A Renewed Effort to Save the Environment - It's Now or Never

Harsh Dhand, Founder & CEO, RENTSHER Headquartered in Bangalore, RENTSHER is the largest online marketplace for renting events, electronics, medical and travel related products.

On the occasion of World Environment Day, we all hear and read about the importance of conserving the environment. We are informed by a variety of well - meaning sources of the things that we can do to help conserve our precious natural world and keep the planet healthy. Turn-off lights and appliances when they are not in use; turn-off the tap as you brush your teeth; walk, cycle, or use public transport instead of driving. These are all measures that we can and should adopt immediately, and they will be a big help in preventing the waste of our precious natural resources. However, what these measures fail to do is address the causes of our environment’s degradation – the human race’s incredible appetite to consume.

Our lifestyles have been terrible for our planet. The problem isn’t that we are wasting resources while trying to do something worthwhile; it is that most of our activities will inherently degrade our planet. Every time we go to the market and purchase any commodity, we don’t get to see what went into making that product - the real environmental cost. Large factories spew massive amounts of smoke, filled with poisonous gases and dust particles into the air, which is bad for our health. Even if we are careful and recycle the garbage that we generate, the mere act of purchasing these products does so much damage that our small efforts will barely be felt.

Sharing is Caring
The answer to the conundrum of environmental conservation lies not only in us as citizens consciously choosing not to waste natural resources through our actions, but also modifying how and when we consume something. A few decades ago, when the free market economy was coming-up, humanity was blissfully unaware of the damage it was doing to the environment.
Today’s generation are better informed and care more about the environment than our ancestors, but we can’t turn the clock back! No one is seriously suggesting that we stop all manner of consumption entirely. That would be irrational. It’s the reason why people aren’t suggesting that we stop bathing altogether to conserve water – they suggest using a bucket instead of taking a shower.

"If you truly care about the environment, don’t just turn-off all your lights when they’re not in use; share what you don’t immediately need, and borrow that which you do, instead of buying it"

Similarly, instead of making the impossible attempt to turn back into cavemen, we should think of ways in which we can receive the benefits of consumption, while reducing the prospect and possibility of waste. One of the best ways to ensure this is to reduce the wastage we add to our lives in terms of our possessions by sharing ownership with others. If instead of five different cars being bought by five people, it could be shared with one another. This would not only reduce the environmental cost of producing those cars by 80 percent, but it would also be more economical. Concerns about the environment, as well as a desire to be more economical are driving what is today being referred to as ‘the sharing economy’. Partaking in this new manner of consuming material goods might be the answer to how we can continue to conserve the environment without significantly altering our lifestyles.

How does it work?
Anything that we own but don’t constantly use is an asset being wasted. We have paid for the privilege of ownership, but it comes with an attached cost to the environment that is not foreseen. Every moment where an appliance isn’t being used means that the resources that went into making it have been effectively wasted to some degree or the other. If we could allow others to use it and thus prevent them from buying the same asset again from the market, we would be contributing towards saving the planet’s finite resources from depletion and aiding in the conservation of our environment. This is the cornerstone of the sharing economy – that access and usage are more important than ownership. Renting those products that we use only occasionally or allowing others to use those products that we own and don’t immediately need therefore becomes the equivalent of taking the bus to work. It’s cheaper, more economical, leads to the same outcome, and is much better for the environment than the alternative.

Today, several companies have turned the concept of a sharing economy to extremely successful business models. Companies like Airbnb are allowing people to use their homes when not in use as guest houses, reducing the amount of waste involved in home ownership when the owner is absent. It also becomes an additional source of income for home owners, and helps guests keep their accommodation bills down. Similarly, several companies across the world are pioneering the renting of all manner of possessions, from laptops & computers all the way to party paraphernalia and fashion accessories. So if you truly care about the environment, don’t just turn-off all your lights when they’re not in use; share what you don’t immediately need, and borrow that which you do, instead of buying it. You’ll be doing much more for the environment in directly addressing the roots of our environmental problems instead of just delaying their consequences.