A rank of London Cycle Scheme bikes in Whitechapel. Copyright Arup / Carmen Whitelock.

+ Encouraging residents and visitors to make short journeys by bike reduces the pressure on the congested road network and overcrowded public transport.

Do we need to own so many things? Does every household in a street really need to own an electric drill if they only use it once or twice a year for the occasional bit of maintenance?

In my own neighbourhood, where we are mostly homes of just one or two people, we share wheelie bins. This means fewer bins need to be manufactured and fewer bins need to be put out and emptied – an important consideration in a densely populated area like London.

The sharing of resources can extend to many aspects of city life to make cities less resource-hungry and more sustainable. And that’s where collaborative consumption comes in.

Collaborative consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting that’s being re-invented using the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale not previously possible.

Take some examples from transport. Car clubs are springing up in cities such as London and Berlin. They cut overall car use and reduce the total number of vehicles, freeing up space to make facilities for cycling and walking, for street trees or for public open space.

Pioneered in Lyon, France, cycle hire schemes have spread to other cities. Encouraging residents and visitors to make short journeys by bike reduces the pressure on the congested road network and overcrowded public transport.

Or how about renting out your driveway or garage for someone else to park their car in? That’s the idea behind ParkatmyHouse. It makes good use of existing space, reduces pressure on on-street parking and enables people to generate some revenue. A similar model now exists for bedroom accommodation too, enabling people to rent out their homes while they’re on holiday.

Given resource constraints isn’t it time we started to question whether we need to own as much as we do? Working together to consume collaboratively can bring about all sorts of benefits in sustainability, economics and social relationships.