Over the last year I did a series of 30 day lifestyle experiments covering everything from nutrition to minimalism. Starting fresh in 2013, I’ve decided to refocus my efforts on a new topic: the Sharing Economy. I had trouble finding a decent definition on the internet so I’ll describe it my own way: If a local commune of hippy entrepreneurs made babies with social media platforms then it would be this phenomena we’re currently seeing called the Sharing Economy.
I have been a part of this sharing “revolution” since back in college. In 2007 out of necessity (a mostly broke and entirely car-less student), I jumped at the chance to join Zipcar, a company that offered a car-sharing service where you could rent cars by the hour (~$7/hour) instead of owning one. Considering that I was hardly making any money at the time and that my parents weren’t going to finance one for me, having access to a car when I needed one was a huge improvement to my daily life. It allowed me to get groceries, run errands, and all of the other things that are difficult to do via public transit.
Even after graduating and attaining a decent income, I’m now car-less by choice because the car-sharing programs have been very convenient, accessible, and cost effective for me. After accounting for monthly payments, parking ($100-200/month), auto insurance, excise tax, snow tires, repairs, and other various expenses, the math just makes it a no-brainer for me to participate in car-sharing instead of ownership. All that money that I would be spending on owning a vehicle, I’m dumping into my student loans instead, not a bad tradeoff if you ask me. I still do a fair amount of mooching off my friends and their vehicles but that’s only because our plans frequently line up (mostly weekend outdoorsy shenanigans).
Since Zipcar, I’ve been involved in other sharing programs like RelayRides (similar to Zipcar but peer-to-peer car-sharing instead) and organic farming programs like Community Supported Agriculture (CSA, aka farm-sharing).
So far, these experiences have been economically viable for me which is a major driving factor to me participating in them. Secondly, they are more environmentally sustainable than their alternatives (taking cars off the road and eating local produce). Also, each of these platforms creates a global (ish) community but at a local level so you have access to a wide range of geographic data while still being able to operate within your neighborhood. It’s a win-win on a lot of levels, or “We’re checkin’ a lot of boxes here” as my friends and I like to say.
Over the past 3-4 months I’ve started doing more research into the dozens of other programs and companies involved in the Sharing Economy. My mind is continually blown not only at the number of companies and services that exist but the level of engagement throughout the world. For example, Airbnb is an online housing rental platform that allows you to rent private rooms to/from people in 192 countries and over 30,000 cities! It’s a fantastic idea that I feel like everyone is participating in and that I’m being left behind. With that being said, it’s time for me to get involved.
I’m excited to dive head first into anything and everything that I can find in the sharing world and my 30 day lifestyle experiment blog will be a great mechanism to explore the topic. I don’t think I’ll force myself into the frequency of doing a new concept every 30 days but I still have a lot of interest in the idea of lifestyle experimentation. It has been a route toward self improvement for me so experiments in the sharing economy is certainly a logical extension of my last project.
So please feel free to suggest new topics for me to explore. If you’ve had good/bad/indifferent experiences with the Sharing Economy please share those as well (pun intended). My first experiment will be with Airbnb so look out for future posts in the apartment-sharing theme. I’ll be blogging at least weekly but tweeting as often as possible/tolerable. So if you’re Twitter-savvy check out @YoungandUrban, if you’re Facebook savvy check out My Facebook Page, and if you’re neither then wake up and get with the program or you can sign up for an email digest of my blog’s content (see right column of my website). Wish me luck as I spend 2013 doing lifestyle experiments in the Sharing Economy.