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The sharing economy is dead, long live the rental economy
The idealism of the sharing economy from the past decade is being replaced by the more pragmatic rental economy. While the sharing economy is essentially based in consumer-to-consumer services, the rental economy is more focused on business-to-consumer services. Both, however, are forms of the as-a-service model that is popular among socially-committed millennials. Nevertheless, these user-friendly low-cost services with minimal obligations offer better (economic) perspective for providers of rental services than the sharing economy’s youthful idealism. Still, the professional rental economy can serve some of the ideals of the sharing economy, for instance through a more efficient use of resources and goods. While some rental services initially suffered because of the coronavirus crisis – especially travel and mobility services – the crisis now gives them a boost. Demand has increased for temporary solutions, e.g. regarding workspace, office furniture and personal mobility solutions. In the longer term, people might no longer be willing to commit to long-term obligations for fear that another crisis will create problems. This kind of no-strings-attached mentality plays into the hands of as-a-service providers.
The most eco-friendly final resting place yet
This autumn, the first human was buried in a coffin made of mycelium, the root network of mushrooms and nature’s biggest recycler. It ensures a highly efficient transformation of remains into nutrients for the soil. A mycelium coffin is far more eco-friendly than cremation or burial in a wooden or stone coffin. In fact, no carbon is released during production and no toxic material ends up in the soil. The product fits within a larger trend of materials that, in contrast to, for example, stone, steel, wood, polymers or glass, connect with ecological processes and are intrinsically environmentally friendly. Although mycelium products have been modestly available for a few years, this is the first living mycelium processed in a product. It has received worldwide interest because environmental considerations are often dominant in the choice of our final resting place. Since everybody deals with death eventually, this product could introduce mycelium to a wide audience and can give a tremendous boost to other applications of this eco-friendly material as well.
Second-hand becoming popular
Second-hand fashion consumption has increased in recent years. What was once the domain of thrift shops and donations, is projected to become a $64 billion industry by 2024. A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group and the Vestiaire Collective found that conscious consumerism is largely responsible for this second-hand fashion boom. The pandemic has further accelerated its popularity, possibly from the new sense of frugality but also because online shopping has taken off. During lockdowns, sales of clothes and homeware on eBay went up 30% and traffic on fashion peer-to-peer reseller, Depop, has more than doubled. Last month, Europe’s largest second-hand fashion peer-to-peer marketplace Vinted acquired their Dutch competitor United Wardrobe to create a market leader that is active in 11 countries in Europe. While consumers have led the way, retailers are racing to catch up in the resale market. Major retailers (e.g. Zalando, Walmart) and fashion brands (e.g. Levi’s, Gucci) have started to sell pre-owned clothing or are working directly with existing resale platforms, such as The RealReal and ThredUp.