Uber and AirBnB are modern examples of "collaborative consumption" - modes of product use which enable ordinary consumers to share what they own. For many, collaborative consumption holds out great hope for reducing environmental impacts through more efficient use of resources. Such a change is desperately needed in the clothing industry, where the "fast fashion" business model uses extensive land and water resources and causes significant greenhouse and toxic emissions.
Bahareh Zamani has published the first quantitative life cycle assessment of collaborative consumption via clothing libraries, in order to examine the environmental potential for these businesses.
The surprising outcome was that there is a real risk that the emissions associated with transportation in cities can outweigh the benefits of reduced consumption higher up the supply chain. In the modelled systems, usage of individual garments has to more than double for benefits to occur. Considering many garments are thrown away long before the end of their technical lifespans, this is not impossible to achieve, but will challenge business practice and consumer attitudes.
Reference: Zamani et al (2017) Life cycle assessment of clothing libraries: can collaborative consumption reduce the environmental impact of fast fashion? Journal of Cleaner Production, 162:1368-1375.