By definition, the consumer society lives under the patterns of acquiring, competing, possessing . But another way is not only possible, but it is becoming fashionable: share , collaborate, access or exchange. Social networks are promoting the development of economies that emphasize solidarity rather than individual waste. We can already share a house or car in different degrees; get into microfinance (crowdfunding), which is a way of participating collectively to give credit to those who need it; to try the advantages of shared work (coworking), and even to renounce the consumption of using and throwing with the exchanges, the reuse or the gifts between individuals (of books, of clothes, of music …).
The influential Time magazine already affirmed in 2011 that this phenomenon will be one of the ten ideas that will change the world. The success is corroborated by Albert Cañigueral, creator of Consumocolaborativo.com, a reference website to enter this world. “The new forms of shared or shared economy jeopardize the traditional economy that has turned the citizen into a mere disarmed consumer before the premature expiration of objects and a programmed obsolescence of consumer goods,” he says. In this way, objects are given a second chance to stop compulsive buying and a more lasting and rational economy is promoted.
The accent is not so much to own the property of products, goods or services but how to access and enjoy its use, regardless of who owns it. Property is no longer felt as the only way to happiness, but is demystified and desacralizar disappears a possible source of frustration. In the XXI century, the old practices of barter, exchange or loan now have a new life, boosted by the crisis. These forms of collaboration have served to save, but also to relaunch economic activity. The union not only makes the force , but it comes to account. Forbes magazine estimates that the income of the shared economy this year will exceed 2,600 million euros, with a growth of 25%. Currently there are already some 4,000 companies linked to this world. In just one year, Cañigueral estimates that in Spain there are more than 150 start-ups in this sector. A new generation of microentrepreneurs is showing up in the network. Some example?
At present the desire to travel can be materialized with the free exchange of houses or accommodation at a very low price (there are more than two million registered coachsurfers in the world). More convenient than paying for a week in a hotel! The success of Airbnb is a very illustrative case. This company, according to The Wall Street Journal, has a value of 1,800 million euros. The operation of this platform is simple: the hosts offer accommodation to travelers , who can thus experience another way of moving as they can sleep, eat, shop and socialize like the locals. In turn, the owner of the house, by welcoming guests, meets people from all over the world and also benefits from the extra money earned through the reservation. Knok.com, which is based in Barcelona, is dedicated to promoting the exchange of houses among its users has reached 14,000 users in 145 countries.
Shared mobility has also exploded. 92% of your time the car remains parked. Is it worth buying one? Many variants have been developed: journeys that are shared to distribute gasoline and toll charges (Carpooling.es), companies with fleets of vehicles that can be reserved (Carsharing), car rental between individuals (Social Car has already made 2,500 rentals from its constitution, explains Mar Alarcón, its founder …) or shared taxis (JoinUpTaxi).
In microfinance, crowdfunding is already a reality: Verkami has financed more than 700 projects in two years; Lánzanos.com has collected more than one million euros, with 100,000 registered users in a year; Goteo has obtained 450,000 euros of financing , with an average of 40 euros per cofinancier and with 120 projects underway. Loans between individuals (P2P) are also opening in Spain. This is the case of Comunitae, with 1.5 million euros in transactions and an average net return of 10%. Cañigueral predicts that in this same year will open another innovative vein: the direct loan of individuals to SMEs.
In turn, the exchange markets in the networks are shooting up. According to the WWF, we have up to 4,000 objects in our homes. Fifteen times more than our grandparents. Not all serve and many of us can lend , sell, rent, share. Today it is even possible to rent a drill (whose average life of use is 20 minutes) or anything else. It is enough to take a walk through the web in pages such as Nolotiro.org or Segundamanita.com, a portal specialized in children’s clothing and accessories. O Bookcrossing, which spreads the barter of books while HuertosCompartidos.es offers the possibility of sharing cultivation spaces in cities and towns.
Renting goods can become a way to make a living and you can get an extra return of thousands of euros a month simply by giving up the use of our possessions. For example, if you have a car, you can get up to 7,500 euros a year when renting it to neighbors, according to the Relay Rides website, and, in addition, neighborhood relations are improved. “With shared consumption formulas, companies win but above all people win, because at the same time there is an economic benefit and a social gratification,” says Albert Cañigueral. “What we are seeing is to update practices that have been carried out for some time and that seek to modify the culture of ownership and ownership . They are formulas that allow to acquire the use of a product or its exchange; this is what is really important; not its possession “, explains Rubén Suriñach, consumer expert of the magazine Opcions. It is as if the crisis accelerated the change of values, since young people have gone from giving importance to property to discover the true dimension of its use. At the same time they realize that all are benefits, since intermediaries are suppressed, forums and communities are created, resources are saved and extra money is obtained. “The citizens discover that they can satisfy needs at a lower cost, and that all this it can be done by resorting to the community “, adds Suriñach.
Besides saving , when we share goods, we will be happier? Apparently, yes. “The tangible needs of objects or consumer products, such as food, heat or home, only represent 10% of human needs. Most of them have to do with the emotional aspects, identity or recognition, which belong to the sphere of the relationship with others, “recalls Joana Conill, researcher of alternative economies at the Open University of Catalonia. “These services transform a good into a means to connect with people. And we always need to relate to the community, “confirms Paul Zak, a specialist in neuroeconomics at Claremont Graduate University, who has proven that oxytocin, the well-being hormone, is secreted in these contexts.
A first approximation suggests that these formulas are booming because they are the result of necessity ; for example, that of young people who can not afford expenses. After all, the students are used to sharing a flat . But there is more: “In this way it is discovered that collective purchases, whether of food or goods purchased in bulk, have great economic, vital and ecological benefits,” says Federico Demaria, researcher in degrowth at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. “This is a gateway to self-consumption,” explains Demaria. “In a traditional market, reuse practices or organic products have high transaction costs, while these are drastically reduced thanks to collaborative consumption”, emphasizes this expert.
One of the basic principles of this model is that it requires awakening and testing confidence , as a fundamental instrument to reformulate, cement and relaunch social (and also commercial) relationships. Internet plays a crucial role, since that is where the enormous potential of the principle of “the more you give, the more you receive” is verified. “Trust will be the new coin,” warned Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in the book, symbol of this movement, What’s mine is yours (what is mine is yours). The citizen distrusts in principle someone who proposes to rent his car, lend money, give away a stroller in disuse or deliver the dining room table that he no longer needs. We are not used to generosity , because the traditional economy has been governed by rules that speak of interest and benefit. However, “then it is proven that all this is not only possible but it is something useful, desirable and rewarding,” says Demaria, convinced that this is how the barriers that separate individuals fall. “The best demonstration is that whoever tries repeats”, rivets Cañigueral.
And that explains the boiling of the initiatives fueled by this illusion. “The existence of social networks has made everything easier, since people who do not know each other but have common interests find there a place where they can satisfy their consumption needs,” explains Mauro Fuentes, director of Socia @ ogilvy. When the exchanges were made face to face it was required that this transaction guarantee be ratified by a friend, an acquaintance or a reliable intermediary, while these platforms incorporate reputational systems that allow to validate the trust between the parties. “If a landlord leaves a negative opinion about a guest, it’s going to be more complicated for someone to agree to share something with that person. The platforms establish, then, a sort of natural sieve, “says Mauro Fuentes.
Is this the economic model of the future? “Collaborative consumption is also a response to hyper-consumption that involves a waste of materials and a generation of waste,” explains Cañigueral. It opens the door to rational consumption of resources and sustainable development. “60% of the clothes that go to waste could be reused, ” recalls Demaria at this point. “In the same way that they taught us and encouraged us to be consumers to use and throw away, in the future they will have to teach us to share,” says Suriñach. With collaborative consumption, the conception that the economy “aims to satisfy the needs of people is recovered, while a traditional view of the economy seeks to maximize the benefits”, analyzes Joana Conill. For Craig Shapiro, founder of Collaborativefund.com, “property will not disappear, but attitudes toward property are changing.” “Capitalism operates with loneliness and individualism , and it needs individual people to work, while the alternative economy works with direct relationships and networks,” says Conill. And the forerunners of this economy feel precisely a great need to do things among themselves. To live better.
Consumer groups are one of the most relevant phenomena in the tendency to share the purchase of food . This is the case of the Xicòria association, which works on a two-hectare farm in Montblanc (Conca de Barberà) and supplies food to two consumer cooperatives (the Biobals of Montblanc and Nafent, in Gràcia, Barcelona). These cooperatives pay a fixed monthly fee in advance (70 euros per family), which allows them to have a basket of varied vegetables every week. In addition, the association Xicòria supplies food to two associations of parents, mothers and students who are also a group of consumers. “We were in an ecological consumption group in Barcelona and El Vallès, until we decided to take the leap and produce the food ourselves,” says Annaïs Sastre, from Xicòria, proud of having rescued varieties such as the subway mongo long. This association is composed of two men and two women who are around 30 years old. They have already spent four years dedicating themselves to the orchard, medicinal plants, fruit trees (all organic) and environmental education.
Second hand premium clothes
It may seem a contradiction. We are supposed to want first brands for their exclusive value. But the times are changing. Does it make sense to spend a fortune on a piece of clothing that we may not have long to wear? What’s wrong with filling our closet with dresses that were already in other people’s closets? Natalia González is the founder of the Yanomelopongo website. “I went to markets a lot. I liked second-hand clothes. He saw that people bought little, because he had a certain modesty . But the second-hand garment has life and it can be given a way out. Why not take advantage of it? “In this platform the user can get first brands at a good price. “Most of them are little used,” says González. Exclusive ownership, even for luxury goods, currently trades a little lower. “Many, in recent years, bought to buy. But we all have something that we have stopped putting ourselves: because we do not do well, it has gone out of style . Better sell it! We are not going to get rich either: the prices are as much as 100 euros, “he explains. It is more about promoting another form of more responsible consumption. In London, for example, young people often wear used clothing without complexes. “The idea has a future: most of our clients are under 40 years old,” says González. The new generations have discovered that the second hand is also cool.
Rent in exchange for rehabilitating houses
“I leave my house and, in return, you rehabilitate me.” This is the maxim that has served for the owner of a large disused mansion in the Barcelona neighborhood of Sarriá (in Pomaret Street specifically) and a group of 12 young people have reached the satisfactory agreement for both parties. The owner can see his house rehabilitated and the young people will be on a rent for a very cheap price. All this new experience is being piloted by the cooperative Sostre Cívic, who has mediated both parties in this cohousing experience. The exchange will solve the housing problem for this group of low-income young people who were looking for a large house in Barcelona, with free spaces, while offering their availability to lend their knowledge in carpentry and masonry to help rehabilitate housing . The owner, who lives in Mallorca, was interested because in recent years he has seen how the mansion (500 m2 and 400 m2 of garden) deteriorated and was forced to monitor it and increase maintenance costs. “In the end, a selection of responsible users has been made, which will maintain the building,” says Raúl Robert, president of Sostre Civic. The young people will have a 15-year contract (they will pay only 225 euros a month to the cooperative, of which they are partners) and will rehabilitate the house, while Sostre Cívic will pay the owner an annual fee for that cession of the use. Sostre Cívic is a cooperative that promotes houses or flats where the occupants acquire a right to use in exchange for a small fee, although the property is still owned by the cooperative.
The desire to cultivate an organic garden is also possible even if you do not have your own farm. The proposal has been launched by Reforesta, which has among its followers the Mi Cosecha association. Parcels of 50 and 100 m2 are left to people who want to start organic farming. Its 65 orchards are in La Rinconada, ten minutes from Seville. And the harvests obtained are delivered as social baskets to the people most in need. “In Seville there are no plots for urban gardens, and what we do is give them up,” says Ismael Sánchez, president of Mi Cosecha. “There is not a maximum period of time to cultivate them, but the idea is that they cover a period of training here,” he adds. You just have to give 35 euros to cover expenses. Objective? Learn to know the impact of food on CO2, promote the ecological and discover its advantages in the face of intensive agriculture.
Giacomo d’Alisa is a researcher at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Along with six other families, has decided to hire an educator who is responsible for six children, who have between one year and seven months and two and a half years. The children meet every day in an outdoor park in Gràcia, in Barcelona. Once a week, according to established rotation shifts, a family of this group stays one day in the park to see how their son evolves closely, always accompanied by the presence of the educator. “It’s something constructive. It is not about replacing public education, or about creating a parallel elitist system, but about verifying that public education can work better if it allows for the participation of parents. We also put ourselves to the test. The question is not only to protect our children, but to rethink our role as parents and put it into discussion , confronting it directly with education “, explains d’Alisa. The fact of sharing an educator among six families involves a few challenges, in terms of organization and the reconciliation of different demands, which can be very different. However, the agreement is not only possible, but it is rewarding. “We have been forced to reacquire the ability to give us rules, to create and regulate a collective. Parents make assemblies, make decisions … And we realized that many of us had lost this habit. Either we had delegated it to the paternalistic State or to the market. ” This experiment is also a saving , since the cost is lower than it would be, in comparison, to send the children to a nursery. They are all benefits.
Use the same car
The BlaBlaCar website uses some figures that invite reflection: more than 63% of Spaniards use the car every day to go to work. And, among them, 80% travel alone. The annual fuel expense for the car adds 1,200 euros. One wonders if this system of urban circulation of the car can become sustainable (besides being, impractical). In 2004, a platform was born in France that connects drivers (with free seats in their cars), with passengers looking for a trip and going to the same destination . The idea is that if there are more people doing the same route, they can get together in a single vehicle and thus save on expenses, in addition to reducing traffic and environmental impact. Two years ago, BlaBlaCar landed in Spain. It already has more than two million registered and in two years the volume of trips has grown 400%. An example: a car trip from Madrid to Barcelona with three passengers can leave for 29 euros. Thanks to a rating system and opinions, each member receives a positive or negative evaluation , which constitutes their reputation in the network. This allows, in addition to guaranteeing a minimum of security, maintaining quality. The data says that BlaBlaCar users trust more between them … than their neighbors! Besides saving, traveling by car can even be fun. People are known and social links are established. “We can say that people have experienced a change in their way of consuming and also to understand the ownership of resources. Now, it is increasingly preferred to pay for the use of them, instead of paying to get the property, “they say from the company.
Toys for children part-time
Those who are parents of young children know this very well: after Christmas and birthdays, the house is filled with toys that, once the initial enthusiasm has passed, end up accumulating in the corners of the room. The children grow fast. And they tire even faster of certain toys. A solution to this exasperated consumerism is the Pikatoy website. Account Magda Pérez, the founder of this platform, that once her little daughter asked her: ‘Mom, why do not you set up a playroom at home so that the children come to play?’ And then she saw that in France there was already a website that rented toys for children. He decided to start a project here. “We selected suppliers to be of high quality. We also provide the user with rechargeable batteries so that they do not have to store them uselessly at home “. And so, families become part of a virtual community that allows them to rent toys for a specific time. The most chosen option is three months. Consumers usually pay a monthly amount for these services from 20 euros. After the deadline, you can renew the rent, exchange for a new one or, if the little one is fond of the toy, buy it. “It’s a phenomenon that’s going to go further. What to buy to buy is neither practical nor good. We do not amortize the value we invest in things. It is very sad, we must take advantage of resources, “explains Pérez. In his opinion, “we have to rethink the way we spend time and money. Currently, you have to invest more in experiences and less in possessions. Because property limits us a lot. “
Notice to book lovers (on paper): it is one thing to cultivate the love of reading, another thing is to become a fetish collector of volumes that, in all likelihood, never again open in our lives. The website Libroscompartidos was born with this objective: to exchange books at zero cost and to encourage the passion of reading. It promotes a form of bartering through the network. Also with books, sharing can be cheaper and more beneficial to the community than individual acquisition. Juan Corona, the creator of the page, lists the success figures. “We already have four thousand members and a catalog of 20,000 books. In two years of operation, more than 4,000 exchanges have taken place. And we have 10,000 followers on Facebook. ” How does it work? A reader detaches himself from a book and gives it, in a definitive way, to another who wants to read it. Through a credit system, it acquires the possibility of obtaining another volume of interest. To ensure that the books are in good condition and that the owner is a reliable person, there is a scoring system for the different users, who thus establish a ranking. “Although, honestly, it is not necessary, because those who have books on paper tend to take care of them a lot,” says Corona. How did the idea come about? “I realized that people could not buy books because of the crisis, ” he says. Paying less than five euros (shipping costs), one has access to books that in a store would become very expensive, such as text, for example. “There are people who at the beginning are skeptical, it is difficult for them to give a book from their bookshelf, but given the possibility of getting another copy, this fear is already lost,” says Corona. “I believe that in the future people will not want to keep so many things for so long. Without calculating that in this way one also has access to discontinued books “. Who said that the paper books had their days counted?