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Archive for March, 2012

Today I was reading an article about clothes swaps as a way of being more environmentally friendly. According to a source, UK shoppers purchase 2 million tonnes of clothes and throw 1 million tonnes away every year! In an attempt to turn this into a more sustainable system, clothes swaps are gaining popularity. I’ve heard of clothes swaps before and even of ones happening close to where I live. However, the article went on to mention the term collaborative consumption, something I hadn’t heard of before.

So I decided to research this a bit and ended up on this web page: http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com, a website dedicated to explaining the movement and offering a really good range of examples of collaborative consumption practices. Collaborative consumption basically describes a movement which has been gaining popularity in the past few years, involving people engaged in the sharing, trading, bartering, swapping, renting and gifting of goods and services. These practices have been around for a long time, but collaborative consumption involves engaging a vast number of people – a critical mass – in them, through the use of technology, in particular new media and social networks.

For people who are reading this and thinking they’d like to get involved, chances are you already have! If you’ve ever bought something from someone on Ebay for example, you’ve participated in collaborative consumption!

Car sharing services are one of the areas where collaborative consumption has had its biggest successes. When living in big, congested cities like London or New York, having your own car isn’t very practical because public transportation is good and driving is a nightmare. That doesn’t mean that at times you won’t need a car to move something or do a big shop. Instead of having to invest in a car that you use once in a blue moon, car sharing services allow you to use and pay for a car for only as long as you need it. These kinds of practices are trying to fundamentally change the way people consume. Just because it’s ‘normal’ for people to own a car, as part of a consumer economy, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternatives. Indeed, when I lived in the US I was shocked that people considered it normal to change their car for a new model every couple of years, or even yearly, while hundreds of cars sit unwanted in second hand lots.

The car sharing example is a good one but tourism has also embraced collaborative consumption. Websites like Couch Surfing and Airbnb offer people the opportunity to put their spare rooms up for potential visitors (the first for free and the second for a charge) but are also social networks, where people can share their travelling experiences. In the long run, these offer a more authentic and life-changing travelling experience, an alternative to the package holidays which are often unimpressive and make you feel like you haven’t even left home.

From my reading, the areas where collaborative consumption is becoming a viable and established alternative to the mainstream are numerous. From solar power to textbook swaps to neighbourhood support services, the possibilities are endless. You can check out some of the examples and even discover something that you didn’t even know you were looking for by taking a look at this page!

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As a final year university student, it’s hard not to get nostalgic at times. I’m going through a bit of that at the moment. It all started last Thursday half an hour before the closing of the vote for the Students’ Union councillors. I had not yet voted and was not planning on it…mostly because I had no particular attachment to any of the candidates and I hadn’t had time to read all their policies. As a student of politics I would never want to cast an uninformed vote…intentionally. So at 4:30pm I was walking to work and passed one of the candidates desperately trying to get some last minute votes in front of the Students Union. She asked me if I had voted yet and, not wanting further harassment, I said yes. As soon as I walked away I was struck by guilt…not only had I lied to this girls, but I was also forgoing voting in my LAST EVER UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ UNION ELECTION. I panicked! SO I rushed to work and with only minutes to spare I cast a less than perfectly informed vote.

This story sounds a little over-dramatic and it is. But in your final year, it’s hard to keep the end in perspective sometimes. Bogged down by the mountains of work, you just wish the days away and every once in a while you have an intense moment of panic like the one I had last week. Every last brings melancholia but as soon as it has passed you return to the daily grind and forget all about the final year woes.

Today we have just started week 5 of teaching. There are 12 weeks of teaching in total (this excludes Easter break) and then it will be over. As I don’t intend to do a masters straight after, that means care-free university life is coming to an end for me. Even if I do decide to enrol on a masters later, I will probably not be in for the same kind of experience.

Because being at university is definitely and experience. Personally I am much better suited for the working environment and perform a lot better. At times I feel like I don’t know what university wants from me and how I can deliver, I feel like assignments don’t have a material purpose and am thus unable to fully dedicate myself to them. But for all the moaning, I have loved being at university and I am sure I will miss it once I am gone.

There are officially only 7 weeks of teaching left…and I have a part time job, lectures, assignments, a dissertation to write and extracurricular activities. I will be constantly busy. Which is why I felt the need to write this post to remind myself, and others in my situation, that enjoying my last few weeks of university to the fullest should also have a place on my to do list.

The wonderful University of Sheffield Students' Union

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