What Makes a Good Product Service System?

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Photo credit: matze_ott via Flickr/Creative Commons

Ah, the product service system (or PSS): one of TreeHugger's favorite concepts shrouded by one of the clunkiest names. For anyone who'd like a quick refresher, a PSS replaces a product with a service; instead of paying for the product itself (and whatever maintenance and upkeep it requires), you pay to use the product for a bit, and then give it back. Think of it this way: a PSS is often an answer to the question, "Hey, do you really need to own one of those?"

There are a few classic examples: libraries, bike sharing (pictured above), and car-sharing services are all good ones, and we've rounded up a bunch of other good examples in the past. But what makes a good product service system? Read on for a few examples of some newer PSS's that also exemplify why it's better to rent than buy.


Photo credit: Incase. via Flickr/Creative Commons

Functional: Clothing libraries

Perhaps more than anything, a good PSS needs to provide a necessary service that can help make your life easier without having to own so much stuff. Clothing libraries are one such service, since we all put clothes on our backs (most every day, at least).

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Photo credit: Collin Dunn

Low maintenance: "Loop" from MIO

Product service systems have to be low maintenance to work well; if you have to fiddle with it too much, it defeats the purpose of eschewing ownership for service. "Loop," a wallpaper-like textile from Mio comes with it's own envelope so you can simply and easily mail it back to Mio for replacement if it gets torn or just wears thin. If you can mail a postcard, you can use this groovy PSS. We first spied it at this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair.


Photo credit: humbert15 via Flickr/Creative Commons

Useful but rarely used: Tool libraries

A good PSS will help you replace gadgets, tools, and implements that you need, but maybe not every day; all the things you get to on the weekends that just gather dust the rest of the time. Tool libraries are a good example; unless you're a contractor, currently remodeling, or otherwise in need of tools every day, your Langstrom seven-inch gangly wrench or Little Giant 25 pound mechanical hammer is going to sit idle more than it's in use.


Photo credit: RachelH_ via Flickr/Creative Commons

I can haz PSS: The cat cafe

With tongue only slightly in cheek, we point out Japan's Cat Cafes because, as one customer says, "When it comes to having cats, it's a burden. I work and I don't have the time to take care of them in a responsible manner." To be clear, you don't get to rent the cat, but you get to join them for breakfast or tea while the catz loll around. It can improve your quality of life, according to the same customer, who thinks hanging with the cats is "a way to relax and let go of my stress." Others note that it is a big help for people with picky landlords or without time or space to have their own.