Roo Rogers on the Rise of Collaborative Consumption (Podcast)


Photo credit: Andrew Zuckerman

"The great success of hyper-consumption in the 20th century was persuading consumers that sharing is somehow akin to being either a hippie or a communist," says Roo Rogers. "The 21st century is about realizing that sharing is actually good for business, good for the consumer, and good for the planet." The age old art of sharing and swapping--be it a bicycle, car, spare room, or power drill--is back, and Roo Rogers and Rachel Botsman have written the handbook: What's Mine is Yours: the Rise of Collaborative Consumption. In our interview, Rogers explains how it all works, and how he practices what he preaches.

Listen to the podcast of this interview via iTunes, or just click here to listen, right-click to download.

Full text after the jump.TreeHugger: What is collaborative consumption?

Roo Rogers: Collaborative consumption is a new movement that is really taking over our society. It's based on a set of behaviors of bartering and trading and sharing. It's tapping into consumers' desire to find a better model, a better way to have the benefits of the goods that they want in their lives.

It taps into consumers' awareness that products are often found at too high a price. They are often inconvenient, because you have to travel long distances to find them, or you have to store them. And then when you've bought them and don't need them anymore, there's nothing you can do with them.

So it's a really much more efficient model of using a product that you need without having to buy it.

Think of it this way. I live in New York City and the last thing in the entire universe I want is a car. I don't want to have to pay for the maintenance of the car. I don't want to have to pay for the storage to the car. I especially don't want to have to pay for the car, because really I only use the car about once a month to go visit my friends on the weekends. So why am I going to have a car for all the other days that I don't use it?

So ZipCar is a fantastic solution because it basically allows me to share a car. It allows me to use that car only when I need it. And thanks to technology, that car is in constant use. It's a very good business model for the entrepreneur in the business. It's a great convenience for me as a user because it's available when I need it.

TreeHugger: What are the green benefits of this kind of model?

Rogers: In my opinion--having been an environmentalist all my life--collaborative consumption has the potential to have the biggest environmental impact that we could ever have hoped for. Unlike a government wagging it's finger and saying "don't buy," and unlike private business interests which are looking for big macro solutions like alternative energy schemes, this is an economy that has, as its bedrock, a better promise to the consumer, and is actually good for the environment.

Now what do I mean by that? Basically, by sharing a product instead of buying it, it means using less materials and putting less waste out into society. So basically it's a much more efficient use of materials in consumption.

And it's encouraging businesses to produce fewer products, but to service them better. It says: "produce a better, longer lasting, perhaps more expensive product; but find ways to service that product on an ongoing basis so that the consumer will continue to use it." And it creates a new economy.

So the great advantage of this new service-based economy and this new service-based product is that it's actually using fewer materials and creating greater longevity for the product itself.

TreeHugger: What turns people off about the idea of sharing stuff?

Rogers: I think the great success of hyper-consumption in the 20th century was persuading consumers that sharing is akin to either being a hippie or being a communist. And you know, I think sharing is actually something that's very much embedded within us.

I have two children. And my two children actually knew how to share as they were growing up. I didn't need to teach them. It's only when you buy them products and put things between them that they start saying, "mine, mine, mine, mine."

So I think that the interesting thing about sharing and the interesting thing about collaborative consumption is that it taps into what I would consider a very innate part of who we are and how we behave.

The 20th century was about knocking that out of us. It was trying to persuade us that that was somehow unpatriotic. And I think the 21st century is actually going to be about convincing people and businesses that sharing is good money, good business, and good for the planet and good for the consumer.

TreeHugger: One great example of this is bike sharing. You write in the book that bike sharing is the fastest growing form of transport in the world. Is that right?

Rogers: Yes. My favorite thing about going to Paris now is that the accessory du jour, the thing that everybody carries around with them, is not the latest handbag, but is a bicycle helmet. And everybody in Paris will have their own bicycle helmet because they know that they can walk out of their meeting or out of their restaurant and jump on a bicycle. The convenience of not having to worry about the traffic or the cost of parking or having your car or your bicycle, or having it stolen is enormous. And so people are flocking to these systems at an amazing rate.

Tags: Bike Sharing | Car Sharing | Consumerism | Dematerialization | Economics | Product Service Systems | Shopping | TreeHugger Radio