2020s: the decade we rethink ownership? – WebWire

War, revolution and state failures can sweep away established social norms. Failing systems don’t survive a crisis. New, better-suited ways of doing things were probably there to begin with and quickly become the new normal. We once thought wearing masks in the street was weird. Now we don’t. Looming behind today’s health crisis are serious system failures linked to the way we consume goods. Put simply, we buy and waste too much and the massive over-exploitation of our planet is going to get real ugly if we don’t change our ways. Happily, less harmful ways of using goods are fast becoming popular. How quickly the problems will push these solutions into the mainstream is hard to know, but we live in changing times.

Most of us most of the time buy stuff, use it, then chuck it away. The pattern is convenient, but getting us into all kinds of trouble. Thankfully, there are now many more ways to consume. Leasing (renting for a cost) and sharing (for free) are examples of ‘circular consumption’, because they are considered more ecological. Leasing and sharing are not new, but have grown massively in recent years thanks to digital tools like the internet and trust-based systems, such as user ratings. These advances helped overcome the convenience and trust barriers holding back circular consumption, and expanded its reach. For example, the range of products we can now rent has exploded in recent years to cover all manner of goods that were traditionally something