"This decade we changed our relationship with things like music and movies. Next decade it will be with physical stuff," Gansky predicted. She also sees the trend expanding further as people move away from ownership and toward mere access. Data from UC Berkeley's Transportation Sustainability Research Center show that there are 27 car-sharing programs in the U.S. with around 448,574 members sharing approximately 8,120 vehicles as of July 2010. Other sharing models are blooming everywhere as new businesses and entrepreneurs tryto get a piece of the action. RelayRides got a hefty investment from Internet giant Google when it opened Dec. 14 in San Francisco.
Other small businesses are finding ways to utilize this new sharing economy as well, including apartment-sharing websites such as www.airbnb.com that allow people to rent rooms on a short-term basis, to the nonprofit www.couchsurfing.org, where space is traded and offered for free.
Caterina Rindi, a small business owner of Mo Foods, uses sharing models in her grocery store as well by trading goods from her store in exchange for surplus fruit from her neighbors' backyards, which she then converts to other products she can sell. Rindi, who is also a car-sharing user, urges others in the community to engage in these programs as a way to live a more sustainable life.
"It's about not having to buy more or new things and about sharing with your neighbors," Rindi said.
Although the notion of sharing with a stranger may prevent some people from entering these programs, Gansky sees it as a small hurdle. "People who are renting their cars are making money and helping their neighbors. And neighbors feel good for paying a neighbor. They'll go back to the same person if they can — there's an emotional connection."