We all know that our consumer society is having a damaging effect on the environment. Every product that we buy has been produced, packaged and shipped and every step in this chain uses up resources and leads to waste.
The problem is that while we know consumerism is typically bad for the environment it’s also largely a part of normal everyday life.
If you simply stopped buying anything at all, not only could life get rather dull rather quickly but furthermore your friends and family would likely regard you with something between pity and downright hostility.
So what’s the solution? How do we live in a consumer society without compromising on our principles or becoming a social outcast?
The answer, of course, is to borrow whatever we can rather than buying it outright. By borrowing something from someone that already owns it, we can enjoy all it’s benefits without having to worry about significantly increasing our carbon footprint or investing lots of money in purchasing it to begin with.
And while borrowing a book or a CD off your friends might not be too difficult, what happens if you need a bed, a tent or a pasta maker? With these less common requests you’re likely to come up against a brick wall. After all, who has a spare bed lying around they’re willing to lend you rather than sell you?
Fortunately though a number of social entrepreneurs have noted the problem and set out to create the perfect solution. Now, a number of websites exist specifically to help borrowers and lenders meet each other in a safe and carefully-regulated environment. Here, we bring you some of the very best places to start your search:
Zilok is a multilingual peer-to-peer lending site that is available to US, UK, French and Dutch residents. As an established name in the market, Zilok has a huge number of members which means plenty of different items you can rent and all at very low prices.
Once you find something you’d like to rent, you simply send a request to the product owner. Once they have agreed the rental, you meet up in person to receive whatever it is you’re borrowing and when you return it back to the original owner they get paid the rental fee.
What’s really nice about Zilok is the rating system in place for lenders and borrowers. In this way there is a fair degree of protection because you’ll be able to see other people’s opinions before making any arrangements this helping you to feel confident that you’re dealing with someone reliable.
Rent My Items
Rent My Items focuses purely on the UK peer-to-peer lending market but works rather like the other lending sites featured here. Unlike Zilok however one does pay a small monthly fee to actually add listings to the site. The fees depend on how many items you’d like to list and are very reasonable so you should easily be able to cover the cost of these fees with a single rental agreement.
As a borrower you pay no fees to contact lenders though as well as the period-based borrowing cost (such as a charge per day, per week or per month) it may be necessary to pay a deposit when borrowing an item. On more expensive items, the deposit can be £100 or more with some lenders so it’s especially important to consider the lenders reputation before parting with your hard-earned cash.
That said, there are plenty of items to rent here and a quick search to see what is available within a 10 mile radius of Brighton on the south coast revealed 106 items currently available to rent so for the UK greenie this can be a great place to start your search.
Eco Modo has a slightly different remit to sites like Rent My Items in that the items available don’t focus purely on consumer goods but also include categories like “spaces” where you can rent loft space, garages and so on but also “skills” where you can find skilled local workers to help you out around the home or garden.
Eco Modo also stands out for a number of other reasons. Firstly it’s free to list any items as available. It’s also possible to include insurance costs so that you know any items you borrow are fully ensured against damage – which can make the whole experience far more enjoyable. At Eco Modo lenders can also decide whether they’d like to receive the rental income directly or whether they’d like to donate it to charity which is a really nice touch and helps to build the site’s green credentials.
Last, but not least, though Eco Modo allows you to create a “borrowing circle” so that you only lend to, or borrow from, a specific group of vetted people. So for example you could set up a borrowing circle at your local community garden so all the tools and resources can be pooled but also everyone is protected from fraud.
So while our sample search found fewer items than listed at Rent My Items the community does have a rather different feel and the combination of built-in insurance plus trusted lending circles mean it could be one of the very safest places to start renting items rather than borrowing them.
Have you used any of the above sites to rent something rather than buy it? If so, please help out other environmentally-conscious individuals by leaving your experiences in the comments box below. Also, if you know of any additional peer-to-peer lending sites that aren’t featured please mention them in the comments below.