João’s favorite sustainability initiative: The Sharing Economy

Every month, one of PRé’s people talks about their personal favorite sustainable initiative. This can be a product or a shop, a local initiative or a new website. This month, João Fontes will tell you a little about initiatives in the sharing economy.

I am a terrible consumer. I don’t like buying for the sake of buying; I don’t enjoy ambling through a shopping area. Actually, I hate wasting my time on shopping. I’d rather be with my family or friends, or spend my precious time doing nothing. And I see no sense in buying things that I will hardly ever use.

As much as I care for sustainability, I won’t buy a product just because it looks green or responsible. A sustainability label is not enough for me to pull my wallet either. I value high quality, design and durability. I also like to have space around me, so I don’t really want to own much stuff. Wouldn’t it make sense if we could share our possessions? That’s why Share NL caught my attention right away.

Let’s Start Sharing

Share NL promotes the sharing economy in the Netherlands and gives examples of great initiatives that are closing the gap between ownership and access. For me personally, these initiatives not only close this gap but also make me feel good: having access to a product that I barely use feels better than owning it. In addition, sharing brings something new to our current consumption pattern of people increasingly ordering items online without ever seeing another person. Sharing fosters social cohesion, as my colleague Sanne pointed out when she wrote about sharing meals in an earlier post in this series.

Image credits: ShareNL

If you use a shared car from MyWheels or SnappCar, for example, you meet someone who lives close to you, whom you’d probably never meet otherwise. The same happens if you share that power drill that a “friend” thought you’d love to get as a wedding gift on Peerby. That way, someone just like you, who does not have a great love of power tools, can still use one when they need it.

The benefits of sharing are extensive. Car sharing, for example, can save users money by eliminating parking, insurance and fuel costs, and of course the huge cost of purchasing the car itself. It also reduces the total environmental burden posed by cars, and the social risks associated with raw materials extraction and manufacturing: if a car is not manufactured in the first place, these burdens are avoided. After all, why buy a car in Amsterdam, where parking is a ridiculously expensive nightmare? There are millions of cars around, 14% of which belong to two-car households.

Sharing Boosts Entrepreneurship

You might think that the sharing economy is not a business topic. However, the combination of the wish to share and the accessible technology that connects people is really making the difference. People can now use spare bedrooms, cars, and tools they are not using to become entrepreneurs. Professor Sundararajan from NYU Stern says that this transition will presumably “have a positive impact on economic growth and welfare, by stimulating new consumption, by raising productivity, and by catalyzing individual innovation and entrepreneurship.”

What Can You Do?

What about you? Did someone wearing a “get rich or try sharing” t-shirt catch your attention the other day, without bringing on the urge to buy that t-shirt? Are there things you don’t want to own, but perhaps want to borrow every now and then? Then maybe it’s time for you to find a sharing economy initiative close to you, and to think about what you would want to take from the initiative and – why not – provide to it as well.

Other sustainable initiatives we like:

João Fontes


João Fontes joined the Consultancy team in 2008, focusing on social sustainability. He co-initiated the Roundtable for Product Social Metrics. João worked at PRé from 2008 to 2016.

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