stores is intense. However, if you share locally there's no need for a truck to drive long distances to deliver goods. If there are any transportation needs, they're much less impactful. It's kind of like opting into telecommuting for your shopping; you're helping to make the world a less congested place.

Related: The Future of the Sharing Economy Is a World Built Like Bitcoin

3. It lessens the need for consumption

This technically isn't true—but it does lessen the desire for more "new" consumption. Shopping addiction is a very real thing, and most people don't consider the impact on the environment when they head to the mall.

"There's a misconception that shopping is only fun and rewarding when you go to the physical store and buy things as new," says Listia CEO Gee Chuang. "However, thrifting and being frugal can be just as addictive, but it's not as bad for the Earth. You're getting your thrill out of helping the environment and saving money, not just on spending."

4. It brings awareness to green strategies

Many sites catering to the sharing economy highlight how helpful it is to the environment. They're educating users while also serving them. While there are many businesses that embrace green initiatives, it's easy to put eco-friendliness at the forefront of sharing.

There is no doubt that as humanity continues to have a large, and growing, impact on the environment, we will all have to pitch in to some extent to slow down or even reverse that trend. Whether it's using less water in your shower or on your lawn, buying an electric car or re-using someone else's mascara, the environment has become a bigger influence on what we purchase. Technology companies have joined the party, providing platforms that enable a greater attention to the environment. People are catching on.

Related: Mobile + Sharing Economy + Internet of Things = the Coming Economic Boom

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