Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Life as a Service (LaaS)

Back in the day–and to this day in some places–people pumped from central wells, ground their wheat at central mills, baked their bread at central ovens and even bathed at centralized bathhouses. Primitive manufacturing technology limited private ownership for many common things to the very rich. The things people needed most were accessed, not owned. But as manufacturing technology and our ability to exploit the earth’s resources advanced, nearly everyone got his or her own oven, bath and iPad.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with private ownership–and for many items it makes a ton of sense (even Sammy the serf had his own spoon)–the explosion of private ownership has had some pretty nasty consequences: 1. It sucks for the planet. It’s estimated that Americans, the kings of private consumption, consume over four earths’ worth of natural resources. And the rest of world is trying to keep up with us. China, as of a few years ago, was using 1.1 times the planet’s resources. These are extra planets we don’t have. 2. The profusion of private ownership is overwhelming owners. There was no equivalent for the Container Store in the 12th century countryside. You had your two frocks and a pot you shared with your family. Life might have been difficult and laborious, but it was simple. Nowadays, clearing clutter is a preoccupation. Really, don’t we have better things to do?

But the times are a changin. Through a combination of impending environmental calamity and technological advancement, it’s necessary and possible to offload many of life’s most basic stuff to centralized services and resources. Back in the day it was drawing water from the well. Now it’s pulling stuff from the cloud. Here are a number of areas where you can trade private ownership for shared services:

  • Housing: The popularity of the McMansion is inseparable from the private ownership ideal; these huge homes were meant as personal and self-sufficient kingdoms to be passed onto your progeny. On the other hand, places like the UK’s The Collective, offer housing as a service. Everything you need–much of which is shared–is included in your rent, or ‘service fee’ if you will. Micro-housing trades the notion of housing as agent of permanent security for low-fuss, minimal-resource, amenity-rich living.
  • Cars: Whether Zipcar, UberPool or (in the not-so-distant future) some sort of autonomous vehicle, it’s becoming easier and easier to live without your own car.
  • Computing: It’s no mystery that cloud computing is the way forward. Many software services like Adobe, Quickbooks and countless others are going cloud-only, offering Software as a Service (SaaS) eliminating the need for tons of local computing power and data storage.
  • Bikes: Most major cities–and many not-so-major ones–feature bike sharing systems, offering a viable alternative to owning a private bike.
  • Clothes: Dutch company Mud Jeans is offering their garments on lease. Rather than owning the clothes outright, you pay monthly for them and return them to the company, who recycles the material to be made into more garments. This is not a widespread model, but we hope it will be in the future.

Where else can private ownership be traded for service-based resources? Let us know in our comments section.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

    • David Friedlander

      can’t believe i left this one out. it’s definitely something i use daily. thanks!

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • For my wife and I, so far the biggest change has been in the consumption of entertainment. We now watch movies, read books, and listen to music from cloud based services. Before, we had books, DVDs, records and CDs (not to mention the equipment necessary to use them) taking up a stupid amount of space in our apartment.

  • One area that is making headway in regards to sharing is tools–many homeowners own a lawnmower, other garden related tools, power tools, and hand tools that see very minimal use. Tool libraries are a great resource for getting the tools you need for a project or weekly/monthly task without having to deal with the ownership aspects–storing and maintaining.

    • David Friedlander

      thanks dan. i haven’t used these myself, except a community bike shop, but a great addition to the list.

  • Gulliver

    I used to live in Mammoth Lakes, a ski resort. The locals had a thrift store as a means of supporting the hospital. You could buy ski clothes or even skis for very little. a dress shirt cost $1.25. (we complained bitterly when the price with up to $2.00!) It was exactly like renting clothes — you wore these things for a while, washed them, and then gave them back to the thrift shop. The thrift shop was also the lost and found — anything “found” went into the “lost” section for a few weeks, then moved over into the “for sale” section. there was a class system — locals and flatlanders. locals got free season ski passes while flatlanders had to buy them. Doctors treated local for almost free, whereas flatlanders had to use their medical insurance. And locals always gave other locals a ride if they saw them walking. It was really wonderful, but I missed the culture and technology of civilization. But if something like this could be created inside civilization, that would be perfect.

  • Marrena

    I’ve started going to a Finnish sauna, speaking of communal baths. Not sure how green it is, as it’s not completely communal–I get a private sauna room for an hour. But the same sauna room is used by several different people over the course of the evening, so it saves on heating, etc.

    Not that taking a sauna is very green, particularly because I have to drive a ways to reach it. On the other hand, I am much less likely to take a hot bath at home which also wastes energy.

  • Docnick

    I don’t think the writer and the people commenting are connecting all the dots. I wonder if how the economy is understood. Big houses and big fast cars are important as well as little houses and little cars. Poor quality jeans use the same cotton fabric as better designed jeans. Someone get a job in either case.

    • kootzie

      Oh please do connect some of the dots for us useless eaters oh Mister McBigHouse FastCar…

  • Great article. I think we’ve collectively forgotten that sharing is an option. (Glad the internet is changing that.) I also think this is the reaon life feels so hard and financially difficult to get ahead. I credit “sharing” with my own eventual break out of the rat race. Specifically – always having roommates, using the library, cultivating relationships with immediate neighbors to borrow stuff from each other, exploring outdoor parks, indoor rec centers and other civic/gov’t resources.

  • Bill MacKinnon

    I belong to the University of British Columbia Sailing club. For about $300 per year(about a third of that for a student) , I can use sailboats, windsurfers, paddle boards and kayaks any time I want without having to store them.

  • Racerx

    Please. The vast majority of bicycle “sharing” is renting. The distinction is significant. While it may not seem like much to the author, I invite him to tell a little kid he’ll share his popcorn with him for five bucks and he’ll have to replace it later.

    • lifeedited

      i (the author) think that’s a pretty specious analogy. when the kid is done with the popcorn, it’s done. the bike is returned to its dock for someone else to use it. it’s a shared, renewable resource. yes, there’s a fee, but most of these services have a yearly fee that allows unlimited use of the bikes. unless your example involves continual regurgitation, whereby multiple kids can eat the same popcorn over and over again, your argument doesn’t really make sense.

  • Jaynie

    Baby clothes, furniture, toys, strollers, bottles and even cloth diapers are items used for only a short time. My daughters have a community of friends who pass all these items around to the parents that currently need them.

  • This is great! Can I copy this to our Maker Space website? http://www.yakimamakerspace.org

    • Jaynie

      Your question came to my Inbox. I can’t speak for anyone else, but you’re free to copy my comment, if that’s the one you meant.