Sunday, August 04, 2013

Is collaborative consumption enough?

I like the idea of collaborative consumption.

I've followed the collaborative consumption blog for a while now. More than that, my only car for the last 5 years has been one from a sharing service (communauto, zipcar, hertz on demand). I've also tried out airbnb for a vacation.

I like collaborative consumption, and I'm interested in doing more of it, but I still wonder, is it enough? CC does a great job of reducing consumer waste. It lets us share consumer products that we normally don't use very often. It allows people to create local services from their excess resources, and it can foster community and a more personal social interaction in a daily routine.

Where I think CC might fall short is when it comes to repair and maintenance. Things break, and when they do, we're rarely in a good position to fix them. Warranties often come with strict warnings against attempting to fix things yourself. Consumer products rarely come with detailed plans or instructions on how to repair or replace broken components. Waiting for a product to be serviced is annoying when only one person is using it, but when many people rely on that product, the impact is multiplied.

If consumers (and collaborative consumers) are given the tools they need to be able to fix these things, we increase the lifetime of the materials we own, and further reduce material waste. One way to accomplish this is to make the design plans for products open source. Open sourcing material goods would allow anyone with the desire and a bit of time, to repair, or even improve, on the products we use and share every day.

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