Environmental sustainability guides touting sustainability often suggest that we don’t need products, just the services they provide.

This, in fact, I see as quite accurate- we don’t actually need to own *anything* in fact.

I was marveling at this the other day– with the resources that we have at our fingertips for liquidating the assets that we do have, we can start to create our own service economy before design catches up with us.

Let me give an example:

I needed to help a friend out by acting as a photographer at his event. I’ve got a medium format film camera, and a large format film camera; both of these cameras are quite cumbersome, and pricey to operate on a per-shot basis. What I needed for this event was a nice digital slr camera, with which I could shoot hundreds of photos. I investigated what it would cost to rent such a camera at a camera store for an afternoon and evening.

With the required lenses and flash, it was $200 for one day’s use! I could scarcely believe it. With this same camera selling used on craigslist for $900, I decided I was much better off buying one, using it at the event, and, a few days afterward, selling it for the same or more than I bought it for.

Craigslist is pretty unique, in that I can post an ad that is seen by thousands of people, make a transaction, and nobody gets a cut but me. So it’s well suited to this purpose.

After conducting this camera transaction successfully, I glanced around my room and saw all of this stuff lying around in a totally new light- books– every book has a very specific dollar value on amazon marketplace, a chair and bookshelf– these would be great craigslist items. . . I can imagine a future where we actually put a price-tag on everything we own, and people can browse our inventory– if they think they’d like to buy anything we “own” for more than we’re asking for it, the transaction can take place. . . resources are not stagnating in one place for a long time this way. . .

In an economic infrastructure where assets are radically liquid, all products, by their nature, become services.

So, one direction we can push, for creating a sustainable culture, is to create a culture very comfortable with buying and selling items on a very short-term basis.

In practice, it is very similar to renting, save for that there is no formalized insurance policy if you break the item in question.

It’s a decentralized lending library for everything in existence.

The next better step, for the complete transformation to a products as services, will involve things built to support the kind of handling that all of these items would get, being handed from person to person, and be built such that product take-back was a revenue stream, rather than a expense and a nuisance.

Recycled, recyclable, rebuildable, reparable, rentable, resellable, and compostable. Let’s call it R6C. . .