RelayRides logoThink ZipCar minus the communal cars, and you’ve got RelayRides. Car-owners can rent vehicles out for an hour at a time (don’t worry; insurance is included), and the carless can find a stranger’s ride nearby. It’s like “cloud computing for cars,” said Sunil Paul, CEO of competitor Spride Shares. Cloud computing and car-sharing both mean you can access something without owning it — saving you money and ideally contributing to a future with less junk.

How it works: People in Boston and San Francisco can look up a car nearby (exact addresses aren’t given out til you make a reservation) and rent it by the hour or day. Those who rent out their car could make between a couple hundred to $8,000 a year, CEO Shelby Clark told The Boston Globe. (You get 65 percent of the total; the rest goes to RelayRides and insurance.)

RelayRides and collaborative consumption: Car-sharing, tool-sharing, and even co-housing are on the rise, according to books like What’s Mine is Yours. With a crappy economy and everyone you know on Facebook, the time’s ripe for using the ole internets to borrow a gizmo instead of buying.

Part of a post-ownership future? Car-sharing and owning less can translate to being happier, says Treehugger founder Graham Hill in a video tour of his 350-square-foot apartment:

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Get rid of as much stuff as possible. Digitize everything you can. Try to move from ownership to access, so use things like ZipCar and Netflix and stuff like that so you can own as little as possible so you don’t have to store too much … The base concept here is we really have a culture of excess. We have excess; we’re not any happier. And what you’ll see again and again are people that sort of cut back and really edit their lives … will find themselves much happier. They have more mental clarity, they end up having more time, and it’s often better financially.

 Read more about RelayRides from Todd Woody.

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