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The Basics of Collaborative Consumption

Updated on December 15, 2011

An Intro to Collaborative Consumption

Collaborative consumption is a modern term for the ancient practices of sharing, swapping, bartering, trading, and renting. With the rise of the internet, it is easier than ever to find opportunities to share, swap, or rent products and services from friends, neighbors, and even total strangers.

Collaborative consumption is growing in popularity for several reasons:

  • Collaborative consumption saves money. With so many families facing financial hardships thanks to the Great Recession, collaborative consumption is a great way for families to get access to the products and services they need without the expense of buying them outright.
  • Collaborative consumption is good for the environment. With awareness of environmental problems rising around the world, many families are looking for cost-effective ways to do their part to save the Earth. By reducing overall consumption, collaborative consumption is a great way to help conserve natural resources.
  • Collaborative consumption declutters your life. Collaborative consumption is not only a great way to trade something you don't use for something you will, it can also reduce your overall accumulation of stuff that must be stored, dusted, insured, or otherwise taken care of. Why buy a tool you'll only need one day a year if it sits around taking up space the other 364? Borrow or rent it instead!

Sound interesting? Here is a big list of collaborative consumption services to get you started:

Save Money With Swapping Sites

Most people have hundreds or thousands of dollars of possessions that they no longer use. Swapping sites are a fast-growing segment of the collaborative consumption movement because they give members the opportunity to trade stuff they don't use for stuff they need, usually for the cost of postage.

Book Swapping

Do you have books you don't expect to re-read? A book swapping site is a great way to trade them for something new. Here are a few popular ones: BookMooch, Paperback Swap, Bookins, Ebook Fling, Book Hopper, Book Crossing, Goodreads Bookswap, Read It Swap It

Media Swapping

Unused CDs, DVDs, and video games are another source of clutter for many families. The following sites can help you clear out unwanted ones and replace them with something new: (formerly SwapTree), SwapSimple, GaBoom, Title Trader, Goozex

Clothes Swapping

Maybe you've lost weight, maybe your tastes have changed, maybe you just have a chronic case of buyer's regret with certain items of clothing. Now you can swap them for something you'll like better with the following fashion and clothing swapping sites: SwapStyle, Dig 'n' Swap, The Clothing Exchange, 99dresses, Big Wardrobe, I-Ella, Rehash, ThreadSwap

Swapping Stuff for Babies and Children

Children outgrow their clothes and toys so quickly that their outgrown stuff can be a major source of clutter in the house. Collaborative consumption sites for parents can be a great way to replace outgrown toys, clothes, and other goods with more age-appropriate items. Here are some popular swap sites for kids stuff: thredUP, Toy Swap, Swap It, Baby, Swap Kids Clothes, MumSwap, Zwaggle

Swapping... Real Estate?

With the housing market in tatters in many regions of the country, lots of people are sitting on homes that they can't sell. Real estate swapping sites such as Online House Trading and Domuswap help homeowners permanently swap one house for a new one. For the temporary version, check out the P2P travel section below.

Free Swaps and Gift Exchanges

One of the leaders of the collaborative consumption movement is the Freecycle Network, a global network of nearly 9 million people that meet at local events to swap stuff for free. Other collaborative consumption sits that emphasize free swaps and gift exchanges include: GiftFlow, Givmo, Ziilch, Exchango, Freally

Bartering Sites

Like swapping, bartering is an oldie but a goodie that has become easier than ever thanks to the internet. Here are some sites that help facilitate barter exchanges: BarterQuest, OurGoods, ITEX, Bartercard

More Swapping Sites

Netcycler, U-Exchange, Listia, ecoSharing, Keepio, SwapAce

Storage Sharing

If you've swapped, sold, and lent out stuff, but still need more storage space than you have in your home or apartment, you can save money by sharing a storage space with another family. Here are some sites that can help you find such an arrangement: StorPod, Share My Storage, SpaceOut


Rent, Borrow, or Lease Anything

Swapping can be a great way to trade stuff you don't want for stuff you do, but sometimes you don't need to own something at all. Sometimes all you need is access. For example, did you know that the average power drill is used for only 12 minutes total during its lifetime? Yeah, it's nice to have one around in case of emergencies, but if you can rent or borrow one instead, wouldn't it be better to save the storage space for something you'll need more frequently? Collaborative consumption offers plenty of different ways to get the access you need without buying stuff you'll use only a few times.

Peer-to-Peer Rentals

Peer-to-peer (P2P) rentals are a cool way to get access to the things you need when you need them, while at the same time making money of some of your own little-used possessions. Some popular P2P rental sites include: Zilok, Rentalic, RentStuff, Bid & Borrow, HireThings, Ecomodo, Rentoid, AnyHire, Rentcycle, SnapGoods

Textbook Rentals

Many college students spend hundreds of dollars a semester on textbooks and with college tuition also on the rise, this can be a real burden for lower income students in particular. As a result, more and more students are choosing to rent textbooks instead of purchasing them, saving 50% or more and avoiding the inconvenience of having to sell unwanted textbooks back at the end of the semester. Popular textbook rental services include: Chegg, Campus Book Rentals, Zookal, BookRenter

Fashion Rentals

Thanks to collaborative consumption, you can now dress like a super model without spending the dough! Popular fashion rentals include: BagBorroworSteal, Fashionhire, DressVault, Love Me and Leave Me, Rent the Runway, Borrowed Bling, WeddingDressMarket

Art Rentals

Art rentals are a cool way to add some variety to your home or office decor. Art rental services include, Artsicle, turningart

Renting Clothes, Toys, and Other Stuff for Babies and Children

In addition to swapping kids stuff among moms, there are also some companies that offer rental arrangements. Here are a few popular ones: Plum Gear, Toygaroo, BabyPlays, Bebarang,

Getting Around the Collaborative Consumption Way

One major purchase that is underused by many people is automobiles! The average car is driven only one hour a day, yet costs an average of $8000 per year in registration, insurance, and maintenance costs. Collaborative consumption can reduce or eliminate your need for a car with the following services:


One of the first types of collaborative consumption service to become popular, car sharing services allow users to get almost instant access to a car whenever they need one, without the expense of registering, insuring, or maintaining one! Commercial, non-profit, and peer-to-peer car sharing services now exist in more than 1000 cities around the world.

A few popular car-sharing services: ZipCar, RelayRides, I-GO, GetAround, CityCarShare, U Car Share, Streetcar, WhipCar, GoGet, DriveMyCar, AutoShare, Car2Go, Connect by Hertz, WeCar, JustShareIt, Wheelz

Ride Sharing

Another popular early form of collaborative consumption is ride sharing, which helps arrange car pools, both one-time and regular.

Some popular ride sharing services include: Zimride, NuRide, Zebigo, Tickengo, LiftShare, goCarShare, JayRide, Carpooling, Duckseat, Avego

Taxi Sharing

Taxi sharing services help you find a fellow traveler going the same direction. Not only do you help conserve gasoline and reduce traffic congestion, you can also save money by splitting the cost of the fare! Taxi sharing services include: Taxi2, FellowCab, CabCorner, CabMatch

Bike Sharing

A growing number of city governments are offering bike sharing programs as a public service to help reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, especially in downtown areas. Some cities also have commercially run bike sharing programs such as the following: B-cycle

Peer-to-Peer Parking

In many urban areas, parking spaces can be hard to find and expensive to come by. Peer-to-peer parking rentals allow home and business owners with spare parking spaces to earn extra money by renting them out! One British church now makes £70,000 per year renting out parking on weekdays! Popular P2P parking sites include: ParkAtMyHouse, Park on my Drive, Park Circa, SpotHero

The Collaborative Consumption Lifestlye

Once you've gotten used to sharing, lending, renting, swapping, and borrowing stuff like books, power drills, and cars, it's not that much of a lap to start sharing, lending, renting, swapping, and borrowing more unusual items. You can build a whole lifestyle around collaborative consumption!

Peer-to-Peer Travel

Peer-to-peer travel is a growing trend that offers travelers a way to save money and experience a unique form of cultural exchange and hosts the opportunity to make some extra cash from unused rooms, and even couches! Some popular P2P travel sites include: Couchsurfing, Airbnb, Roomorama, Crashpadder, One Fine Stay, Bed & Fed, 9flats, istopover, Tripping, HomeExchange

Another form of P2P travel is booking unique, guided tours led by local residents. To check some options out, visit the following websites: Vayable, Gidsy, SideTour, Skyara


An especially unusual idea that is growing in popularity is the concept of coworking: sharing workplaces with others as a way to facilitate creative collaboration. Find a coworking space at one of the following websites: LooseCubes, DesksNearMe, DeskWanted, Co-LoCo, Open Desks, DeskSurfing, Kodesk

Peer-to-Peer Lending

P2P lending, also known as social lending, takes the age-old practice of loaning money to friends, family, and neighbors and brings it into the digital age! Borrowers typically receive lower interest rates than they would receive at a traditional bank, while lenders can make a profit on loans of as little as $25. Some popular P2P lending sites include: Prosper, Zopa, LendingClub

P2P lending isn't the only way the internet is enabling ordinary citizens to invest in others' future. For those with a more charitable bent, consider microfinance websites such as Kiva and Microplace, and for those who like to support artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, and other creative people, consider crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Crowdcube.

Yard Sharing and Land Sharing

Growing your own food is a great way to save money on grocery bills while enjoying fresher, healthier food. But suppose you live in an apartment and don't have any space for a garden? Enter yard sharing. Yard sharing websites such as Hyperlocavore, Landshare, WePatch, and Yardshare match people with unused or underused land with people who want to garden. The owner of the land gets a well maintained garden (and maybe a share of the produce), the would-be gardener gets a garden, and everybody wins!

Social Eating

Social food networks enable members to host dinner parties for total strangers, buy "takeout" from nearby home chefs, and trade homegrown produce, among other ideas, making new friends with each exchange or transaction. To check it out, try one of the following sites: Grubwithus, Eat With Me,, Gobble, Lourish, Munchery, HouseBites, MamaBake, Neighborhood Fruit

Skill Sharing

Skill sharing websites enable members to teach lessons (either online or off-line, depending on the site) to people interested in acquiring their skills. It's a cool way for experts to earn extra money while spreading their knowledge to people who need it. Some sample skill sharing websites include: SkillShare, WeTeachMe, Skilio, Teach Street, Culture Kitchen

Errands and Small Jobs

If you need help running an errand, doing minor household repairs, or getting an attractive logo for your website, consider checking out an errand or task network. These websites facilitate transactions (buy, barter, or trade) between people who need something done and people with the skills to do it. Popular sites include: TaskRabbit, Fiverr, YourJobDone, AirRun, MyTaskAngel, GigWalk, DaveZillion

Building Community

Some collaborative consumption services focus specifically on building neighborhood communities and facilitating exchanges and other transactions between neighborhood residents. A few examples of this type of local service include: Hey Neighbor, Neighborrow, Share Some Sugar, Bright Neighbor, StreetBank, EggDrop, Zaarly, OhSoWe, ToolzDo, NeighborGoods, The Sharehood, Frents, Friends With Things


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      There is a new Project based in collaborative consumption. It is a direct exchange platform among students all around the world to learn languages with native speakers and in their country, for free. Under a mutual hospitality formula between families: I invite you to my house and you invite me to yours.

    • profile image

      P2P Carsharing 

      8 years ago

      Some other good examples for private carsharing, which is now also becoming more and more popular in Europe, are WhipCar in Great Britain on and rent-n-roll in Germany on . Nevertheless, promoting p2p car rental might be a whole lot easier in countries where ownership of a certain good is not as important as its use. In my view, that's one of the reasons the U.S. is the chief pioneer for Collaborative Consumption.

    • Mr. Smith profile image

      Mr. Smith 

      8 years ago from California

      You put together a great resource here. Thoreau would join me in applauding the practicality.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      8 years ago from Winnipeg

      Really good info here, great way to save a buck too. Thanks for sharing the info!

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 

      8 years ago from Indianapolis

      Great information here. I went to a couple of these places, never heard of many of them. I have bookmarked your hub for future reference.

      Ideas like these can go along way to preserving our resources, and hey with the cost of everything anymore, a great way to save money.


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