Sharing economy. That sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Alas, it’s not. It’s the simple idea of sharing. It’s an age-old tradition that society would do well to reconsider, in my opinion.
Imagine, if you will, a suburban neighborhood. Every house on the block has a patch of lawn (or weeds) needing to be kept at a reasonable height, so every resident has a lawn mower to do the job. Each lawn mower comes out once every week—or every couple of weeks—during the summer months. When the lawn mower is not being used, it sits in the garage. What if, instead of each of us owning a lawnmower to the tune of hundreds of dollars a piece, we shared?
Makes sense, no?
Sharing items can save you money, reduce the environmental impacts of producing more than we really (truly) need, and free up some of your precious storage space. We’re seeing the sharing economy as a business model — Zipcar, Netflix, AirBnB — but the idea is something that can easily be incorporated to suit your specific needs. Call it a collaborative lifestyle.
Of course, there are things you wouldn’t want to share. You’re likely going to need your own broom daily. You probably don’t want to share your favorite cast iron pan. If you do a lot of building projects, it might make sense to have your own power tools. But there are a lot of things out there that we own and maintain and store but use just a fraction of the time.
Consider these for a community sharing economy:
- Canning equipment
- Camping gear
- Camp trailer/RV
- Lawn mower
- Weed eater/trimmers
- Power tools
- Books & movies
- Ski gear
- Paper shredder
- Musical instruments
- Sewing machine
- Party supplies
- Exercise equipment
- Special occasion clothing
- Utility trailer
- Folding tables/chairs
There are so many things that could be shared among several people – or a neighborhood – with very little inconvenience to users, and so many ways to do it. Years ago, I joined with two other families to purchase a rototiller. We split the cost and took turns using it.
I’ve loaned out my canning equipment, my dehydrator, and (in another time and place) my heavy snow boots that I used only rarely. For many of my friends, I maintain a “What’s mine is yours” attitude. On the flip side, over the years I’ve borrowed things like a chop saw, a window washing tool, a giant cooking pot, and an extension ladder.
Probably the simplest way to get started with collaborative consumption and to encourage others to “share” is to let your friends know what you’ve got to offer.
A sharing economy builds community
It just takes someone who will take the first step–unless you’re lucky enough to live in a community that already has a system for sharing set up!
If you live in a community that embraces a sharing economy, you might find yourself able to borrow garden or kitchen tools from a lending library, clothes from a clothing library, or books from an uber-local Little Free Library. (Great for residents who live some distance from a municipal library.)
Collaborative consumption as a community builder
Beyond the environmental impact and the cost savings of a sharing economy, though, think about the possibilities for community building.
Sure, there’s always going to be that one guy who doesn’t return things on time (or in one piece), but finding him and weeding him out is totally worth it in order to meet like-minded neighbors and create an ongoing sense of community that will extend beyond just sharing an item or two.
Excess veggies or eggs? Are you going to share those with complete strangers or people you’ve had the chance to meet? And when an emergency happens, knowing that your neighbors are keeping an eye out for you — or for that elderly neighbor who doesn’t get around so well — is golden.