[tweetmeme] Access without ownership sounds like consultant-speak, until you realise it’s simply renting. So what can we rent – instead of own – to lighten our carbon burden?

1. Driving home your advantage

Streetcar offer ‘All the convenience of your own car but without the cost and hassle’. They give you access – but not ownership – of any of its cars, whenever you want one, wherever it is, and for however long you want it, which can be as little as 30 minutes or as long as 6 months. It operates this service by parking cars in a dense network of dedicated spaces across London, and several other UK cities: Great for city dwellers, who are the target most in need of this service. What about the cost?

“The cost of your usage is based on how long you have the car and how far you drive but unless you’re a heavy car user, the annual cost of Streetcar will be dramatically less than owning a car and with lots of the hassle of car ownership removed.”

And there’s a big carbon saving to made – every car-share results, on average, in six private cars being taken off the road.

2. Jukebox Jury

Spotify (Spotify Blog) is a new way to enjoy music. Once you’ve downloaded the player there are no restrictions in terms of what you can listen to or when. This is a different model to iTunes in terms of ownership, but similar in terms of delivering a digital product instead of a physical one. Both are great in terms of their carbon burden, but only Spotify can ensure that you have access to the most current music – thereby future-proofing your listening which unlocks the real value of Spotify’s ‘rental’ option. Either way, no one would deny that reducing the amount of carbon-rich

‘product’ made and distributed around the world in planes, trains, and automobiles is a good thing.

3. Generating efficiency: Instead of buying electricity, why don’t we rent it?

A telephone number is a rental service. Most people don’t think of it like that because the number we rent is exclusive – it’s your number. But that doesn’t mean you own it – you can’t sell it. Indeed, until recently you had to give it back and get a new one when you moved home or switched mobile phone providers. You simply rent the right to use a line, and rent the number of minutes you use. This system incentivises the mobile operator to invest in compressing your phone data – they still get a penny from you for every minute you use. So if they compress your data requirement by 50%, they can fit two of you into the same space, and get two pennies every minute.

So why don’t we do that with electricity?

800px-Energy_efficient_light_bulb_switched_onAt the moment you buy electricity by the kW/h. You own it, and do with it as you please, even if that means you waste it. The electricity company are left with two drivers: sell you more kW/h; or to produce each kW/h more efficiently. Fine and dandy, up to a point. But they have no incentive to get you to use your kW/h more efficiently – in fact if they do that they lose money.

So, how about you rent electricity by time-used (like the phone companies do) instead of by amount used?

Electricity companies would be incentivised to pay you to use energy efficient products.. So instead of buying 1W per hour of electricity for a light, you’d rent ‘light’ at a penny an hour. If the electricity company could get you to use a light bulb that needed only half the amount of electricity every hour, they’d make the same amount of money, you’d get the same amount of light, and the planet would have to supply only half the amount of energy. Their driver would now be efficiency – in production and in use.

Some of the smallest changes – in the right place – can make the biggest difference overall. It’s this clever thinking that will revolutionise the way we live.

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