Using the Sharing Economy for your Startup


The sharing economy connects individuals who need a particular product or service with other individuals who have or offer that particular product or service. We have heard how individuals use services such as Uber (the ridesharing app) or Airbnb (to rent your spare room or empty house) but what about businesses and using the sharing economy to reduce the cost of running a startup? There are a few ways you can use the sharing economy to reduce operational cost and raise capital for your startup. There are just a few examples:

Reduce Operational Cost

Marketing – Every startup needs some form of design, be it a complex website that directs your customers to their needs, or a simple logo for people to associate your brand with. Going through a marketing agency or a graphic/web design company is usually attached to a hefty price tag, and that’s simply out of the question for most startups.

Through peer-to-peer networks like or, you get to immediately connect with a large user base of designers all around the world, who’ll certainly have differing visions and ideas of what your brand’s image will look like. You can reach out to them, check out their portfolio, and pick a designer or a team to work on your logo, website, product design, you name it.

The cost is significantly cheaper as you cut out the corporate middlemen between you and the designers. For example, an established web design company in the U.S. can cost about $60 – $200 an hour, easy totalling up to thousands for your website.

But on you can find an experienced web designer who’ll get the job done for a fixed rate of $100. These platforms usually provide consumer-protection as well, and they’ll only release your payment to the designer when you’re 100% satisfied with the work submitted to you. You’ll also be able to communicate directly with your designer, and set milestones to check in, make sure they’re on the right track.

Staffing – If your startup requires employees or people with certain skill sets, but you’re not at a place where you can afford a full timer’s salary plus benefits yet, you can check out websites like, or

These websites link you up with virtual stores where people in your neighborhood or all over the world who offer their services at various rates. Just to name a few, you can find accountants, lawyers, virtual assistants, customer service representatives for anything between $2 – $100/hour depending on the type of skills required. Depending on your startup’s needs, having a skilled worker on standby would be significantly more cost-efficient than a full-time employee, especially when business is still picking up.

Raise Capital

Let’s say you have a really, really great idea for a startup, but the only thing holding you back is the initial cost. Traditionally, the first resort most startup owners would go to would be a business loan from a bank. But with high interest rates and a fixed payback scheme, it’s no easy feat to guarantee your startup will yield returns high enough and fast enough to repay your debt. Instead, you can try crowdfunding websites like or

These sites give you an inlet of ‘pledgers’, people who believe in your startup idea and are willing to donate or invest in it. For a certain amount of money pledged, you can offer something in exchange to the pledger related to your startup. For example, a largely popular video game, Dark Souls, has an extremely close-knit community of millions of players. A company called Steamforged games decided to make a Dark Souls board game, but needed roughly £100,000 to fund it. They decided to offer pledgers a chance to purchase the board game at £80, when the retail price after the official release would be £190. They got the word out in gaming forums and Facebook fan pages to create hype. Within 3 minutes of launching their crowdfunding campaign on, they reached their goal of £100,000. That was on 20th April 2016, and as of today, 21st July 2016, they’ve received a total of £3,771,474. You read that right, over 3 million Pounds pledged to an idea, a concept, that hasn’t even begun to come close to fruition.

Aside from monetary support, these crowdfunding platforms also provide a forum of sorts. Your pledgers then have a direct way to provide you with comments on what they think your startup should offer, giving you priceless feedback from your target audience.

When building your startup, keep in mind that sharing economy is based on the human connection, and an element of trust between you and your pledgers, partners, or employees. You’re accountable to each other in a way that’s relatively new in the business sense, and your reputation within the community is at stake. Networking is key, so maintaining good relations will no doubt ensure further fruitful cooperations, and opportunities to grow your startup.

5 Ways to Get Out of Debt

In today’s economic climate, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t tangled up in some form of debt. Be it student loans, a housing mortgage, or credit card debt, the majority of us are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of our financial liabilities. Well thankfully, through the beauty of sharing economy and peer-to-peer networks, you could contribute and grow closer to the people in your community, while getting, and more importantly staying, out of debt.


1. Accommodation

Most of us have a spare room or two that doesn’t see much usage, aside from it being a storage space for our least-used knick-knacks. If the spring cleaning fever hits you and you (finally) clear it out, you can consider renting the space out through airbnb. On average a private room in a major city is rented out on airbnb for US $300/week. It’s not too shabby earning a bit of rent while providing a traveler lodging, saving them from hefty hotel costs. I wager you’ll probably even make a friend or two.

The reverse can be applied to cut down on your personal expenditure too. A good majority of us can probably recall that once or twice we went on a holiday that was just above our budget, ending up pretty broke for the rest of the month. And for the most part, if you’ve stayed at one hotel, you’ve stayed at them all, as the difference in services and amenities provided is pretty minimal. To that effect, you could get a much more intimate, homely experience through airbnb or even couchsurfing, and the latter is completely free. In my personal experience, couchsurfing helps you make the most of your time in a foreign state or country, as your host would usually give dependable advice on the best places to visit and the most efficient way to get there.

2. Services

Labour platforms, such as Uber, TaskRabbit, and Zaarly, provide a source of income with low to zero commitment, giving you the opportunity to serve someone in your community while putting a dent in your own overheads. These platforms allow you to pick up odd jobs at your leisure, in exchange for money or even services.

Own a car and have some spare time every morning? Someone in your neighbourhood may need a ride to work for a month or two. Love dogs and you’re working from home for the time being? You could consider dog-sitting for someone going on a holiday soon. Even more opportunities open up if you have particular skill sets. Peer-to-peer marketplaces like Zaarly allow you to market your skills and services through your very own online store. From repairing smartphones to baking birthday cakes, anyone who has a little time on their hands can definitely offer to share their skills with the community.

And aside from offering, receiving is another great way to cut down on expenses and debt. By utilising peer-to-peer services and marketplaces, you’re supporting and nurturing a self-reliant community, which will greatly reduce your own spending, and wastage of precious resources.

3. Transportation

Did you know that the average car is unused 92% of the time? Imagine if we worked out an efficient system to share that car amongst a dozen families, the auto-industry wouldn’t be filling up acres and acres of scrapyards then. Thanks to platforms like RelayRides and GetAround, the possibility of that is inching a little closer. You can consider renting out your car through these platforms during periods of disuse, instead of leaving it parked in a driveway, waiting for a layer of dust to settle on it. Many such services offer insurance as well, so you’re well protected. The reverse applies as well, instead of purchasing a brand new car just to go to work every morning, you could use these platforms to find a car for rent at a suitable daily timing. That’ll greatly cut down on your auto-insurance, car mortgage, and car maintenance costs, an effective and efficient way of avoiding unnecessary debt.

4. Stuff

How many lawnmowers do you and your neighbours actually need? Just one, with the power of sharing that is. Chances are if you need something, your neighbour already has it, or vice versa. It’s a little silly for every household to own a ladder or power drill, appliances that most of us use rarely. It’d make a lot more sense to ask your friends or neighbour and borrow such stuff, instead of buying one just in case we’ll ever need it again (in the next decade). Hence it’d certainly be a worthy endeavour to spend some time to get to know your neighbors, and build a communal sharing mindset within your community. You can set an example by being the first one to offer your own appliances for borrowing if the topic ever comes up, it’d be a wonderful step in the right direction. Being in a communal sharing neighborhoods is simply a smart financial move that keeps expenditure lower for everyone in the community, and of course who doesn’t love that warm fuzzy feeling of helping out a neighbour or friend?
Start Sharing instead of Buying today.

5. Food

Despite the growing availability of junk food, we’re certainly much better informed in terms of what’s healthy and what’s not. And while GMOs and organic produce are still matters of dispute, fresher produce being better is a global consensus. Finding fresh produce that hasn’t been on the shelf for days is a real challenge these days, unless you live next to a local farm or own one yourself. The next best thing would be to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), a sort of community garden that shares its produce monthly with its members. Members pay for their produce with labour instead of cash, thus reducing expenses on food and avoiding potential debt burden. You can volunteer to harvest the crops, water them, and/or other odd jobs to help out on the gardens. So anyone with a little spare time can feed themselves, as well as their community through the volunteer initiative. When the time comes to reap what you sow, you get to do it as a community, and quite literally share the fruits of your labour.

How to Become a Socially Responsible Consumer

We are all consumers and customers. However, there is a larger difference between what we consume and how we consume, and how it can have an effect on people in the production and supply chain of these goods we consume.

responsibleconsumerWe mainly see socially responsible products pushed to the forefront of our consciousness these days due to slick marketing campaigns and ads, pushed by both corporations as well as celebrities on how their product gives back to the communities which they gain their raw resources from.

The real question here is, does it really do that? Who’s benefiting here? Behind a slick marketing campaign is the need for us to feel good about what we are buying, especially after many journalists and undercover whistleblowers shed light on how the luxuries of modern consumerism are produced – in the sweatshops of china, with slave labour in Africa, and sometimes, child slave labour too.

Sometimes, the product of such methods also cause massive environmental devastation, not pollution, devastation. We may or may not see it, but who knew your bar of soap causes forest fires every year in Indonesia started by farmers for their crop of oil palm? What’s oil palm you ask? Well, nothing much, except that it’s a major component in making many kinds of soap, dye, and luxury and everyday bathroom products for both genders.

Here’s how you can do your part to combat worldwide exploitative labour and consumerism destroying communities and livelihoods.

1. Check The Source

A product needs to be made from raw materials that have to be refined, processed, and shipped to your point of sale (POS). Now, in between the mining and processing of such raw material, many things happen.

We first need to look at where the raw materials come from. Generally speaking, it is neither practical nor feasible to trace back every raw ingredient in your shampoo to its source, however, a quick Google search will give you the locations and operational areas of the main ingredients of your product’s manufacturer. Sometimes, the manufacturer deals with its supplier who operates independently, however, you can still do a little research and find out.

A quick example is knowing where your paper comes from – is it from a sustainable timber and wood pulp source? or is it illegally mined? Some countries as a whole have very bad reputations in regulating their own resource extraction industries, it is best to steer clear of companies who operate in such countries.

2. Corporate Accountability

This is quite straightforward. Some corporations are very bad at telling the truth, resorting to bribery, lies, and intimidation as well as hushed deals to get as much wealth as possible from both consumer and communities that thy exploit.

Such businesses should be shunned, and their products avoided at all cost.

These businesses sometimes, in a bid to hide their bad rep, undergo a rebranding exercise and sell their products under different subsidiary brands, making it easy to hide their bad reputation from consumers like yourself.

This is especially prevalent these days, and can also be countered with a quick google search.

An exception however – should apply. Sometimes, said companies with a bad reputation get bought over, or taken over by a more reputable corporation and overhauled. In that case, it should be prudent to do your research on whether the company has adopted sustainable and responsible practices before buying their products again.

3. Check Production Partners

Modern day manufacturers very, rarely act alone. Such is the case that a company needs to harvest, say, oil palm in Indonesia for its soap for example; it works with a business partner in Indonesia to supply the local labour, machinery as well as raw material, while it provides the financing.

However, the local labour may be exploitative, and the harvest and planting methods may be damaging as well as polluting to the environment and neighbouring countries. In extreme cases, the manufacturer is unaware of such unsustainable practices being used by its partners as well, and is only notified upon a case being brought to court by watchdog agencies or whistleblowers leaking news.

4. Consider Materials Used

Before you actually buy the product, have you considered the impact it will have during and after its use?

Is it a one off product? Do you need it? Is the packaging/container re-usable, recyclable, or is it hard to decompose and recycle? These factors should come into play when you are considering buying or even getting the item for free.

For this reason, plastic bottles, styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials should be sparsely purchased, or never, if possible.

5. Consider Impact of Product

Consider the product from a consumer standpoint, and the attitude it generates in society. is the product actually needed? Or is it just another whim that the market demands, but we don’t actually need?

Going by the saying, “if you don’t need it, don’t get it” is a good way to go. Needing and wanting are two different things altogether. A consumerist lifestyle not only pollutes, but also contributes to your general decline in a standard of living, as one-use items tend to be lower in quality.

Buying more and more of these one-time use items with short product life cycles only drains your finances as well as encouraging manufacturers to supply more of them, in a vicious cycle. Be aware of what you buy!

With all these points in mind, we hope you can become a more responsible consumer!

How to Start a Sharing Movement

When we look at the way society functions in modern times, we seem to forget that amongst the teeming masses of humanity are made up of individuals.

Individuals of a Society

The thoughts and beliefs, as well as the actions of individuals in this mass of humanity we call society shape the future, the reality of our existence as we know it.

It is then imperative that we understand our own power as an individual. Power is simply the ability to do, to change, or to affect change in a situation, in reality.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”
— Gandhi

The fact that we can affect change in our society and as an individual, we must also carry out the obligation that we have to share.

To share, and create social value is a very natural human phenomenon, albeit not restricted to Homo Sapiens alone. To share and to consciously understand and create sharing movements, and values, as well as social value is however, a uniquely human concept.

Sharing is not limited to advertisements on billboards, nor is it, or should it be limited to thirty second jingle tunes on the radio, accompanied on tv by a short clip.

The Sharing Movement is not about the promotion of goods, services, or values for the purpose of collecting a profit. It is a wider social movement to promote a cultural and very human need to be socially connected, through the act of sharing.

The origin of the Sharing Movement is from a cultural and human need to socially connect.

The sharing movement itself does not start, nor does it end with the physical act of sharing either – it starts with a mindset within us, as well as the understanding of what we are doing, and why.

Some people share because they feel great doing it, since altruistic acts in human behaviour actually help to propagate the altruist’s genes in the race for survival in the natural selection process. In certain cultures, sharing is seen as both a form of wealth redistribution, as well as promotion of the largesse of the patron who shares his wealth with others, hence their ability to share material goods.

But looking beyond just personal feelings as well as creating social value for ourself, sharing is about connecting people in an egalitarian manner. This is not about the promotion of our largesse, or the promotion of other’s largesse, but about us, and another person forming a connection through the need for a physical item. This connection can be formed only in the most personal of settings, as it requires trust as a currency, and trusting people is the first step to a closer community of friends, neighbours, and family.

These connections cannot be forced upon people, coerced onto people, nor can they be really effective, since being friendly, and being friendly and trusting are two different things altogether.

How we can truly see this is through ad campaigns for a friendlier neighbourhood, which rarely work. What does work however, are events where social value is created and trust slowly but surely formed amongst community members.

Sometimes, these events are initiated by the local council, made up of more outgoing members of the community, and other times, the local government(rarely).

Most of the time, these kinds of events, such as barbeque cook-outs, communal celebrations and observations of religious, cultural, or ethnic festivals open to everyone in the community are usually started by people in the community.

These are simple, yet effective tools to open up people to the idea of a sharing community that is there for every member to utilise and support.

Barbeques, celebrations and gatherings aren’t too hard to organize for someone of average means are they? yet they are the ties that bind, that hold a sharing community together.

youYet, all these need not be started by companies. Nor governments. These can be started by you.

The people you come with into contact daily, as well as the people you talk to, can be part of the sharing movement, but you have to speak out, and more than just talk about what being part of the sharing movement means, to also act on it.

Share when you can, with the people you can

If everyone did their part, and practiced sharing in their own corner of the world, soon, communities of people accustomed to sharing naturally and consciously will form.

And then, growth of the sharing mindset will increase exponentially, since ideas spread like wildfire.

Ideas are powerful, and so are actions. Alone, you cannot reach the moon, but with friends, neighbours, and other people who share, connecting groups of people will become easier, and more viable, not just economically, but physically as well as socially.



A Tale of Two Sharing Cities: Amsterdam and Taipei

Amsterdam and Taipei are two very different cities. One is located in the liberal heart of Western Europe, while the other sits at the edge of the ocean, and is an Asian city with a very different culture.

Taipei is known for its modernity, it’s food and temperate climate, as well as its geography and unique culture which sets it apart from it’s larger neighbour China. Amsterdam known for its nightlife, its extensive canal system, historic architecture and “coffee-shops” as well as its vibrant culture and as a melting pot of ethnicities and people.

Amsterdam Sharing City

Sharing culture is growing steadily, and becoming an accepted and preferred way of life.

Both however, share a very common factor:

The sharing culture is growing steadily, and becoming an accepted and preferred way of life, and led not only by the government, but with business and civic partners leading the way as well.


Taking a look at Amsterdam, it has been on the cusp of becoming the regions sharing city capital for some years, with sharing start-ups leading the way. Since February 2nd, Amsterdam has officially captured the title of Europe’s first sharing city. This has only been possible due to government participation and effort, as well as sharing start-ups in the city and other normal businesses as well.

This collaborative effort to tackle issues and opportunities faced and presented by becoming a sharing city was only possible with the efforts of all actors involved. The prize? A more socially connected city – as well as a more efficient and enterprising economic landscape for both start-ups, businesses and customers.

As Amsterdam has a local government (as compared to some countries with only federal or country-wide governments) , easing and changing rules and regulations to make the city more friendly to sharing start-ups as well as initiatives is easier. They have also been the world first in developing regulations for AirBnB rental transactions – a key concern amongst locals worldwide.


Bikes in Amsterdam

The sharing economy in Amsterdam is not only confined to home-sharing or ride-sharing, but also includes borrowing platforms, which connects people who need stuff to people who can lend it, much like the libraries of things we covered in a previous article.

It must be understood that while Amsterdam still has some headway to make, bigger businesses like banks and insurance companies in Amsterdam are also looking at how they can utilize the sharing community and the power of collaborative consumption to make the city a more connected, liveable space.

On the other side of the world, in Taiwan and the city of Taipei, the issue of liveability – traffic congestion as well as pollution is a major headache in many Asian metropolises. Regardless of wealth, the amount of cars on roads only increases pollution, and with the ever increasing costs of owning a car, city officials are hard pressed to look for alternative.

The solutions to these problems have been many, and some have worked, and some haven’t. Some countries have banned cars with starting even numbers on their licence plates on even numbered days, and conversely, for starting odd numbered cars on odd numbered days. Others, have imposed fines and heavy tolls for cars entering certain areas at certain times to lower traffic congestion, or raised the cost of a car to astronomically high prices for licences or taxes to limit the number of car owners.

All of these have met with some limited success, to one degree or another. But to take people away from cars doesn’t solve the main problem, that people need transportation that is affordable, yet available and if possible, environmentally friendly.


Enter Taipei’s solution. Taiwanese have always ridden bikes, and they have a culture of bike riding, since their temperature and climate is moderate enough to allow for it.

The Taiwanese have taken it a step further, with the YouBike system, as it is called in English, and informally known as the Taipei bike sharing system.Youbike-Taipei11

The simplicity of the model combined with the availability and widespread use of the bikes are what makes this project an ongoing and longstanding success.

For NT$10, one time users can use the bikes as well as people who buy an EasyCard (a wireless payment card used for public transport). What’s more, EasyCard users get the first 30 minutes ride free to encourage the use of the bikes.

Of course, the EasyCard costs about NT$100 which is roughly USD$3 to purchase. As for non EasyCard holders, every 30 minutes of use costs roughly just USD$0.31! The popularity of the system is attested by the empty stands which hold these bikes – the locals use them so much that they are empty most of the time!

In addition to being affordable as well as being widely distributed, as they can be found outside underground train station exits, as well as busy interchanges and transit points, bikes are given leeway and a special path on most roads in the city as well.

The local government, of course, encourages the use of these bikes, as well as creating regulations to create a safe environment for people who use the bikes.

Again, public and civic cooperation along with business partnerships go a long way to furthering the sharing economy and culture across the globe. Without such cooperation, initiatives are less likely to succeed.

Sharing City Seoul

Seoul – capital of South Korea, a gleaming metropolis set in Asia, a modern city, and now, with government initiatives, Asia’s first sharing city.

Let’s look at why Seoul has seen the need to become a sharing city.

Seoul declared itself as sharing city

seoul_sharing_cityTheir Sharing City Initiative defines itself by stating its overall vision as a “city that solves urban problems by facilitating people to share idle products, time, information and space”.

Why does Seoul need sharing though? The constraints of living in an urban metropolis has changed the living environments and landscape over the years, putting constraints on both natural and human resources, such as space, leading to the need to utilize resources as efficiently as possible.

To understand why Seoul needs sharing in the first place, let’s look at the history of Korea, Seoul, and the Korean people.

“Sharing is the way of life
for sustainable tomorrow”

South Korea is a very traditional country, and a very traditional Asian society that focuses on the family as a core societal unit, with elders and age being venerated and respected, and it is also a very patriarchal society as a whole.

South Korea came out of their war with North Korea devastated with few natural resources and an enemy at the border. After which, rapid industrialization and modernization followed by years of growth marked it as one of the four Asian tigers.

“The youth were particularly affected by the increased inequality”

In this rapid period of growth, the traditionally closeted and conservative chaebols (Korean: 재벌), or family businesses dominated the economy, and as years passed, higher costs of living, increased income inequality and slowed growth has led to an modern urban metropolis with a lack in community spirit.

The youth were particularly affected, as the lack of growth and job opportunities has affected their ability to live in bigger cities like Seoul.

The purpose of this sharing initiative then, is two-fold.

  1. To make cities more affordable and liveable for everyone,
  2. To foster a sense of community lost in an urban metropolis, to make a place to feel at home with friends.

It is not possible to keep bloating the public sector with more jobs to achieve this, nor is it possible in the capitalistic model to keep exploiting and utilizing already overstretched and shrinking finite resources such as space.

“The idea behind the sharing city is to utilize existing facilities, resources with new practices centred around trust”

However, this isn’t going to be free bonanza of sharing – it is a pragmatic approach to the constraints of the city. It is a pragmatic approach to a very real problem, of more tourists, having less places to stay, less people having places to stay, not enough parking lots, not enough books and crayons for needy children; the list goes on.

Over 60 Sharing Services are encouraged by the government in Seoul:

Seoul Sharing Services


Tourists – the city is actively encouraging tourists to stay at local B&B’s or rent empty rooms within a house for their stay in Seoul.  As with the lack of apartments to stay in – the cost of living has a factor to play in this as well as trust. In a very economy driven city like Seoul, most times, apartments stand empty not because there are no landlords leasing the out, it is because prices are too high.

Businesses – the aim of the project is to allow organizations and entities also to participate in the project, with a motivational sum of a 9 million Won ($7,700* USD) project grant, as long as the organization or entity has its service activities in the city of Seoul.

The city also goes further by listing several areas and laws that need to be acted upon that prohibit or make the sharing economy harder to operate.

Transportation – Article 81 of Passenger Transport Service Act, eases the ban on the usage of private vehicles for commercial public transport! This is easy to understand, since the popularity of ride sharing services is well know, as is the alleviation of traffic congestion due to the lowered number of cars on the road.

Taxation – Article 50 of the Restriction of Special Local Taxation Act, to exempt taxes on religious organizations when they share facilities with the public. This is interesting, especially since it could promote social cohesion and dialogue between different generations and sub-cultures within Korean society.

Food Industry – Article 37 of the Food Sanitation Act  eases regulations when dealing with restaurants who share their space with the public.

As for the other areas, they call for new regulations in the areas of Insurance and Construction, with Insurance being vague, and construction calling for the use of sharing practices in the design of new buildings.

It remains to be seen if the Korean government at large will be able to implement these practices and actions quickly enough to cope with the changing urban landscape and societal attitudes. However, the proposals and measured outlined in their document bears hope for a better, more sharing, and caring Seoul.
*KRW to USD rate as of May 7, 2016

Renewable Energy in Germany by Citizen Action

Often, renewable energy generation seems to be a pipe dream. Far away, expensive and only available to governments and extremely wealthy individuals.


However, this is a myth. Just a quick search online will yield a vast trove of results for consumer appliances powered by solar energy and wind energy, and even more tutorials on how to install renewable energy sources.

This is not an uncommon phenomenon, but when talking about mass scale industrial renewable energy generation – there are few projects to be seen available for the common layman.


There are many types of renewal energy generation for the consumer, including:

Solar energy, using PV or photo-voltaic cells which convert sunlight into electrical energy. Solar cells currently operate at about 15%-25% maximum efficiency, meaning that only up to 25% of the sunlight that falls on a photo-voltaic cell is converted to energy. The 25% figure, is achieved only in lab tests, in real life actual usage, it usually falls to 20% maximum. As expected, PV cells can only be deployed in areas with sunlight, and the stronger the sunlight, the better. On top of that, solar energy farms need a massive area to capture sunlight to produce a reasonable amount of electricity to justify its cost.

Another form of solar energy is based off mirrors and a steam turbine. Multiple mirrors focus the sun’s rays on a boiler tank painted in black. This heat collected by the multiple mirrors focussing the sun’s rays on it causes the water to vaporize into steam, which then turns the turbines connected to the boiler tank and generates electrical energy.

Wind energy, usually through wind turbines, which use the kinetic energy of moving air to turn fan blades, which then turn a generator, generating an electrical current.

Hydroelectric energy, this form uses the gravitational potential of elevated water that was lifted from the oceans by sunlight. It is not strictly speaking renewable since all reservoirs eventually fill up and require very expensive excavation to become useful again. At this time, most of the available locations for hydroelectric dams are already used in the developed world.

And the not-so-well known source wave energy. Wave energy generators operate using a combination of hydraulic systems and floats to harness the kinetic energy of underwater currents.

The waves force a series of floats to bob up and down. These floats are connected via a hydraulic system to generate more force upon the floats being pushed up, and then the hydraulic system turns gears connected to series or one turbine, dependent of the configuration of the station.

Due to the complex nature, as well as the relatively new development stage it is in, and selective sites in which this kind of station can be deployed, it is uncommon to see consumers using these for renewable energy generation.

In Germany, there are 3 main sources of energy. Traditional and more polluting coal fired plants, older nuclear powered plants, and lastly, renewable energy, which consist mainly of solar and wind power.

The German government decided along with the German public to close down the nuclear power plants following the Chernobyl power plant disaster – and then following that in modern times, the Fukushima power plant disaster.

They decided that they could not replace all the nuclear power plants with coal fired plants either, as it would only cause more issues with climate change. In the 2000’s, climate change came to the forefront of global attention, and with solar and wind technology catching up, Germany took the leap with the Energiewende in 2011.

Energiewende means energy transition, while others have used it to mean a green energy revolution. The term represents a change in the policy of managing energy through supply and demand commonly found in most markets, to a centralized to distribution model from smaller units. Such units include houses which produce and also supply energy back to the power grid.

The German Energiewende did not just come about in 2011. It is rooted in the anti-nuclear movement of the 1970’s.



In addition, Energiewende also encompasses the emphasis on efficiency in the production and distribution of power, as the faster and closer proximity to the supply and consumption sites of energy as well as increased energy saving measures boosts efficiency.

The policy was published in September 2011, about 6 months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, only emphasizing how much the change to renewable energy was needed. It was finally passed and made into official policy in 2011.

Apart from green energy generation, the document also contains some very ambitious and important aspects. These include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95% by 2050, an increase in renewable energy generation to 60% of consumption nationally, as well as an increase in electric energy efficiency by 2050.

They key tenet of the Energiewende however has been citizen action and cooperation to feed into the energy grid. This action has led to the creation of energy cooperatives and citizen investors pooling their money and land to fund and construct renewable energy sources.

As a result, Germany’s share of renewable energy generation and usage has increased from around 5% in 1999 to 22.9% in 2012, reaching close to the OECD average of 18% usage of renewable energy.


Of course, these cooperatives not only fund and construct renewable energy sources such as wind turbines(as wind is the most common renewable energy resource in Germany) but they also take profits in a scheme where excess power is sold back to the grid. As a result, profits and power has been decentralized, creating a competitive market in which there are few large energy companies that have a large share in the renewable energy market.

This is only possible due to citizen action and cooperation leading to legislation reflected in the Energiewende policy which allows for a sustainable and realistic approach to the transition from fossil fuel generated energy to renewable energy.


How to Travel Green!

Travelling is a luxury our ancestors way back before air travel and globalization didn’t have.

But, now we do have this luxury, and we should enjoy it to the fullest, albeit responsibly, and in an as environmentally friendly manner as possible.


I don’t mean walking everywhere and sleeping in tents, that plain takes away the fun of travelling doesn’t it? The point of travel is to experience new and exciting cultures, meet people from different countries and ways of life, as well as see places that don’t look like the scene from your office window of course!

There are two main items to pay attention to when traveling and trying to be environmentally friendly: first and foremost are responsible travel practices that pay attention to local needs. Simply, your actions should have a positive, not negative environmental impact, and likewise social impact and as much as possible, they should be environmentally (and economically) sustainable.

There is no point in participating in “green tours” that are neither economically sustainable nor socially responsible since they will eventually fold without having done any lasting impact on the community or site that they were supposed to protect or preserve.

The second item is more common, and more well known. It is basically the reduction of carbon emissions, or greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible during travelling. Today, we’ll speak more on this point, as greenhouse gas emissions are the number one cause of global warming. Of course, cheaper means of travel has allowed us to explore and see new places but also exacerbated the problem.

When in the planning stage for a trip, even for a short trip, it is important to cease and stop all energy consuming devices that carry on passively while you’re away. Any activities that also contribute to pollution that you will not use, are also recommended to be paused for the duration of your trip, until you come back.

Here are some examples to reduce your carbon footprint while you’re away:

  1. Cancel your daily newspaper delivery

  2. Change the schedule of your automatic heating system (save on your heating bill!),

  3. Power down your modem and WiFi. If you have phones and radios, you can also unplug all of these so that they don’t passively consume power while you’re gone.

Before you actually hit the road – watch what you’re putting into your backpack or luggage. The reasons for this is two-fold. One, you save costs, and energy on your part (especially if you’re backpacking) and two, you save on the total amount of carbon emissions due to the lighter load you carry.

PRO-TIP:  discard and recycle all packaging such as those cardboard boxes that adaptors and clothes come in, and bring laundry detergent and fewer clothes so you can wash your clothes and wear them again while traveling. Simply put, the less heavy you and your luggage are, the less fossil fuels have to be burnt to transport you to your destination.

The key principle here, if possible is to emit as little carbon emissions as possible per kilogram or unit of weight that is transported, including yourself.

There are several ways to do so. The first has already been mentioned – reduce your total weight, and pack light.

When at your destination, of course, remember to recycle as much as possible, and stay in accommodation that reduces their waste and greenhouse gas emissions too. At the accommodation too, regardless of whether it is with friends or family, and during your entire vacation, remember to minimize wastage of both energy and material goods. This again, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, as well as reducing the amount of waste generated during your stay.

Remember lastly – to enjoy yourself! Happy Holidays!