What’s Mine is Yours
(How Collaborative Consumption is Changing the Way We Live). - Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers

Whats Mine is YoursThis is an extremely important book that I urge you to read.

It’s clear to most of us that the way we live in the West is unsustainable. The amount we consume in order to satisfy our urge to own, is outstripping the Earth’s resources at an alarming rate. The extent of this excess is detailed in the opening chapters with much of the focus on the excesses of the people of the USA, but sadly we in the UK and the rest of the developed world appear intent on catching up.

We’ve been trained to desire possessions and to crave the new and the latest versions. It’s the basis of our economic model and what we call success, but it’s simply unsustainable. For example the size of the average US home has more than doubled in the last 50 years whilst family size has reduced yet since the first self-storage facility opened in 1964 the US personal storage business has grown to a $22 billion business with over 53,000 facilities and a total of 2.35 billion square feet of storage. The book is littered with startling examples:- For example the average mobile phone has a life of 18 months; 30 million phones are sold in the UK annually to a population of 60 million and over 11 billion phones have been built for a world population of 7 billion.

Elsewhere in the home it’s disconcerting to find that a typical domestic electric drill is used for between 6 and 13 minutes during its entire lifetime – most people want the hole, not the drill.

Something has to change and the rest of the book outlines what could and what is happening to foster collaboration and sharing ranging from models similar to the traditional ‘book library’ through more radical approaches such as ‘couch surfing’ where people eschew hotels and instead sleep on the couches of locals. There are many examples of inadvertent ‘green processes’ such as ebay, where items are given a new life instead of being discarded and web sites such as Zilok, Bartervard, Zopa, Freecycle, u-exchange, SWAP etc.

The final section of the book looks at the impact of collaborative use, for example where design for longevity and sustainability become increasingly important and manufacturers become ‘lifecycle providers’ rather than product producers.

In what for many is a depressing time where our actions seem woefully disconnected from the reality of their consequences, this book offers hope. It doesn’t have all the answers, but read it and maybe you can become part of them. Highly recommended.

Steve Unwin
July 2012