The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption

When our parents graduated from college, the bachelor’s degree was a coveted badge of honor. It gave applicants instant cred (and usually a larger paycheck) no matter what the job. Now, having a bachelor’s degree does nothing to make an applicant stand out from the masses. And if you’re applying for a job well below your skill level because you’re desperate for a paycheck, that B.S. degree will probably get your carefully crafted resume tossed in the trash.

American youth are slowly realizing that the old system is broken, and no longer holds the answer to all their dreams and desires. We’re discovering that stable, satisfying careers can be found outside the offices and factories around which our parents and grandparents built their lives. We’re acknowledging that the pursuit of bigger, better, and faster things have plunged our country into a time of despair and difficulty. We're convinced that business as usual isn’t an option any longer--but what's the alternative?

Together, we’re learning that instead of waiting for politicians and corporations to fix the system, it’s possible to create a better one of our own, right under their noses. A new way of living, in which access is valued over ownership, experience is valued over material possessions, and "mine" becomes “ours” so everyone's needs are met without waste.

If these ideas get your blood pumping, there’s good news: young people all over the world are already making them a reality. It’s called collaborative consumption, (or the sharing economy) and it’s changing the way we work, play, and interact with each other. It’s fueled by the instant connection and communication of the internet, yet it’s manifesting itself in interesting ways offline too.

If you’re ready to connect with people who can help you save money, pursue your passions, and reduce waste, here's a quick-start guide to your sharing experience:

1. Remove all items from the box and assess

Sit down with yourself (or some friends) and talk about what you’ve got, what you need, and what you could live without. Take stock of what you’d be willing to share, rent, or give away. Write down all the things you really need to be productive/happy/connected. Then, cross out all the things that you want just to have them, and highlight all the things that involve a valuable experience. Now you have a list you can tackle through sharing.

2. Connect to the power source

The collaborative consumption movement empowers people to thrive despite economic climate. Instead of looking to the government or corporations to tell us what we want or create a solution for our problems, we take action to meet our own needs in a creative fashion. This is our power source. Start looking for ways to share at school, on community billboards, by asking friends, or use the resources below (US-based unless noted otherwise):

Housing

Social Food

Personal Finance

  • Lending Club - An online financial community that brings together creditworthy borrowers and savvy investors so that both can benefit financially.
  • Zopa (UK) - Where people get together to lend and borrow money directly with each other, sidestepping the banks for a better deal.
  • Prosper - A peer-to-peer lending site that allows people to invest in each other in a way that is financially and socially rewarding.
  • SmartyPig - social savings bank that enables you to save for specific goals and engage friends and family to contribute.
  • How to Save Money by Sharing

Entrepreneurship / Work

Travel

  • CouchSurfing - An international network that connects travelers with free accommodations offered by locals in over 230 countries. There's no better way to immerse yourself in the local culture than to stay with an friendly local.
  • Airbnb - the leading a fee-based service that connects people who have space to share with travelers looking for lodging, all over the world. Also check out similar services iStopOverRoomorama, and Tripping. Save a ton of money and connect to the local scene through these peer to peer lodging sites.
  • How To Swap Cities - a guide on how to swap offices with someone from another city inspired by SwapYourShop.
  • Try out VayableGuidehop, or GrandTourGo for tours and experiences created by independent locals for those seeking authentic experiences.

Land / Gardening

Transportation

Media (Books, Movies, Games, Music)

  • Swap.com - The leading online swap marketplace for books, movies, music and games.  Amazing selection. Update: now swapping everything.
  • BookMooch - Lets you swap books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want.
  • Goozex - A trading platform for video games and movies.
  • Paperback Swap - Trade paperback books for free. Also DVDs and  CDs.

Clothing

Redistribution Sites (where unneeded stuff finds a loving home)

  • Freecycle - The original grassroots organization for giving and getting free stuff in your town.
  • Craigslist - This is the ultimate free classified site with categories for free stuff, shares, barters, sublets, garage sales, house swaps, tons of used stuff for sale, and more. New in town? You can set yourself up with a job, an apartment, furniture, and a date all from this site.
  • eBay - International online auction that allows you to buy from and sell to other individuals.
  • Try out Zaarly, a classified service optimized for smartphones.

Renting and sharing of general goods where you live

  • Rentalic, Neighborgoods, Keepio, SnapGoods and Zilok (US & Europe) are leading peer to peer rental and sharing marketplaces.
  • Do you want to co-own something with friends or family? Jointli and Sharezen are the perfect tools to buy, use, and manage a shared asset like cars, boats, planes, tools, real estate, and more.

Campus

  • Chegg - Rent expensive textbooks on the cheap.
  • Better World Books - Save big on used textbooks.
  • CafeScribe - A new service that lets you download electronic copies of your textbook, add friends, and share your notes.
  • GradeGuru - A leading student notesharing and social network.
  • Free Technology Academy - free college classes on open source technology and standards.
  • Open Courseware - free college course materials offered by scores of top universities from around the world. Also check out MIT's free classes.

Other Guides:

If you don't see the sharing solution you need, check out our huge list of how to share guides on Shareable.  Or add resources you know about in comments.

3. Press the power button

Once you discover local opportunities for sharing and collaborating, it’s time to add the power: you. Get involved. Create a profile on sharing/renting/bartering site and actually list some stuff you could trade. Contact the moderator of a local offline sharing group and offer up your goods or services. Collaborative consumption requires a venture into a social world, even if it's only online; you need to get out there.

4. Sync with other devices and enjoy

Ideas like eBay, Netflix, and GameFly are pretty well-known examples of sharing, but it's important to remember that options exist offline as well. Sure, the internet makes it safe for us to share with strangers, but that doesn't mean you should forget about the satisfaction of sharing face-to-face. Coworking brings collaboration into your professional life; a local food co-op brings sharing into your pantry, and skill-sharing communities bring comraderie to your weekend hobbies.

Don't be afraid to let sharing/bartering/collaborating go viral in other areas of your life as well. You'll discover, as Rachel Botsman does in What's Mine is Yours, that "over time, these experiences create a deep shift in consumer mindset. Consumption is no longer an asymmetrical activity of endless acquisition but a dynamic push and pull of giving and collaborating in order to get what you want. Along the way, the acts of collaboration and giving become an end in itself."

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This essay appear in Shareable's paperback Share or Die published by New Society, available from Amazon. Share or Die is also available for Kindle, iPad, and other e-readers. For the next article in Share or Die, Arianna's "Stranger Dinners" click here.

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