By Debra Knapp, KATU News
PORTLAND, Ore. - In our new economy, renting seems to be the way to go for many people. And it's not just places to live. It seems like anything can be rented now, from cars to handbags to hardware tools to event things like art and pets. Sharing is one of the first things we learn as kids and now the concept of sharing is all grown up.
Some call it "rental-ism" or ZipCar capitalism. “If you can be assured of having a car when you need it, then why not share cars?” asks ZipCar user Ron Holden. ZipCars are cars and trucks parked around major cities that people can rent by the hour or day. Gas and insurance is paid for in the rental fee. They can also be unlocked remotely.
But car rentals are just the beginning. Dwindling credit, pay cuts and job losses are responsible for a big shift in how many people are watching how they spend their money. The average American consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago.
Annie Leonard’s "The Story of Stuff" project, and soon-to-be book, talks about how more stuff can become a burden, not a bonus. More Americans are shying away from ownership and choosing to save money, space and natural resources. Since 2004, ZipCar's membership has grown 100 percent annually.
Sharing – via rental services – has even made its way into popular culture, such as on Sex and the City, where one fashion-conscious – but unemployed – character sports a spendy handbag, which she proudly says she has rented. On avelle.com, you can rent jewelry and sunglasses. Babyplays.com is the Netflix version for baby toys.
On Art Rent & Lease, you can even rent art. “The advantage is you can have different pieces at different times and you don't have to keep the same piece, “ one artist whose work is on the site said, “and also, economically, I think it would be less expensive.”
Not only is renting less expensive than owning in most cases, but it is also less taxing on the environment and less of a hassle. “I don't think the way we have been living the last couple of decades is normal,” Annie Leonard said. “I think that was the aberration, we are getting back to normal now. We are getting back to realizing that more and more stuff is not really what makes us happy.”
Leonard doesn't anticipate that “rentalism” will go away anytime soon. In fact, flexpetz.com shows us the evolution of what you no longer have to own. That company makes it possible even to rent man's best friend.