The equipment rental industry is a great example of where economics meets sustainability. When equipment rental started around 100 years ago, I don’t think business owners were thinking about creating a more circular economy or increasing sustainability. They just knew that it didn’t make sense to own many of the pieces of equipment they utilized and wanted to make more efficient use of idle Jobsite fleets while supporting demand from DIYers for commercial-grade equipment. Back then, “sharing economy” or “circular economy” weren’t terms designated to describe the industry. Those rental entrepreneurs intuitively knew that rental was a better option, they just didn’t have the terminology to define the benefits yet.
So, what is a Circular Economy?
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economy is “a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit businesses, society, and the environment. In contrast to the take-make-waste linear model, a circular economy is regenerative by design and aims to gradually decouple growth from the consumption of finite resources.” It is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. The rental industry extends the cycle of the consumption segment of the circular economy by increasing the longevity of equipment and materials while having strong impacts on the other segments of the economy, like design and disposal.
In addition, rental companies drive other environmental efficiencies like improved transportation and logistics that often result in shorter hauls and higher load factors. When all the benefits are combined, research by the Climate Neutral group estimates renting reduces CO2 emissions between 30-50% when compared to ownership.
To power one of the most sustainable parts of the construction industry, the equipment rental industry takes advantage of the following 5 principles:
Rented equipment fleets allow for maximum usage during the most effective stage of a piece of equipment’s lifecycle. This gives contractors access to a wider array of fleets, which prevents time where equipment sits and degrades. Rental companies also tend to have fleets that are newer, providing customers access to the latest in environmentally friendly technologies. Essentially, shared usage results in everyone sharing instead of everyone owning.
Professionalized sharing allows rental companies to be experts at maintenance and to extend the usable life of the items in their fleet. Reparability also allows companies the ability to work with equipment manufacturers through information sharing to design more durable and effective equipment.
The equipment is used more efficiently, reducing the need for replacing parts of the fleet, and is less likely to experience maintenance issues or early retirement of the asset.
The equipment fleets owned by rental companies are meticulously maintained, extending the life cycle and passing along a better-maintained unit to future secondary owners. In addition, in the event the item doesn’t qualify for resale, many of the parts can be reused on other units to extend their life cycle.
Rental companies are experts in the equipment lifecycle and that allows them to make educated decisions at scale to move a unit to a secondary market, reuse parts of the item, or make sure the equipment is recycled and disposed of properly.
The rental industry is proud to be a sustainable business model to help keep our environment as clean as possible. In many cases, the more sustainable product or service requires additional cost or investment. What makes equipment rental unique is that it has benefits that reach beyond sustainability. Because it was designed with a holistic efficiency mindset, it benefits our environment and the bottom line for the professional contractor and DIY customer.
At ARA, we’re honored to be part of an industry that’s dedicated to creating a more sustainable future. We want to know how you’re making a difference - share what your business does to be more green in the comments!