From car-sharing to online dress rentals, solutions that provide services without requiring ownership offer a means to reduce consumption and environmental impact. There’s now growing interest in a somewhat different type of product-service-system: rather than consumers renting services from businesses, several websites are facilitating rentals (or free loans) of products between individuals. Items that someone owns but rarely uses, like tools or obscure kitchen equipment, can be listed online for friends or neighbors to borrow or rent instead of buying elsewhere.
Adele Peters reports on the shift from sharing through businesses (such as carsharing) to renting from each other. The original article has all the links to the services mentioned:
1. Examples of neighborhood renting initiatives:
“Jean Hsu, Chief Product Officer at the start-up Frenting, was inspired to create her business when she and her husband were reupholstering chairs and needed a sewing machine; rather than buy equipment they might not need again, they decided to email friends and ask to borrow a machine. “We realized among our friends we are constantly shuttling things back and forth to lend or borrow for parties, outings, and projects: a step ladder, cameras, folding chairs, a juicer, etc. Clearly we knew friends in general were happy to lend, but just didn’t know who had what and what they were willing to lend.” She decided to create a website to meet allow friends to list and share products among themselves, and soon met two business partners with a similar vision.
Frenting isn’t alone. Neighborrow is a similar site. Also similar, but with a focus on renting, and open for anyone to browse are Rentoid and I Let You. Neighborgoods, founded by Worldchanging contributor Micki Krimmel, offers renting and loaning, and is intended for use by strangers. While Frenting’s market research led the company to limit networks to friends, in part to help users feel more comfortable, Neighborgoods has adopted the philosophy that borrowing from friends and strangers can help build community. In big cities, where it can be common for neighbors to be strangers, requesting a vacuum online may be easier than knocking on someone’s door, and a way to make a new friend.
Building Bulletins is designed to help apartment dwellers meet the others in their buildings and includes product sharing. GoGo Verde, Bright Neighbor, and Barterquest offer other community-building tools beyond product sharing, like discussion boards and skill-sharing. WeCommune provides software for resource sharing. Other sites that promote product sharing include Swaptree, Techtain, Loanables, and Return My Pants.”
2. Discussion: Are these services viable?
Can these services achieve critical mass, Adele believes so:
Once a large quantity and variety of products are listed on a particular site, sharing could replace shopping as the default first consideration for many items. Because these sites reduce the social discomfort that comes from asking to borrow something, the range of things that are typically borrowed may increase. Look around: how many items in your home are rarely used, from books to dress shoes to musical instruments to video cameras? With enough participation, product-service systems like these can begin to reduce the amount of products that are manufactured, and reduce the huge environmental burden that comes with production.