Ecocentricity Blog: Hey, Can I Borrow That?

By: John A. Lanier
Sep 5, 2018 10:15 AM ET
Summary: 

As an environmentalist, I am pulling for the growth of this movement. For every person who chooses to borrow or rent a tool, that’s one fewer tool that has to be built. For every person who chooses to buy clothing on the second-hand market, that’s one fewer garment that has to be created.

Blog

Today was a fun parenting day. For the past several weeks, our two-year-old son has been going to preschool, but I had not yet been able to go with my wife to drop him off or pick him up. I finally tagged along today to learn the school’s procedures.

Chantel and I were a few minutes early, so we didn’t want to disturb his class’s last song of the day. There I was, peeking in through the class window to catch a glimpse of my son. My feelings were surprisingly complex at that moment, ranging from excitement just to see him to fear that he would have tears streaming down his face. He was just sitting quietly in the circle of kids, listening to his teachers enthusiastically singing to them. Pretty standard for him when music is involved.

When we opened the door, he looked up and saw us, excitedly jumping to his feet. I was proud of him in that moment, because instead of barreling through the other kids to get to us, he slowly and gently stepped around them. He can be a bull-in-a-China-shop at home, so I’m glad to see he exercises more care in his class.

Preschool has been good for him, and that will only continue to be the case. I know he is learning something new every day. That got me thinking about all of the lessons we learn as young children that, ideally, will endure for the rest of our lives. Obvious examples are manners and patience. An important one is that we do not always get what we want. For my money though, the most enduring lesson from preschool is how important it is to share with others. I hope my kid is taking notes.

Increasingly, the practice of sharing is becoming common in our economic system. You might have heard the term “sharing economy” or “shared economy” before. In general, the idea is that technological advancements in communications technology (i.e. smart phones) are allowing people with underutilized assets (i.e. personal automobiles) to be shared with people in need of the assets (i.e. me when I travel to other cities). Behold, I give you Lyft and Uber.

And Airbnb and eBay and Craigslist and TaskRabbit and Poshmark and Lending Club. Related concepts include co-working spaces and crowdfunding platforms. All of these companies provide a digital bridge that connects everyday people together, so that goods, services, money, and time can be shared as people desire.

Perhaps my favorite term for this movement in our economic system is “collaborative consumption.” Tip of the cap to Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers for introducing me to that term, which they describe in detail in their book What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live. This book is worth a read if you are interested in learning more about…well…“how collaborative consumption is changing the way we live.” It is a great read.

As an environmentalist, I am pulling for the growth of this movement. For every person who chooses to borrow or rent a tool, that’s one fewer tool that has to be built. For every person who chooses to buy clothing on the second-hand market, that’s one fewer garment that has to be created. For every person who joins a CSA (community-supported agriculture), that’s one fewer consumer beholden to industrial agriculture.

Add it all together and you end up with an economic model predicated on one of the earliest lessons we all learn – that sharing is good. 

Valerie Bennett
Ray C. Anderson Foundation
+1 (770) 317-5858