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Collaborative Consumption and Social Entrepreneurship – Kinder, Greener, Cheaper

According to Time, collaborative consumption is one of the top ten ideas that will change the world. Collaborative consumption is the reinvention of historical marketing techniques such as lending, swapping, bartering and gifting by using modern technology. Businesses that have used this technique so far are seeing its benefits. For example, in just four years AirBnB, a worldwide host-home travel site, has gone from zero nights booked per year to 10 million nights booked.

Today there are ever-increasing examples of collaborative consumption. Reuse of toys, clothing, tools, furniture and many other consumer goods through swapping and sharing may mean less trash for garbage companies and greener living. Zipcar is a car-sharing organization where members pay an annual fee and a usage fee for a vehicle. In New York you can rent a car for $83 per day or $9 an hour. This service permits people who only need vehicles occasionally to pay for only the time they need. Drivers save money by no longer paying huge monthly payments to maintain vehicles they seldom use. Other organizations where people collaborate for services are craigslist.org, swap.com and landshare.net (Canada and UK only).

Collaborative Consumption Hub points out that while the 20th Century was an age of vast consumption, the 21st century, by necessity, must be a time of ingenious collaborative sharing. With unemployment and underemployment, our youth are leading the way to a socially and monetarily more-efficient way of life. A prime example of this innovative spirit is SnapGoods in Brooklyn. They help people rent things on the internet. More renting means better use of resources and less unnecessary waste of materials. Sharing and renting lead to more economical living and a greener planet.

Collaborative Consumption is a growing trend according to USNews. To combat global warming, we must reduce our energy consumption preferably without feeling deprived. Minimizing consumption will reduce energy requirements and can minimize our use of fossil fuels. At the same time, social entrepreneurship can provide a safety net for our vast underserved populations.

PBS says social entrepreneurship will guide social change as business entrepreneurship has guided industry for the last two decades. Social entrepreneurs are bringing clean water, electricity and medical care to people who have been without these essentials. New ideas and innovative strategies are fueled by each social entrepreneur’s will, changing the lives of the people who most need it. To be successful as a social entrepreneur, you have to think of your goal and run it like a business.

Hardin Hilltop Wind Farm in Iowa is a green-energy enterprise organized by a group of local land owners and farmers. With some investors and a government grant from USDA, they purchased seven commercial wind turbines, erecting them on five of the landowners’ properties. Their efforts were supported by a wind expert firm, Wind Logic. They completed a feasibility study to determine if the turbines could function well at the selected location. The partners made their own investments but needed to obtain equity funding as well. The cooperative effort of local investors, equity investors and the USDA ensured the project’s success. The participants negotiated with a power company to purchase their electricity. The project was completed in 2007 and shortly after the first year, Some of the investors earned back their entire investment.

Neighbors cooperating to generate green energy for their own power consumption as well as providing energy for others is an excellent example of both collaborative consumption and social entrepreneurship. This is a model that should be replicated wherever it fits.

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