Consumer sharing

Swap, share and rent your way to a better future.
 
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01 .Food sharing

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The concept of community sharing has picked up steam in recent years and taken a grassroots approach to meeting consumer demands.

Sometimes, buying new doesn’t make sense, especially when you can get what you need for next to nothing and give it back when you’re done. Whether it’s a car, chainsaw or even a chicken, someone out there is likely to have one handy. We explore this exciting trend.

In this article, we take a look at:

You'll also find a list of handy consumer sharing resources.

For more information about Shopping, see Shopping and legal.

Food

Food is one of our biggest expenses, especially if you are after sustainable, chemical-free produce. Biological Farmers of Australia reports that we now spend around a billion dollars each year on organic food alone.

In other countries, such as the US, people even buy into goat-sharing schemes. These give you part ownership of an animal for access to the fresh produce such as milk and cheese. 

For these reasons and more, many Australians are rethinking the humble vegie garden, and with the help of sharing resource websites, savvy local groups are organising to swap, share or give away their extra home-grown food. It’s fresh, organic and efficient, and it can save you money.

Closer to home, at least one national operator allows keen backyard farmers to rent a chook, which is basically a “try before you buy” chicken service.

Interested would-be urban farmers will find an enormous amount of info searching, even if you only have a small space to utilise or no previous experience. 

There are also a number of community shared gardens and neighbourhood groups offering food co-ops, and again you can start looking in our resource section.

Benefits

  • Growing and sharing food can save you hundreds annually at the checkout.
  • You will produce fewer emissions thanks to reduced or minimal transport costs, and composting can reduce household waste.
  • Enjoy fresh, delicious food that is grown without harsh chemicals.

 
 

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Population growth places a strain on our transport system. A State of Australian Cities report indicates that if current trends continue, the cost of congestion could rise from $9.5 billion in 2005 to $20.4 billion in 2020, and there are also environmental concerns as well as quality of life issues too.

Aside from car pooling and better public transport, what are the solutions to our travel troubles? One of the easiest options is making cycling and walking a more attractive mode of commuting. 

  • Estimates suggest that even five percent more commuters using “active” modes of transport could reduce 2020 estimates by more than $6 billion.
  • In London, the Barclays bike hire scheme has resulted in around 9 million bicycle trips in the years up to 2012. 
  • In other parts of Europe, ‘hop on, hop off’ community bicycles are part of everyday life. 
  • Australian governments and councils have invested hundreds of millions into cycleways and other initiatives over the past few years, and although local schemes have been slow to take off, evidence suggests increasing numbers of cyclists on the road (see below).


However, cycling is not for everybody, and especially for those outside urban centres, a car is often a necessity. One way communities can help pool resources is to use vehicle sharing schemes. 

Businesses like GoGet and Flexicar may prove useful to some drivers, or you could try private car rentals organised through websites like DriveMyCar.com.au and Car Next Door. Just make sure to assess your driving patterns before making a commitment to ensure you get a good deal.

Benefits
  • Active travel, like cycling or walking, is good for your health and the environment.
  • Car share schemes save on resources, and depending on your driving patterns, they can save you money.
  • Using public transport or active travel reduces stress on infrastructure and travel times, which improves quality of life.

Cycling share schemes

Cycling share schemes are designed to reduce traffic congestion and provide a healthy, accessible transport option in city centres. Australia’s two biggest bike share schemes are Melbourne Bike Share and Brisbane CityCycle, but unfortunately, the programs initially failed to compare to similar schemes in place overseas.

Part of this lacklustre effort is blamed on the size of the schemes (Melbourne has 600 bikes compared to London’s 6000), availability of bikes and docking stations, and helmet laws, which some critics claim stifle the potential benefits of cycling. Those opposed to helmet laws, such as Professor Chris Rissel at Sydney University, say the benefits of cycling outweigh the potential harm and cite the low accident rates in other countries where helmets are not compulsory.

The Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, however, claims a 69% reduction in the likelihood of head and brain injury when wearing a helmet. The centre’s research also found head injuries reduced in number and severity after the introduction of helmet laws.

With the helmet message clearly at odds, the Brisbane council went a long way to proving that convenience could be the key to getting the best of both worlds. Its bicycle share scheme experienced a 72% boost in average daily trips when offering free courtesy helmets.  And Melbourne's scheme saw a 44% increase in average daily usage after offering $5 helmets (with a $3 rebate on return) at nearby convenience stores.

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Increasing growth in Australia’s urban centres is another factor in the rise of consumer sharing. According to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport (DIT), our population has grown by about three million people over the last decade, mostly in major cities.

Greater urban density and less people per household mean fewer garden sheds and reduced opportunities to borrow. In addition, asking a neighbour to borrow something is not always an easy option.

Fortunately, websites like Rentoid.com and OpenShed.com.au have provided an answer. These resources allow you to rent anything from drills to drum kits and anything else you can imagine. Owners set the rental price, bond, terms and conditions of renting, and the potential renter can decide whether it is worthwhile.

Are there any risks?

Just like borrowing from your neighbour, there is some risk involved but taking precautions can minimise problems. “People renting items set their expectations when they list an item,” says Director and Co-founder of OpenShed.com.au, Lisa Fox. 

“We encourage people to check out member community ratings on the profiles, and we provide a secret digital code that ensures no money changes hands until both parties are happy.”

Users of the Open Shed website can organise to meet in a public place if they don’t want people coming to their home address, but the site is designed with community spirit in mind. 

“Open Shed members don’t treat each other like big businesses. We think it’s a good way for communities to get organised and share the things they need for a fair price,” says Fox.

Renting can save you time and money with easy access to items you will only use once or twice, and you might even be able to rent out something of your own. However, if renting is not your thing, you could also use one of many websites to swap or even pick up the things you need for free. 

See our sharing resources for more.

Benefits
  • Researching and buying a product can take time, but renting is largely commitment free in comparison.
  • If you only need to use a product for a short time, renting can save you money.
  • Renting can be good for the environment as it saves shipping, packaging and other associated costs.
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The following list of consumer sharing resources is intended as a guide only. We do not endorse any of the below websites, and we strongly suggest you take all necessary precautions before considering any involvement with the sites or individuals found within.

Please bear in mind, some of the websites below may not be available in your state, city or suburb at this point in time. If you are interested in any of the services listed below click through to the websites to find out if they're available near you. 

Feel free to leave feedback on your thoughts, feelings or experiences with consumer sharing websites in the comments section of this article.

Food

Transport

Clothing

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

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