I've written before on the manner in which the scale and reach of the climate change threat is prompting companies to collaborate in a manner that would have been alien to them a decade ago. Growing numbers of firms are signing wide-ranging technology and commercial partnerships, while some are even willing to open up their intellectual property in an attempt to share their knowledge and accelerate the development and rollout of low-carbon technologies.
But could this new ethos of co-operation work at a more mundane level and help to deliver major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impacts? In other words, do you really need a lawnmower?
Speaking to WWF's Dax Lovegrove earlier this week, he revealed that many of the entries to Sony's Open Planet Ideas design initiative have been based on the realisation that communities and businesses can slash their environmental footprint by sharing resources that they use infrequently.
The prime examples are power tools and lawnmowers, the kind of products that pretty much every household has locked away in a cupboard or shed despite the fact they only use them once or twice a month at most. Any street in the country could cut its use of resources, save money and cut embedded carbon emissions by simply sharing these types of products.
Once you embrace this way of thinking it quickly becomes obvious that there are numerous products at both a domestic and business level that could be shared. Our emotional attachment to cars (and slasher movie-inspired fear of hitchhikers) may have meant that car sharing is yet to realise its full potential, but that does not mean the model cannot be adapted.
Numerous bits of cleaning, IT, kitchen and office equipment could be easily shared. How often do you use food processors, wood chippers, step ladders, fax machines and sprinklers? The list goes on and on. Of course, many people and businesses may use these types of products frequently, in which case they will still need to own them, but for the vast majority it would cause no problems for them to share communal products.
Such an approach would also play into David Cameron's much-maligned Big Society agenda by helping to build links between individuals, businesses and charities in an area. It may sound a bit idyllic, but it is easy to see conversations starting and relationships strengthening as a result of shared resources.
This is necessarily a difficult message for some businesses to embrace. Many firms are driven by their ability to sell and more and more products, even when they are not really needed – lawnmower manufacturers, for example, would see their revenue decimated if this approach were embraced nationally.
But at the same time, the social networking-inspired systems that can enable greater levels of resource sharing will provide new commercial opportunities for many businesses, while the savings people and firms realise will be freed up to invest elsewhere.
There are many reasons why resource sharing has struggled to take off, but by focusing on products that people have little attachment to, and using online tools to make it far easier for them to share products, it may be possible to drive adoption of an approach that has the potential to deliver huge environmental gains.
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