How can we promote access over ownership in the home?

Key opportunity areas emerge from a month-long crowdsourcing initiative on Circle Lab

Circle Economy
Feb 20 · 8 min read

In the past couple of months, we crowdsourced over 400 contributions that highlighted key areas of opportunity, barriers to overcome, inspirational case studies, facts and figures and other key insights from four challenges on Circle Lab. These challenges focused on access over ownership in the household, organic waste in the city, fashion education, and single-use plastics.

We analysed and clustered all submissions into five key areas of opportunity that we believe are worth digging into deeper. By publishing the substance of these discussions, we hope that you too can find inspiration and examples to lead the transition to a circular economy.

Part One: this post is the first in a series of four.

The “Beyond Ownership” challenge looked at promoting access over ownership in the household. Submissions looked for opportunities to move beyond conventional thinking about ownership. We hope these ideas will help to nudge you in the right direction, and to inspire your own circular solutions, wherever you are in the world!

1 | Sharing is caring

How many of the items we own sit idle and only rarely see the light of day? How often do we find ourselves in prompt need of a drill or a hammer we would otherwise never use again? How about those items we’ve long outgrown but keep around for the sentimental value they carry?

How might we use sharing and lending to make better use of what we don’t need to keep in our homes?

Photo: The Library of Things

The Library of Things

Based on submissions by Eliza Gardien and Isadora Ruiz Dias

“Why buy when you can borrow? A new “borrowing space” and social enterprise, The Library of Things stocks everything from DIY equipment and camping gear to kitchenware and wetsuits. Anyone can become a member, it’s free to join, and up to five items can be borrowed per week — all listed in their online catalogue.

Photo: Pumpipumpe

Pumpipumpe Stickers

Based on a submission by Julia Koch

Pumpipumpe provides stickers for people to put on their mailboxes and show their neighbours what items they are able to lend them, encouraging people to reconnect and talk to their neighbour, and making it easier for them to just knock on their neighbour’s doors and ask for an item to borrow — a habit often lost in cities.


The Donated Goods Bank

Based on a submission by Hugo Perreira

This bank is a place where people can donate their equipments (computers, fridges, heaters, etc.) to be kept until someone needs them. It’s a simple program that promotes the reduction of waste as well as solidarity.

2 | Back to the dorm rooms

Student housing, college campuses, hotels, and other forms of shared housing often make for a more effective use of assets and resources. By sharing appliances, furniture, and common spaces, they also allow more opportunities for people to interact with and care for one another, all the while removing the hassle of maintaining, repairing, and cleaning different parts of the household.

How might we look to shared housing for inspiration to encourage greater social interaction and declutter our homes, all the while meeting our needs for privacy, security, and self-expression?

Photos: The Student Hotel, The Plaze

Private meets hotel living

Based on a submission by Laura Scherer

Similar to The Student Hotel, The Plaze is a new concept whereby students, career starters, and other residents have access to fully furnished apartments, including their own bathrooms, kitchen isles, and parking spaces. They combine it with a service concept, where car sharing, cleaning services, and dry-cleaning are available to all tenants, as well as large community or shared living rooms.

Bring back the launderette?

Communal laundry facilities

“ When I lived in Sweden I soon discovered that people living in flats don’t own washing machines, as every building has a communal laundry room (Tvättstuga in Swedish). You book yourself for when you need to use it. You get access not only to washing machines, but to dryers too. In this way you free up space in your own flat, you don’t have humidity in the place you inhabit, you get to know and talk to your neighbours and your electricity bill is lower.” — Alessandra Martina

3 | One person’s hassle is another one’s hustle

The chores we procrastinate and reluctantly spend time on are often someone else’s hobby or, better yet, someone else’s paycheck! Hobbyists and professionals alike are more likely to make a more effective use of their gardening, cleaning, and cooking tools and utensils, ridding you of the hassle to buy, store, and maintain those products yourself.

How might we build local resilience by servitizing those products we are not fond of using ourselves?


This idea is rather close to home, as both my parents have worked for over 25 years in the hospitality industry as chefs. I saw that many companies small and large (like Facebook or Justpark) have their on-board chefs that prepare FRESH meals on-site for their employees. You can already hire specialists such as cleaners to clean your house, saving you time and money in the long, and most cleaning companies are small businesses who are always worth supporting.

Now let’s take this idea from the cleaning closet to the kitchen: why not hire a chef to help you meal prep for the rest of the week? This idea could prove especially useful when many people team up to share the costs: businesses (large and small), flatmates in a flatshare, even larger families. — Madalina Radoi

The Circular Garden

“As the son of a tree nursery owner, I know that in some cases it is not so bad that people do not take good care for their plants: this means extra revenue of people having to go to the garden center again.

But what if a gardener is responsible for the service of a fully grown garden? He or she would have the responsibility and the motivation to take good care of the garden of which the consumer in the end benefit most.

And what if you move? The plants just move with you or find a place in someone else’s garden!” — Philip van Gorcum

4 | Making the most of current housing

Most existing buildings are not built or designed to accommodate shared spaces and facilities, but we can still improve the use we make of them. Between the buildings that lie unoccupied or abandoned, the opportunity to benefit people at the margins of society and to be creative with the kind of positive communities that can emerge as a result is great.

How might we use the houses that already exist to benefit the people that are in most need of care?

Photo: The Guardian

Intergenerational housing cooperatives Based on a submission by Kate Rushton

New York University is introducing a scheme next fall to help students save money by putting them up in elderly people’s spare bedrooms. The program, to be operated in conjunction with the University Settlement social service organization, will start with 10 to 15 students bunking in senior citizens’ spare bedrooms. At Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly’s two intergenerational sites in Chicago, college-age resident assistants serve as helpers for their older neighbors. Unlike the NYU students, who will not be expected to work, the young people in the Chicago residences spend about 20 hours a week on chores including cooking and cleaning.”

5 | Make mine a bundle

As product and service subscriptions become increasingly popular, consumers might slowly become overwhelmed with the number of subscriptions they have to keep track of. By identifying complementary needs and the services to support them, we can collaborate on designing value propositions that make it easier on the consumer to have access to what they need without the administrative, cognitive, and financial hassle of being oversubscribed.

How might we collaborate to bundle services together and better meet the needs of the consumer?

Photo: Hello Fresh

Collaborating to solve logistics

“As more and more people are purchasing their consumables online (food, toiletries, cleaning products etc), the logistics are already in place to collaborate with product-as-a-service solutions. Connecting the companies that offer consumables, such as groceries, with those offering product-as-a-service can remove many of the roadblocks and bottlenecks that exist today in the product-as-a-service scenario.” — Cynthia Reynolds”

How many subscriptions will people tolerate?

“Some researchers are talking about the “guilty follower” of subscriptions. This is someone who has multiple subscriptions because they were hoping to save money or liked the convenience of it, but they end up not using it and feel guilty about it.

We’re also seeing people rotating subscriptions depending on their needs and budget, so nothing about a subscription confirms it will be forever. As we explore circular economy models, how can brands address the challenge of retention (and keeping customers from buying a physical product?).” – Maria Chercoles

These themes also served to support the development of new solutions at Beyond Next, the circularity festival, where four teams presented their final solutions on stage on February 7 and 8, in front of a diverse jury of corporate, academic, and governmental representatives, including the Ministry of Infrastructure & Environment, Holland Circular Hotspot, and the KDV, among others.

Sign up for the Circle Lab newsletter to find out which solutions came out of the event! >

Circle Lab

Mobilising a global community of cities, businesses, and citizens to tackle universal challenges with circular solutions.

Circle Economy

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We work with businesses and cities, driving the transition from a linear Take-Make-Waste world to a circular economy. Let's make it happen. #circulareconomy

Circle Lab

Mobilising a global community of cities, businesses, and citizens to tackle universal challenges with circular solutions.