The sharing economy comprises different aspects and forms of sharing. These forms of sharing can be more community orientated through swapping or loaning with no financial transactions or business focused requiring a financial return through renting or leasing. The Internet of things and social media have provided a platform and opportunity for these types of sharing to exist like never before.
We have seen how increased rates of churn, largely through the provision of cheaper furniture, have coincided with increased levels of furniture waste going to landfill1. While the concept of renting or leasing furniture within the domestic market is not new, it has been largely marketed to certain demographic groups and from a set menu of furniture pieces. Breeze in Australia for example offers a subscription-based furniture leasing program for a set range and style of furniture.
In the UK, Harth claims to be the first furniture, accessories and art sharing platform. The founders were conscious of the ever-changing ways we tend to furnish our homes rather than the heirloom approach of the past, when items were bought and made to last a lifetime and then handed down to future generations. However, they also recognised that designers are still conscious of creating well designed and manufactured items to last a lifetime.
We are told that buying durable pieces of furniture is saving the planet, but not if those same pieces still end up on the waste pile or second-hand stores as fashions, needs, or wants change, exchanged for other new items. Harth has created a platform for leasing beautifully designed interior items. Members (individuals as well as businesses) can list items they have to share or search for the items they’d like to ‘own’ for a period of time.
The flexibility of this platform means that interior spaces can be changed and updated without consuming new things, wasting the old or hoarding things in storage. The difference with Harth to other rental programs or sharing platforms is the community of sharers spread across individuals and businesses that creates a unique diversity of items, with Harth as ‘quality control’ so design standards are adhered to.
Interestingly, in a press release in February 2019 IKEA announced that they would be testing furniture leasing in 30 markets in 2020.2 This would be accomplished through a subscription-based leasing program so IKEA can maintain ownership and capture products within a circular economic framework. This, IKEA claims, would ensure products are reused, repaired and recycled at various points to sustain their optimum life-cyle.
The sharing economy for domestic furniture may not be the ultimate answer to the waste generated or the resources used to create the furniture consumed in this market, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction and one that is starting to get traction amongst a larger demographic of the community, including with Harth, appreciators of good design.
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