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What use is it really for sustainability? Potentials and impacts of peer-to-peer sharing in the domains of accommodation and mobility

The sharing economy has become a global phenomenon that increasingly transforms how we move, travel, work, and consume. Given that consumption practices such as swapping, gifting, reselling, co-using, lending or renting (summed up as peer-to-peer sharing) can facilitate an extended or more intensive use of products, sustainability was early linked to the idea of access instead of ownership. From an ecological perspective, a more equitable and sustainable distribution of resources is feasible, through reducing the costs of accessing products and services and save scarce resources. Apart from having positive environmental effects, peer-to-peer sharing is expected to foster new forms of collaboration, solidarity and social bonding among individuals and to lead the way towards a collaborative economy that is characterized by a greater sense of community, decentralization and solidarity. In recent y ears, however, the sharing economy has also increasingly provoked considerable criticisms. This paper provides an analysis of the sustainability potentials of peer-to-peer sharing in the domains of accommodation and mobility and contrasts these potentials with its actual impacts in Germany. We show that in order to put peer-to-peer sharing on a sustainable development path, particular changes of consumption habits, organizational innovations and political interventions are needed.

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