When Deron Beal, executive director and founder of Freecycle, first started down this path seven years ago, he thought that the joy of getting stuff for free would drive the growth of the community. What he found is that the emotional satisfaction, the feeling of giving something you have but don't need to someone who really wants it, kept bringing people back.
Feelings create loyalty, drive behavior and will enable “Mesh” companies to thrive by making consumers as content about using a shared service as they are about buying and owning. Scaling that will require a lot more of us to get a taste of that Freecycle feeling. It will also take ingenious marketing, world-class service levels and drop-dead ease of use for any company that enters the fray. The public sector, however, can also help.
As we claw our way out of the recession, one government solution that could support jobs is a “Civilian Reuse Corps (CRC).” In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built dams all over the Southeast and made awesome posters of our National Parks, among other things. In the 2010s the CRC could staff drop-off zones, employ thousands to repurpose existing items, and move stuff from those who have it but don't need it to those who need it but don't have it. Sharing American creates jobs, reduces our footprint and proves that we can do it — we can live by a values system with slightly emptier garages. Just like the CCC proved to our country that we still had what it takes, despite the depths of the Depression, to make America work.
As demand meets supply, sharing American and team capitalism will start to take root. “He with the least stuff wins.” Then we can tackle that pesky challenge of a new energy roadmap.
Stephen Linaweaver is an associate principal at GreenOrder, an LRN company. GreenOrder is a strategy and management consulting firm that helps companies achieve competitive advantage through environmental innovation.
Rupesh D. Shah is the director of corporate sustainability at Intuit, a leading software solutions provider and the makers of TurboTax, QuickBooks and Quicken. Rupesh has also served as manager of learning and development at Odwalla and training manager at Earth Train, an environmental nonprofit organization dedicated to providing youth leaders the skills, resources and network to make a difference in their local communities.
American flag - CC license by Flickr user eviltomthai