Green economy  |  Successes  |  16.08.2013

Putting access above ownership - Spain’s collaborative consumption initiatives

Over the past ten years, new ways of connecting, creating and sharing have become possible thanks to the internet and the new digital technologies. Now, these sharing principles are becoming more relevant in the “offline” world, resulting in what has been called collaborative consumption.

Many collaborative, peer-to-peer and open initiatives are beginning to reinvent the ways we produce, make use of goods, resources and services. Driven by the “commons” philosophy, many people are organising themselves to create common alternatives to the current unsustainable and exploitative consumption system.

Collaborative consumption can be defined as a traditional way to share, exchange, lend, give or rent an object or service making use of the peer-to-peer networks, new technologies and online communities. These new forms of collaborative consumption are creating a new social and sustainable economic system that moves away from the traditional industrialised economy and the culture of consumerism. All collaborative consumption initiatives have in common the will to create a connection between those who have a certain asset that is underused and those who have the necessity to use it.

In Spain there are many interesting initiatives promoting collaborative consumption. These initiatives stress that the access to a certain asset is more important that its ownership. Thousands such sharing projects can be currently found all over Spain. These projects are empowering local communities and showing that another type of economy is possible. Here there are some interesting examples:

  • Carsharing: Many carsharing initiatives are being developed around Europe, a Spanish example is Socialcar a website to rent cars among private owners. If one day you are not using your car, you can put it on the website so that other to can rent it.
  • Time Banks: a system created by local communities to exchange services using units of time as currency. More than 300 times banks are active right now in Spain.
  • Graticiclage (free-recycling) initiatives are every day more common around Spanish villages and on websites such as “Nolotiro” (I don’t throw it away) where people give away for free objects they are not using anymore.
  • Local exchange markets called “trueco” have grown exponentially in the past 3 years throughout the country and on the internet. An example could be “De persona a persona” (From person to person) an online exchange website where one can offer an object or service and ask for another in return.
  • Groups of local and sustainable consumption are also being organised in many communities in order to facilitate buying local and sustainable products. These consumption cooperatives have attracted more people thanks to the facilities brought by the new technologies (online shopping and the possibility to create bigger online networks).
  • Huertos Compartidos is a project to bring in contact people that want to grow a garden but don’t have the land for it, with those who own a land and are willing to temporarily give it away in exchange of sharing the harvest. More than 550 gardens around Spain are being shared and more than 2000 people are working on them. You can read more about this on the GND website.
  • More than 25 alternative and social coins are in use around the country, creating an alternative way of exchanging goods. Examples of these are the Copon in Cuenca, the Vecino in Valladolid, the Eco in Tarragona, the Talent in Mallorca or the Puma in Sevilla.
  • Udaltruke is the first collaborative project started by a public administration in the Basque Country where 15 towns are sharing and exchanging for free municipal goods or assets.
  • House sharing in exchange of work is occurying more and more often as well. House owners lend a room in their house for short periods of time in exchange of a couple of hours of work in the household. A similar initiative is what has been called the “woofing”, an exchange system that offers the possibility to live for a summer or for some months in an eco-village, learning and sharing knowledge while working in the village.
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