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I have a friend who owns over 1,000 DVDs. He bought most of them second-hand, or through one of those buying clubs, but even if he paid an average of $10 a pop that’s a lot of money to have invested in things that clutter up your house. He hasn’t even watched them all.

We do own a few DVDs, but we only buy them if we’ve seen them already and think they’re worth watching more than once. Mostly we borrow them through Zip.ca.

Renting or borrowing is a great way to reduce the number of things you own and to decrease your ecological footprint. Alex Steffen of World Changing holds up product-service systems, “the substitution of access for ownership,” as one important pathway towards a more sustainable future. In his post, he uses the American company Netflix as an example of a thriving product-service system. Not only does Netflix allow people to watch videos without owning them, it also uses the postal system to circulate them. So instead of people driving their cars to the video store, they are delivered by mail carriers who are coming around your neighbourhood anyway. (See also articles by Treehugger and Ask Pablo.)

The Canadian version of Netflix, Zip.ca, is a homegrown Ottawa company. While they now have several warehouses across the country, they started out in a warehouse in the suburb of Nepean. I still get all my DVDs from the Ottawa warehouse (you can tell by the address on the return envelope), which means that they aren’t traveling that far to get to and from my house. Recently Zip.ca have become even more environmentally-friendly by making all their envelopes out of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper.

We have been Zip.ca members for about three years now. We’ve never had cable or satellite or even good regular tv reception so we watch DVDs way more often that we watch regular tv. I knew I was going to write this post, so I did a bit of looking around in Zip’s vast collection and a found a number of “green” videos: An Inconvenient Truth, Who Killed the Electric Car, A Crude Awakening, to name a few. I even got The Sacred Balance out so I could blog about watching it. However, I have to confess that I ended up leaving David Suzuki lying on the bookshelf while I binged on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What can I say, every once in a while I get the urge to watch vampires get a good ass-kicking and I indulge that urge in the greenest way I can.

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