Sustainable consumption by online trading: The example of eBay
Social Sciences Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main Frankfurt/Main, Germany
By online trading (e.g. eBay, amazon), compared to traditional consumption, not only the quantity of consumption is changing, but also the individual way of consuming. As a result, the decoupling of production and consumption, an effect of industrial revolution, is at least partly revised. Consumers, i.e. users of online trading, are not only buyers but also sellers of goods and services. The consumer is playing a more active role by also fulfilling tasks of the producer - she / he turns into a prosumer.
One type of online trading is second hand trading. So called rotating ownership is more and more becoming a societal trend. Compared to earlier generations, the ownership of e.g. items of furniture, books or clothes is no longer seen as permanent but more and more as temporary.
The question is, in how far with this kind of prosuming, i.e. buying new or second hand goods with the intention to resell them after a certain time span, attitudes towards owning goods are changing and, sustainable consumption is increasing. Can we observe a new type of consumption, a culture of auction, that no longer strives to accumulate goods but to own and use them for a certain time and resell them again? Is online trading of second hand goods accompanied by increasing life span of goods, and does the avoidance of buying new goods in addition reduce ecological damage? Or, is it the other way round: rotating ownership increases and fastens consumption?
Within the framework of an interdisciplinary research project a standardised survey of users of eBay dealing with the above questions was carried out. Theoretically the project relies on research on sustainable consumption and trading, media use, and innovation. In the paper first results of this survey will be presented.