Check out the rest of the article here.

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We’re used to the notion of sharing libraries, public parks, and train cars. But in many ways, American culture in particular drifted away from sharing as a value when we spread out from city centers and into the suburbs. Molly Turner, the director of public policy for short-term rental lodging website Airbnb, evokes the iconic image of Richard Nixon, in Moscow, introducing Nikita Khrushchev to the modern marvel of the state-of-the-art washing machine, available for private consumption in every American home. Beginning with the era of that washing machine, Turner argues, we forgot how to share.

We came to prize instead personal ownership – of multiple cars, of large homes with private backyards and space inside for appliances that would never fit in a modest city walk-up. Today, this kind of bald consumerism is considered almost tacky. But the reasons underlying that cultural shift reveal why we’re witnessing a true change in paradigm. Much has transformed in the last few years alone: the economy, technology, and the allure of cities themselves.

“What’s really going on here is the urbanization of the world and the reurbanization of American cities,” Turner says. “Either consciously or subconsciously, [people] are realizing that that involves the public realm, the commons, sharing goods and services and infrastructure. And I think that kind of bleeds into your personal life.” In other words, if you’ll share a subway car, why not a kitchen?

This move back into city centers also coincided with the Great Recession. Those big houses and multiple cars, it turns out, were beyond many of our means. And it’s no coincidence, Turner says, that Airbnb – a company founded around shared housing – was born in 2008, just as the U.S. was entering a recession built on a housing crisis. For many Airbnb members, the spare rooms they were able to rent through the service helped them keep their homes. City living, for all its allure, is expensive, but the sharing economy makes it possible for more people, whether they’re sharing a car because they can’t afford to own one, or sharing a bike because they’ve got nowhere to store it.

A quote from The Atlantic Cities article, 'Share Everything:Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever'. Check out the rest of the article here.

Image source: Collaborative Consumption

From The New York Times:

Suppose you don’t need your car today. And suppose, as it happens, that a stranger in your area does need a car. Would you be willing to rent yours out?

Several car-sharing start-ups, including GetaroundRelayRides and JustShareIt are eager to connect car owners with renters this way. The companies use different formulas, but participating owners receive, generally speaking, about two-thirds of the rental proceeds. RelayRides says an owner of a midsize, late-model sedan who rents out a car for 10 hours a week could expect to clear about $3,000 a year.

The newer start-ups say peer-to-peer sharing is an environmentally friendlier option because it allows an existing car to be used more fully. 

Car sharing is just one form of “collaborative consumption,” the clunky catchphrase that encompasses Airbnb’s space sharing and is commonly used to suggest an ideological or moral imperative to share more things. Who knows? In the future, car sharing may become so accepted that we can eventually return to that bygone age when licensed drivers actually outnumbered licensed vehicles.

Check out the rest of the article here. You can also check out an animated infographic about car sharing here.

(Image credit: New York Times)

From The City Fix:

The “Millennial” generation is quickly adopting car sharing as a mainstream transportation solution, according to results from Zipcar’s second annual study of the personal transportation and car ownership behavior of 18- to 34-year-olds. The study found that 55 percent of this influential generation have made an effort to drive less, which is a 10 percent rise from 2010. “Millennials are increasingly embracing access over ownership,” Zipcar explained. This is an interesting development, especially since vehicle ownership has been viewed as a “rite of passage” for many Americans.

Among the factors persuading Millennials to refuse car ownership are environmental concerns, which have led this generation to consciously reduce road travel. Other concerns include the total cost of vehicle ownership and the perceived advantages of “collaborative consumption“ programs. “Compared to older generations, Millennials participate in and are more open to collaborative consumption programs, such as media, car and home or vacation sharing,” Zipcar explained. “More than half of Millennials, or 53 percent, indicated they would likely partake in a car-sharing service, like Zipcar.”’

Here are some key findings from the study:

  • 55 percent have actively made an effort to drive less, compared to 45 percent in the same 2010 study
  • 78 percent say owning a car is difficult due to high costs of gas and maintenance
  • 53 percent would participate in a car-sharing service, like Zipcar – mobility and convenience is still important
  • Millennials are the most likely age group to participate in the “sharing economy” (67 percent would participate in media sharing and 49 percent in home/vacation sharing)
  • 40 percent  say they would participate to save more money for retirement or buying a home

Check out the rest of the article here. Related articles on the topic include:

(Photo credit: Carbon Talks)

From Fast Company:

Many consumer goods companies have environmental initiatives. Think of Dell’s e-waste recycling program, for example. Or P&G’s commitment to 100 percent renewable energy. Or the Chevy Volt, even. 

But, as laudable as these are, you might argue that they are secondary to a larger problem. All these companies still want us to buy more products. If a consumer goods company truly wanted to be sustainable, they might suggest that we consume a little less, or at least price their goods at a cost that reflects their true impact. 

Which is a crazy idea, of course. What company would ask us to consume less of their things, and make their stuff deliberately more expensive? 

Patagonia, for one. The Californian apparel company last month launched an initiative encouraging their customers to reduce, repair, reuse, and recycle their clothing and equipment. Their ad even features the line: “Reduce what you buy,” in bold caps, much like something out of an anti-capitalism rally. 

"We realized that what was really needed was a mutual responsibility between company and customer for the full lifecycle of stuff," Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia’s environment VP. "So we would try to reduce the amount of stuff that people buy, fixing products if they were broken, and asking people to clean out their garages and closets, so that if you have clothes you are no longer using, you put them back into circulation."

As part of its Common Threads scheme, Patagonia offers to repair its clothes (for a “reasonable” fee) on a 10-day turnaround. It also will help you sell its clothes via an eBay channel or at Patagonia.com. 

Specifically, Ridgeway points to analysis showing that humanity currently uses natural resources 1.4 times the rate at which the earth can restore them.

"The main thing is that we’re trying to get people to wake up, and we have a lot of loyal customers who appreciate our willingness to initiate dialogue like this," he says.

"We want to challenge other businesses too. The fundamental assumption that we can continue on a growth economy is flawed in the long term. We need to start talking about what we are going to do about it.”

"We don’t want to criticize people. We want to ask them to start thinking about their business practices and create a dialogue. All apparel companies have to ask where they are going to be in five, 10, 20 years’ time, when the natural resources of this planet are in increasingly critical condition."

Check out the rest of the article here. The story is also covered over at Time Magazine.

(Image credit: Ecouterre)

From The Guardian:

In Britain, the percentage of 17- to 20-year-olds with driving licences fell from 48% in the early 1990s to 35% last year. The number of miles travelled by all forms of domestic transport, per capita per year, has flatlined for years. Meanwhile, road traffic figures for cars and taxis, having risen more or less every year since 1949, have continued to fall since 2007. Motoring groups put it down to oil prices and the economy. Others offer a more fundamental explanation: the golden age of motoring is over.

"The way we run cars is changing fast," says Tim Pollard, associate editor at CAR magazine, “Car manufacturers are worried that younger people in particular don’t aspire to own cars like we used to in the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s. Designers commonly say that teenagers today aspire to own the latest smartphone more than a car. Even car enthusiasts realise we’ve reached a tipping point.”

As hi-tech research and development budgets source to keep pace with the iPhone generation, Pollard says carmakers are also coming to terms with less possessive buyers. “Towards the end of the 20th century, manufacturers cottoned on to the fact that we were owning things for shorter periods.”

This has led to a proliferation of different ownership and rental schemes such as StreetcarZipcar and Whipcar.

The most radical change is that “in big societies, there is a huge status shift happening, where we are losing the idea that you use a car to define your status. 

Underpinning all these innovations and ideas is what Liske sees as a major behavioural shift among the generation of “digital natives”. “They don’t care about owning things. Possession is a burden, and a car is a big investment for most people – not just the vehicle, but the permits, the parking space.”

Social trends can lead to change, but our travel habits are shaped by government policy too: by road, rail and airport building, most obviously, but also by planning regulations. Greenfield development, or the construction of housing on undeveloped land, is favoured by developers because it’s cheaper to build and easier to sell. Yet this is often low-density, suburban-style housing that is poorly suited to public transport and more or less requires homeowners to drive. Brownfield building, though less profitable and less popular, often raises population density, making public transport more viable.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Guardian)

From Canadian Business:

Susan Shaheen heads the Innovative Mobility Program at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has been researching transit’s role in the "collaborative consumption" movement for the past two decades. The phenomenon encapsulates the rapid expansion of swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting that has emerged in recent years — especially in the online realm.

"I definitely sense some sort of cultural shift away from ownership," she says, noting that a confluence of technology, environment and economy have precipitated a spike in recent years.

The summer of 2008 — when oil and gas prices reached record highs — was a turning point. A similar rise in gas prices, which averaged 125.84 cents a litre Thursday in Canada, combined with shaky consumer confidence is again driving more consumers toward shared transport, she said.

"We definitely tend to see, anecdotally, changes in uptake for car sharing and shared modes when we see gas prices rising, but I think another factor in addition to that is economic decline."

There are 17 car-sharing networks in several Canadian cities, largely dominated by the Boston-based car sharing pioneer Zipcar. Smaller local competitors also exist across the country, mainly co-ops aimed at urbanite commuters.

Bike sharing programs are still more rare but are rapidly proliferating. In May, Toronto became the latest Canadian city to house Montreal-based Bixi’s bike sharing network. There are seven programs in North America.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Geist)

10 minutes of Awesome: Alex Steffen on ‘The Shareable Future of Cities’

From TED Talks:

How can cities help save the future? Alex Steffen shows some cool neighborhood-based green projects that expand our access to things we want and need — while reducing the time we spend in cars.

Thanks to Human Scale Cities for the heads up!

From Reuters:

Public bicycle sharing schemes such as Barcelona’s “Bicing" program or London’s "Boris Bikes" save lives and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study on Friday.

Bike schemes are becoming increasingly popular in cities around the world, with more than 360 already running, but their main aim is usually to ease congestion rather than boost health. 

Researchers at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona found in a study, however, that around 9,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution are averted and some 12 lives saved each year by Barcelona’s scheme, which was introduced in March 2007.

“Active transport policies such as bike sharing systems promote physical activity among the population and are a good means to improve public health and also reduce expenses in public health services,” said David Rojas-Rueda, whose study was published in the British Medical Journal.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and says this could be done by walking for 30 minutes five times per week, or by cycling to work every day.

The researchers said this initial assessment suggested it was important “to encourage cities to change car use by cycling and stimulate the implementation of bike sharing systems in cities to improve the health of the population.”

Check out the rest of the article, including details about London and Barcelona’s bike share systems, here. For an overview of the rapid growth of bike sharing programs around the world take a look at National Geographic’s recent article, 'Bike share Schemes Shift Into High Gear'. Ride on!

(Photo credit: Inhabitat)

Reuters Video | Eco-Transport System Gives French City Clean, Green Travel Alternatives

The pioneering city of La Rochelle, France has had a bike share service since the 1970s. Now electric cars have been added to the program and the city has plans to build a clean, green future through other infrastructure improvements and citizen support. The video clip highlights these efforts before hearing some encouraging words from a couple of locals. Good stuff!