The city of Umeå is a pioneer in developing the sharing economy. The city has established test beds for a number of sharing services and digital solutions that lead to a more sustainable society.
Across the globe, new business models are emerging that challenge traditional consumption patterns. The sharing economy is an important part of this, with the potential to significantly reduce both consumption and waste. Many businesses are embracing this development by introducing takeback systems that extend the lifetime of goods and resources by repairing them or reusing components. This development should be accelerated, as it has significant potential for economic, social and environmental benefits.
The city of Umeå is a pioneer in the circular economy and has been nominated as the European Green Capital three times. Umeå is actively supporting and developing sharing incentives for a smarter and more sustainable society. Here are some examples:
Fritidsbanken: a sharing service with a positive impact
In Sweden, one in every twelve children grows up in a family with a lot of debt or even at risk of bankruptcy. These children cannot participate on equal terms with their classmates, neighbours or relatives.
Fritidsbanken Umeå is a public lending service for sports equipment, toys and leisure items that helps even out some of these inequalities. At Fritidsbanken, people can borrow equipment such as skis, skates, rollerblades, life jackets and snowboards. Fritidsbanken receives used sports items from private donors, local companies and public sources. If necessary, the items are repaired, and then catalogued and lent free of charge.
It’s common for student groups or schools to contact Fritidsbanken when planning events or outings. Fritidsbanken also offers opportunities, on a work or volunteer basis, for people who are unemployed, immigrants and/or individuals with disabilities to participate in the sharing service. This makes Fritidsbanken a concept with both social and environmental benefits.
U-bike: electric cargo bikes for hire
U-bike offers electric cargo bikes for hire to anyone who wants to try them out. Cargo bikes have low carbon emissions, can carry up to 100 kilos and replace many unnecessary inner-city car journeys. The box at the front is roomy and can also carry a child. U-bike is owned by the municipality in partnership with real-estate company Akademiska hus.
Umeå Showroom: a centre focusing on water and waste
Umeå Showroom is a meeting place to increase knowledge and engagement about issues related to water and waste. Through collaboration, the project aims to create a mobile exhibition that encourages the city’s residents to share knowledge and engage in issues about water and waste, in a creative, inspirational and educational way. The goal is to contribute to greater responsibility and behavioural change among residents and, in the long term, encourage a sustainable residential environment.
Umeå’s focus on the sharing economy involves many partners, from the municipality, the regional government and the university to companies like Umeå Energy and Akademiska hus.