We live in a society defined by consumption. Our media outlets are full of advertisements trying to sell us the newest products, latest fashions, and telling us to keep buying more stuff. Even our governments encourage us to buy and consume as much as possible, often justifying its position by emphasizing the importance of economic growth.
But think about effect that this insatiable desire to buy and consume has on our water, air, and planet: trash fills our landfills, pollutants get pumped into our air, and greenhouse gases manipulate our climate.
One solution that has gained in popularity over the years is the concept of collaborative consumption. According to Rachel Botsman, author of What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, collaborative consumption means supplementing our current model of consumerism for one that allows for “sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping”.
In other words, we use consumerist principles to address not only our needs, but the needs of others. In this way, more people benefit from fewer resources, establishing an economic environment that allows for greater sustainability.
A perfect example of collaborative consumption can found locally at McMaster. Threadwork is an OPIRG working group that organizes biyearly clothing swaps for McMaster students and community members.
The sharing of clothes facilitates the reusing of clothing that might otherwise be thrown out while reducing the necessity to buy new clothes – addressing concerns at both ends of the production-disposal chain.
Not only is this model environmentally-friendly, it promotes community self-sufficiency and saves money. Several other opportunities exist within the Hamilton community to partake in collaborative consumption. For example, community gardens help grow fresh, locally-produced food for their neighbourhoods. A car sharing program, Hamilton CarShare, allows for individuals to drive while not having to own their own vehicle. Meanwhile, organizations such as Ethical Consumers are helping to make sustainable products more affordable by setting up group purchases.
Collaborate consumption allows us an opportunity to take ownership over our economies. Now that the groundwork for collaborative consumption has been laid out, it is the responsibility of consumers to choose between individual consumption and alternative forms of consumption that benefit not only themselves, but others too.
If you would like more information or would like to volunteer for Threadwork please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.