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What are the environmental benefits of sharing?

| collaborative consumption, environment, Help | October 24, 2012

Sharing has three common consequences that are particularly environmentally friendly:

  • Better use of resources
  • Less space required
  • High standards of maintenance


Better use of resources

This is a statement of the obvious, but sometimes the obvious has to be stated. Sharing almost always leads to less resources being used. If four people own a second home which is one luxurious five bedroom house with all possible facilities, this will use much fewer resources than (say) four separate three bedroom houses with fewer facilities. Three people owning a high specification boat will use fewer resources than if they owned three boats, even if they have a lower specification. Even if two people buy together, there will be fewer resources used.

Less space required

Many valuable assets take up considerable space. How this affects our environment depends upon the specific asset:

  • Property: less land is required. The demand for second homes in some areas means that more new homes are required for local people. In densely populated areas this can lead to development in less environmentally friendly places such as floodplains, or it can cause people to have to travel more.
  • Cars: in cities and towns there is often a shortage of garages and parking spaces on or off the road. Shared car ownership through car clubs helps reduce this demand
  • Boats: many marinas are full and there is considerable demand for more marinas in many parts of the world. Building new marinas often has a severe impact on the coastal environment.

High standards of maintenance

Maintaining some assets to the highest environmental standards sometimes requires higher initial investment and/or higher maintenance costs even if this reduces running costs over the life of the asset. Syndicates are more willing to consider this higher investment than individuals because the cost is split between several people. It is common to find fractionally owned properties, boats, cars maintained to particularly high standards..

Benefits of sharing specific assets

There can also be environmental benefits of sharing specific assets in some circumstances. For example: if more people shared inner city apartments through fractional ownership or fractional rental rather buy or rent a city bolt-hole, then people can afford to live nearer to their work, so they use less transport. Their quality of life is also higher and their costs are lower.

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