Catching up on some of the SXSW talks I missed via podcast, and happened on Alex Steffen’s Worldchanging conversation. Lots of good stuff, but was struck by one tidbit in particular. But before I reveal that, pop quiz:
If you own a power drill, how many total minutes would you estimate it’s been spinning since you bought it? Think hard. Be honest.
According to Worldchanging (who admittedly provide no backup for their data), the average power drill “is used for somewhere between six and twenty minutes in its entire lifetime.”
And yet supposedly almost half of all American households own one. If you think of all the energy and materials it takes to make, store and then dispose of those drills — all the plastic and metal parts; all the trucks used to ship them and stores built to sell them; all the landfills they wind up in — the ecological cost of each minute of drilling can be seen to be absurdly large, and thus each hole we put in the wall comes with a chunk of planetary destruction already attached.
But what we want is the hole, not the drill. That is, most of us, most of the time, would be perfectly happy not owning the drill itself if we had the ability to make that hole in the wall in a reasonably convenient manner when the need arose. What if we could substitute, in other words, a hole-drilling service for owning a drill?
We can. Already there are tool libraries, tool-sharing services, and companies that will rent you a drill when you want one. Other models are possible as well, and such product-service systems are not limited to hand tools.
It’s a significant point. Which unfortunately ignores the fact that there’s an ecological footprint involved in driving to the tool-lending library when that rare picture-hanging time arrives. But still – if you step back and look at how much you own that you seldom use, multiplied by n zillion people, the impact is staggering. How do we change our own minds, our own ways of living? How much convenience are you willing to sacrifice for ecological gains?