By Becca Margolis
What is the “Shared Economy”?
The shared economy uses innovative technology to empower individuals, businesses and government to think differently about resource sharing and reusing. A popular example is bike-sharing programs that increase city accessibility, ridership and bike distribution.
Most of the popular “shared economy” business models operate on a two-sided marketplace in which two parties can conduct business transactions through the technology enabled framework provided by a third party. Consumers can now easily become providers without any initial cost or investment. This new model throws linear distribution out the window and opens the doors to new models of efficient resource allocation.
Why is it important?
Technology is changing the traditional framework of consumption and resource allocation to combat problems of population growth and resource depletion. New marketplaces, and therefore jobs, have become available for small companies and individuals. These new opportunities for business growth reduce consumption and waste, while allowing for an increase in the repurposing and conservation of resources.
The idea of ownership is also beginning to change. For instance, people might be less inclined to buy a large commodity like a car as smaller, more efficient vehicles can easily be shared. Shared economies will force all society to look at our resources differently and use them efficiently in order to ensure their preservation.
Companies and Ideas that are building the Shared Economy:
1. ZipCar: Users can rent a car when and where they need it in any city for as little as an hour. All the hassle is taken out of car ownership and rentals through a technology driven interface. ZipCar operates in most major cities in the US.
Benefits: Decrease car use, congestion, pollution and car production while increasing car allocation efficiency.
2. Uber: Through a phone app, users are connected to individual drivers operating a range of car sizes and types. The user can track the car’s location on the app and pay directly through the app with tip included to minimize hassle. You can use Uber in many major cities including Boston, NY, San Diego, Chicago, Denver and Atlanta.
Benefits: Decrease car use, congestion, pollution and car production while increasing user time allocation and car use efficiency.
3. Air BnB: Enables travel booking in spare rooms and houses across the world. The Air BnB interface allows providers to be easily connected to consumers at no cost.
Benefits: Facilitates easy business transactions and increases travel ease and efficiency. Air BnB also decreases waste and energy use by large hotels.
4. NOLA Time Bank: “TimeBankers” can share their skills by offering and receiving services. For each hour that a TimeBanker gives a service, they receive an hour in service. Users can, in a sense, monetize their time and talents and increase community work and development. (Get two free hours of Time Bank time with your Green Card!)
Benefits: Value services are allocated easily to the community and Nola Time Bank provides opportunities for anyone to become a service provided cost-free.
5. Shared Libraries in NOLA: Many locals in New Orleans have done their own small part in shared economies. Throughout the Garden District, small “shared libraries” dot the streets. Locals can find new books and a place to recycle old books in their neighborhood for free.
Benefits: Decreased book consumption and production and increased community reading, learning and development.