Beware Excess Capacity - the Guest Bedroom as Enemy of Sustainability

guest bedroom excess capacity photo

Image credit: Martin Selway, used under Creative Commons license.

With the holidays over, many of us are returning from visits with family and friends. And while some of us will have crashed on couches, camped on the floor, or taken over our uncle's home office, some of us will have been lucky enough to benefit from a guest bedroom. Little did we know, we were destroying the planet in the process. OK, I am being more than a little hyperbolic here. I'm not really arguing for the abolition of the guest bedroom. (Heaven knows there are enough anti-environmentalists out there who are convinced we are all fascist authoritarian communist killjoys anyway.) I am the owner of a home with, gasp, a guest bedroom—although it does currently double up as an office.

Nevertheless, I have been reflecting on how much excess capacity many of us have in our lives, and in our businesses, and how scaling back on what we own and where we live can not only benefit the environment, but help get our finances in order too. I have stayed in many a home where the guest bedroom(s) are used maybe once or twice a year. Sometimes they double up as storage space, or an office, but oftentimes they remain empty, being heated and cooled, and accumulating taxes, waiting for those few days in the year where they can actually be used.

But guest bedrooms are just a metaphor here for everything else in our lives that sits idle. Whether it's a second or third car that sits on the driveway 90% of the time, an unwanted gift or thrift store find that lays languishing in the attic (beware when reuse becoming hoarding!), or a second home that we use for a few short weeks, it's easy to accumulate wealth and material possessions that not only don't get utilized, but actually end up absorbing our time, money, energy and resources.

Luckily, there is plenty of things that can be done to fix it. Just as businesses can use route-planning software to maximize efficiency in transport, or a bakery might share an oven with a pizzeria when it is not in use, we can find ways to increase efficiencies, eliminate redundancies, and share our resources with those around us.

Whether it's transformer furniture allowing us to use one space for multiple functions, co-housing communities with shared guest facilities, product service systems like car clubs, or neighbors removing fences and starting gardens, there are plenty of opportunities to rid our lives of excess capacity—and get richer and greener in the process.

I'm not really saying guest bedrooms are evil. They're just often a little inefficient.

More on Sharing, Reducing, and Embracing the Product Service System
When Neighbors Remove Fences and Start Gardens
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