Deleøkonomi 2.0 kan stoppe overforbrug

5 min.
Morten Thinggaard Pedersen vandt dette års essay-konkurrence ved den store konference Aarhus Symposium på Aarhus BSS.  Foto: Pr-foto/Aarhus Symposium

En altomfattende deleøkonomi kan være med til at styrke et bæredygtigt forbrug, lyder det fra Morten Thinggaard Pedersen i dette prisvindende essay fra Aarhus Symposium. Indlægget er på engelsk.

The time when the Sharing Economy was regarded a novel concept is long gone, yet, it has never been more relevant. I grew up just in time to experience the development of the digital age evolve in parallel with my own adolescence.

With almost any aspect of my life being in touch with digitalization, whether it was as the first class of the school using laptops, or the replacement of printed driving directions with personal GPS systems, the connectedness and globalized mindset have practically been bred in my entire generation. A generation so used to (and addicted to) technology that we blindly allow both governments and private corporations to track, measure and monitor our every move, physically and online, every second. It is reasonable to infer that we have practically supplied “the industry” with all the data needed to develop the consumer society that is both feeding us and destroying us at the same time.

You do not need to be a business student to understand that consumerism is turning the wheels in a society set for material wealth, but at some point, our best efforts towards sustainable production are still going to be insufficient. My thoughts on a path towards a sustainably sound society are creating the incentive to end excessive over-consumption and utilize the idle capacity on every-day objects like power drills, cross country skis and even apparels.

Today, most individuals are familiar with large-asset, (mainly) private, sharing services like Airbnb, Uber, and eBay. In Denmark, we even have front runners in private boat-, car- and food sharing.

The one common feature of these services is that they are all specialized, top-of-class solutions aimed primarily for larger, capital intensive assets because that is where the large service fees are applicable, making them proper business models. If one instead diverted the focus onto collective sustainability, reducing the need for acquiring that lawn edge trimmer that you only use once a year, or that dress only suitable for your 3rd year gala, progress could be made every day. Imagine an app that could offer you affordable, temporary access to any object or even service that you demand at any given time.

Tomorrow, you will be hosting a fine dinner for your friends and you would like the meat to be nothing less than perfectly cooked. Instead of being stressed about your lack of cooking skills, you simply open your sharing-app and request a sous vide stick for half a day for a given amount of money in either a fully taxable payment or a tax-free donation to a treeplanting NGO. As the lender, you could even donate the money to keep the platform afloat to end the need for targeted ads from retailers.

The possibilities for a sharing platform covering virtually all aspects of your life as a consumer are next to endless. This is not an attempt to end innovation and production, essentially closer to the opposite. Products tailored to a sharing economy will necessarily have to be of superior quality, not designed to break after a two-year warranty period. Approaching the target of a limited personal consumption will force “the industry” to end cheap mass-production and instead invest in durability and flexibility that is fit for the new characteristics of the economy.

The most obvious side-effects of the said sharing platform include social connectedness and a sense of belonging, improved personal allowance, and utilization of idle, private capacity. Less consumption does not necessarily equal inferior innovation, and one could even argue for the development of global unions purchasing in large quantities to further drive down costs, while using data from users to predict the minimum necessary capacity for further optimization.

Natural concerns of a concept where multiple individuals share single objects are the damage and liability questions that inevitably will arise. Concerns that can be accommodated by the existing solutions of user rating and insurance. The user rating system will quickly exclude fraudulent users who attempt to take advantage of a platform built on trust rather than regulation. A user listing a faulty object with the aim of insurance payouts, along with other users exhibiting inappropriate behavior, will thus be fined and excluded, while users in good faith are protected by insurance.

A necessary condition for the practical applicability of the platform is further a large user base that is able and willing to use the platform. More users necessarily reduce the need for each user to own a number of objects, since these will likely be in the immediate possession of other users willing to share.

Gandhi said it, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed”, which is why we must put an end to the consumer society as we know it, and start acting more responsibly to keep ensuring that the world really has enough for everyone’s need. A social sharing platform, even touching virtually any aspect of our lives, will not end the necessary consumption, simply reduce it to a responsible level while bringing about various, positive, side-effects. It is essentially a one-stop solution to live a life with the material benefits of a regular consumer’s, just without the stress and costs associated with having your wage tied up in capital-heavy, depreciating assets.

You (still) have immediate access to a car, lawn edge trimmer, backcountry skis, and a sous vide stick for a small fee whenever you need it. The best part is, that you will even be able to afford it by lending out your own possessions, which you own because you actively use it on a regular basis, while your storage shed is empty of the possessions that you do not use regularly.

The best motivation to leave you with while considering the idea of a social sharing platform is arguably from 'The Story of Stuff'; that 99 per cent of the total material throughput of the consumer system is discarded after just 6 months of use. In other words, just one per cent of all the stuff that is mined, harvested, produced, or processed is in use after half a year. If that does not call for immediate attention and directly highlights the need for a reduction in consumption and increased sharing of assets and resources, I do not know what does. 


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