The Shared Economy

April 14, 2017


I've been extremely addicted to podcasts lately, especially ones honing in on all things conscious living, social justice, and nonprofit management. [My favourites: CBC's Out in the Open + Nonprofit Leaders Network Podcast]. The past few weeks, my go-to has been Conscious Chatter, where host, Kestrel Jenkins, hits on all things ethical and slow fashion. Released last Tuesday, Kestrel spoke with Lona Alia, founder and CEO of Style Lend, an online marketplace where users can rent high fashion and designer items for up to one week for a fraction of the price. Although this business model isn't exactly originally, renting clothing is something people have been doing for years; in Toronto, the go-to source is Rent, Frock, Repeat. However, it got me thinking about the shared economy and how renting, borrowing, and sharing has become very routine-like for us millennials on the search for more sustainable practices, as well as affordable alternatives. 


First I have to state the obvious - what are the current sharing trends? Apartments and accommodation, with the help of apps such as BUNZ and Airbnb; most definitely fashion items, thanks to companies such as Rent, Frock, Repeat, various clothing swaps popping up around the city, as well as programs being initiated to help with textile waste diversion; and the hipster trend of reusing mason jars and fancy looking Tupperware containers to carry, preserve, or re-purpose just about anything, from smoothies to lunch to flower vases.


In the podcast, Kestrel quotes Juniper Research with "the shared economy is expected to generate global sales of $20 billion by 2020, compared with $6.4 billion in 2015", then mentions there is no evidence as of yet to how this will be broken down, and who will benefit most from a shared economy. This stuck with me while out running to buy new microphones for Studio.89, and I found myself in a haze thinking about ways to share more, buy less, and produce less waste, even though mega corporations are literally made to help us demolish our beautiful world and fill it with trash and sadness. While in my haze, I walked out of Long and McQuade realizing I had just purchased previously used microphones from the rental department, now in need of a permanent home - I was already implementing ways to increase our shared economy without even thinking about it! HA!


As I walked back into work, I started to think of ways Studio.89, local businesses, and entrepreneurs could push the agenda of a shared economy forward. How can we actually benefit the most, and make a difference when challenged by mega corporations and lazy government systems, while keeping the bottom line on the incline? The first thing I thought: resources and strategy. These are two of the biggest challenges I find small businesses and entrepreneurs struggle with. Sharing resources and complimenting each others strategies for sustainable development and social good, is the first step more organizations need to take. There is constantly this competition and need for one to implement their own project and develop their own original idea, when really what we need is more organizations and individuals working together, instead of always trying to get a leg up on the competition. As I've mentioned before: community over competition is what we need. 


So, beneficial resources all companies and organizations need: staff, technologies, professional development, training. For companies and organizations operating from brick and mortar spaces: furniture, tables, chairs, desks, printers, computers, office supplies. One thing we've definitely mastered is co-working spaces, but if co-working isn't an option for your organization, what's stopping your leaders from driving forward social responsibility? Creating strong relationships with competitors and relevant organizations is a powerful and seriously positive strategic step for growing, learning, and developing teams. Imagine if organizations got together to do large team building events; if relevant companies took advantage of professional development leaders to assist multiple teams at once; if instead of buying 100 copies of Microsoft Office, three entrepreneurs got together and shared a passkey. Yes, these are all simple, silly ideas, and I am no expert, but I am confident that one little step everyday can get our community and economy where we want it to be. I believe this is the strategic and smart way to approach sustainable development.


As we continue defining a shared economy, and developing a community of social entrepreneurs and innovators, I am feeling much more confident about our sustainable future. I say this especially for the Western world, as we're the culprits with the shitty frame of thought who started all this. How could we have ever thought exploiting developing countries and minorities, while brain washing the entire West with materialism, was going to bring forth the "American Dream"?


On the other hand, this shared economy thing is so inconvenient compared to how we've been going about our daily lives for so long. Overall, conscious living is super inconvenient. How do we showcase the long-term benefits of sharing vs. running to the mall every time your cheap Forever 21 t-shirt rips? Even those I look up to for being role models in conscious, minimalist, and zero waste lifestyles, still have cheat days. At what point is enough influence, enough influence for our world to make a complete switch to conscious living?


That, my friends, is the big question. Until then, we do what we can and take the influence we make on loved ones and peers as tiny successes. We walk a long road to sustainable development and it takes critical thinkers and doers to help us all reach that finish line.


So I must ask, what will you do this long weekend to ensure that whomever you sit next to for Easter dinner, walks away feeling they can make a change by simply becoming less selfish? Also, how they can walk away from that dry ass turkey and into the light of veganism...


Just kidding , enjoy your turkey. No rabbit though. 






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Sunshine & Raine is a digital marketing and sustainability consulting platform for brands in the global social impact space.
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