With the sharing economy gaining traction over the last few years, following in the wake of the booming rental market, apps such as OLIO are playing a vital role in its success. And, with waste levels still at extortionate levels, the facilitation of these lifestyle shifts is becoming imperative in the creation of a circular economy.
According to a 2020 report by WRAP, while we have reduced our food waste by 7% per person in the last three years, UK households still waste 4.5 million tonnes of food that could have been eaten, amounting to a value of £14 billion every year (£700 for an average family with children). These statistics show the extortionate levels at which the western world continues to consume, emphasising the need to urgently change our lifestyles if we want any chance of hitting the Sustainable Development Goals laid out in 2015. As we emerge into a post-pandemic world, the need for change has never been more pressing. Our consumer-led society, as depicted in BBC’s recent programme with David Attenborough, Extinction; The Facts, is destroying biodiversity levels, making us more susceptible to pandemics such as COVID-19.
While this may seem an unsurmountable crisis, which as individual’s we simply cannot solve on our own, there is an increasing awareness of these issues and more action beginning to take place. OLIO, a food-sharing digital platform, has noticed a significant shift and a surge in its users, with listings growing by as much in the last five months as they had in the first five years of business. The app, which was founded in 2015 by Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial-One, was set up after a personal experience Clarke had when moving back to the UK from Switzerland. On the day of moving she realised she had food left in the fridge which the removal team asked her to get rid of. Not wanting to throw away perfectly good food, she set about trying to find someone to give it to in her local area. Finding it awkward to knock on doors of people she didn’t know, a lightbulb moment occurred sparking the idea to create a food-sharing facility which would revolutionise neighbourhoods across the globe.
Now, with over 2.3millions users, the app has gone from strength to strength, encouraging households to become more resourceful and breeding the mindsets of buying less and buying local. Since its launch, the app has facilitated the sharing of over 6.5 million food portions, saving an estimated 19.3 million car miles and over one billion litres of water normally used in food production. The impact already is phenomenal, with plans in place to expand it further than the current 54 countries within which it has been used.
This free community-based app relies on local neighbourhoods to work together. By uploading an image of the food, alongside a basic description, location and desired collection time, it can then be collected ready to be distributed to the desired recipient. The team also works with volunteers and ‘Food Waste Heroes’ who help to share the benefits of OLIO within local communities, whilst enlisting local businesses to capture and collect any unsold or surplus food from supermarkets, restaurants and local cafes. The ripple effect the app has had is changing not only the economy, but also the provision of valuable support for those in urgent need of food and supplies. And, while it started as an app to share only food, users can now also share unwanted gifts, clothing, toys and books as part of the service.
This is just the beginning for OLIO. Over the last few weeks they have announced a new initiative, MADE, a new marketplace facility for handmade items and crafts. Set to officially launch in October, MADE will allow locals to sell handcrafted designs to their neighbouring community, not only bringing local regions together but providing another means for homeowners to become more sustainable. The commission-free business model also means independent makers and artisans can offer their products at affordable and comparable prices whilst helping to support their own needs in this challenging and difficult time. While most online marketplaces encourage the selling of goods to a global audience, OLIO has specifically created this new offering to generate more transactions between neighbours, in a bid to reduce the need for international logistics and to encourage more cohesive, and connected, local societies.
In a recent survey of 11,000 OLIO users, 64% stated they would definitely buy homemade products from people within a square mile of their home. This confirmed that the desire was there, encouraging the team to implement the project in an uncertain time for many industries. “The COVID-19 pandemic confirmed for us the need to launch the MADE section on the platform,” says Clarke as she discusses her vision for the new project and her confidence that it will be popular amongst the current users of the app. “Britain is a nation of makers, and we really saw that during lockdown, where our Instagram streams were jam-packed with images of sourdough loaves, crochet koalas and cross-stitched cards.” Users will be free to create any products they choose for their communities, with the team expecting to see edibles such as jams, chutneys and cakes being popular choices alongside handcrafted items such as soaps, candles, art and jewellery.
With OLIO expanding its reach rapidly throughout 2020, the brand’s growth is a microcosm of a trend that has been developing over the past few years. Championing community over the individual, local and independents over corporations and chains, this shift is set to continue with more consumers becoming increasingly aware of their own personal impact. Lockdown has forced us to embrace a more local life while also opening our minds to the fulfilment and joy we can find as part of a closer, and more integrated, community. “The growth we’ve seen at OLIO this year is reflective of several trends that have been developing including a desire to belong to our local community, to shop local and to live in a more planet-friendly way,” continues Clarke. “OLIO’s MADE section makes being able to buy, or gift, from our neighbours the next lovely step to supporting both our communities and the planet.”
2020 has also hastened our transition into the digital age and OLIO is the perfect example of how technology can help change our lifestyle habits for good. Creating a sustainable future relies on applications such as this, opening our eyes to the joy of connecting with others while filling our homes with stories and items we have a personal attachment to. And, while helping to build the circular frameworks we need in becoming a less wasteful and more resourceful society, OLIO also puts a spotlight back onto individual crafts and makers, connecting the industry with a wide and far-reaching audience.
For latest news on the launch of MADE, stay up to date here.