3 Ways to Share Your Way to A Zero-Waste Lifestyle

trash in NYC

This is part two in our series on the Sharing Economy and how it can save money, time, and help you become more connected to your community. Part One explained how sharing services can help you save money. Today’s installment highlights some of the ways collaborative consumption can reduce waste and our impact on the planet.

We’re imprisoned in an ever growing mountain of our own waste. Streets are littered with the cast off shells of purchases we couldn’t live without. Massive houses suck up huge amounts of energy so that we can each have our own flat screen television, and enjoy 80 degree indoor temps in the middle of winter. We “need” a car for each member of the family, even though research shows that the average personal vehicle sits idle 22 hours a day. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Texas-sized island of floating plastic debris, poisons the sea and kills marine life.

We’ve consumed our way into billions of dollars of debt, and buying more stuff, even very green stuff, isn’t the way out. Collaborative consumption allows us access to the things we need and want without assuming the burden (or carbon footprint) of ownership. When resources are shared, the total number of new things that must be produced goes down, taking related pollution and eventually landfill-bound waste, with it. Here are some more ways the sharing economy can help you achieve a zero-waste lifestyle.

1. Reduce

According to the EPA, the average passenger vehicle emits around 5.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Living without a car would be ideal, but it’s not a reality for those of us with big families or who live in sprawling suburbia. Car sharing, membership-based services that allow you rent a fleet car or your neighbor’s ride, can be a painless compromise. Studies have shown that car sharing reduces the number of cars on the road as well greenhouse gas emissions, all without forcing people into a car-free lifestyle. But if you are trying to go carless, bike sharing can ease the transition. The most popular urban bike sharing programs place bike stations at convenient locations, like outside train stations or shopping areas. This makes it easy to make short trips without hailing a cab or losing your parking spot.

2. Reuse

Few of us can commit to making our own…everything, but thanks to collaborative consumption we can gain access to the things we need without driving to a big box store to buy overpriced, over-packaged things made in China. Before assuming that you need to buy, why not check in to see if your community has what you’re looking for? There are literally hundreds of services that make it peer-to-peer rental, barter, and consignment as easy as checking your email. By swapping, you extended the lifecycle of each shared item, which means things are in use much longer before they head to the landfill.

3. Repurpose

Although it’s easy to share tangible things, like clothes, electronics, cars, but don’t think for a minute they’re the only things we can share. We can also share time, space, and perhaps most importantly, skills. Time shares are a great way to turn free time into a valuable currency that can be used to stimulate the local economy. Hacker and maker spaces are collectives for those who would rather produce than consume. Members share knowledge of beer making or woodworking or solar panel construction as well as the space and tools required to realize their projects. There are even repair cafes dedicated specifically to teaching people how to repair broken items so that they don’t get trashed just because they’re a little worn.

Image: Robert S. Donovan