The local sharing revolution had already started before COVID-19, and is sure to accelerate, once everything starts opening up again. Called ‘collaborative consumption’, this is an idea that rather than everyone all buy the same product and use it now and then (apparently the average power tool only gets used for 20 minutes in its entire lifetime), people buy one tool and share it between communities. Also see ideas to share your journey and where to donate or share books.
The whole sharing movement does not stop there though. We have car-sharing, garden-sharing (people who grow food in the gardens of elderly people then share the harvest), sharing workspaces (much cheaper than a big long lease, if you all just use it for a few hours each week, and work from home the rest of the time). Right through to sharing tasks either through online websites or within communities. In this post, we’ll look at them all.
Don’t share items that may not be safe (mouldy mattresses, toys, car seats etc).
What are the Benefits of Sharing?
The big corporate world wants you to buy. Recently, a government minister asked us to ‘go out and spend!’ to enjoy ourselves, when the Pandemic starts to ease. But this is the ultimate lie of life – that consumerism brings happiness. It doesn’t. Often people spend at Christmas, then spend the whole year in debt, trying to pay things off. The minister should be aware that most people’s incomes have crashed during the last 12 months, and so to ‘spend, spend, spend’ is likely to send people spiralling into debt.
Sharing gets all the ‘boring stuff’ out of the way (mend fence, use a power tool to fix something, send a fax at the office), so you can get on and enjoy life as it should be – out in nature with animals and friends, walking, cycling, sleeping, cooking, whatever floats your boat.
The problem with no sharing is that it encourages people who hoard so much stuff, they then have to rent warehouses, to store more stuff in. There is even now a ‘peer-to-peer sharing company Stashbee where if you have got hoards of junk to sort out, at least you can store it in someone’s house, rather than from a big company!
Where to Share!
- Streetbank is the main site, where you can share things with your neighbours. You can share things (ladders, drills), skills (DIY, languages, gardening) or give away stuff you no longer need. Join thousands of people who are already sharing things nationwide. Freecycle is similar, with each local swap site monitored by volunteers.
- Fat Llama is a site where you can rent anything off anyone. So if you need a quality ladder, painting materials and power tools, just rent off someone local, rather than go buy them, use them, stuff them in the garage and forget about them for years. This is also a good way for people to earn a little passive income, if they have items laying around that others could use. From sewing machines to musical instruments, you’ll find items to rent here. Lender protection is backed up to £25,000 and some lenders earn £100s a month.
Share Your Home
- Home Share and Share My Home both offer a vetted service where older and disabled people with spare rooms, give very low-cost accommodation (sometimes just a few pounds a month) to people who can’t afford to rent, in return for helping with jobs around the house, and some company. The renters pledge around 10 or 15 hours a week which can be vacuuming, walking dogs and looking after pets, tending the garden etc. And just making and drinking cups of tea! It allows people without accommodation to sort their lives out, and people living in their own house to remain independent for longer. Share and Care operates exclusively in London.
- Shared Lives Plus is similar but different. This time a family give a home to someone who would otherwise be in residential care. This can range from people with mental health issues to older people with dementia. Obviously you have to decide what works best, but if suitable, you can up to hundreds of pounds a week with tax relief, regular breaks and a UK support network, and could also change someone’s life. It’s basically ‘foster care for adults’, based on shared interests. If there is an adult say with Down’s Syndrome who loves rollerskating and so do you, it could be a match made in Heaven!
Share Your Work Space
If you share space with pets, remove toxic houseplants (sago palm, cheese plants and lilies could be lethal if a tail brushed past). Remove them or ask for an area where these plants are not near the office. It’s best not to use them in a shared office.
- Share your workspace with co-workers. One idea that is sometimes used is to let others share your private space, to work in. So if you have a large posh kitchen, you could hire it to someone who would like to bake cakes for a living but had no kitchen good enough to pass council safety tests. Or a music teacher could hire your drawing room with a piano. Or a yoga teacher could hire your conservatory or garden for classes.
- Your Parking Space not only lets you rent from people’s unused garages or driveways. But if you run a small office with a car park that is unused during weekends, it’s a great way to earn some passive income, by letting people pay you (rather than one of those expensive parking machines in town, that never gives change!)
Share Your Garden
If you live with or visit areas with pets, make your garden safe for pets to know toxic plants, flowers, trees, mulch and slug/snail pellets to avoid.
- Lend and Tend is a great idea. Many older and disabled and busy people have gardens, but don’t have the health, time or money to grow their own food. But many people who would like to grow their own food don’t have gardens, and the waiting lists for allotments are usually months or years. So this lets people garden in your garden, and you receive a share of the harvest in return.The site has safety info like avoiding asbestos, not using garden chemicals, and using quality tools.
- Incredible Edible has more info on garden-sharing and Eden Project has info on how to organise a community seed exchange, so you don’t even have to buy seeds (most are F1 hybrid, so designed not to be reused, so you have to buy new the next year). Swapping gets around the fact that buying non-hybrid seeds is illegal, in many cases. Don’t give toxic seeds (like lupins) to homes with pets.
Ideas to Share Your Journey
Whether you like to share a lift with others or prefer the independence of travelling alone, there are alternatives to the normal procedure of everyone going into debt to buy a brand new car, and making payments on it for years to come. We all know the value dives the minute your drive it out of the showroom. So what about sharing a car? If there is a scheme in your town, it may be an option.
- Bla Bla Car is a European company that has good safety caveats in place, for sharing lifts. You can even choose the type of sharer (so a shy person doesn’t get stuck on a long journey with a motormouth!)
- If you prefer to drive alone, you can share cars with others through several companies (you pay an hourly rate, the company pay for everything else). Co-Wheels is a national social enterprise so rates are cheaper, and they can help you set one up, using private cars owned by members.
- Or to even more independent, Hiyacar and Turo both take care of the paperwork and insurance, so you can rent cars off local people in your community.
- Splitcab (London) lets you split the fare and share a taxi. This creates fewer emissions and you can save up to 60% on your fare. They have good safety caveats, and the app is often used to book normally expensive airport transfer journeys.
- Goboony lets you rent a motorhome direct from owners who are not using it. This works out around 40% cheaper, and there is even a website Campspace, where you can camp in people who have large gardens.
Start your own seed library, to take back power from the big corporate companies who have stopped seeds that germinate the next year. These hybrid seeds are designed to keep you buying their seeds. But you can get around this, by learning how to seed swap. There are many big seed swaps (Seedy Sunday in Brighton is a big annual event). Not only does this save you money, but enables heirloom varieties to stop from going extinct. If you are not up to saving your own seeds, you can buy ‘real seeds’ from The Real Seed Company.
See plants & trees to avoid near pets (including lupins, popular for saving seeds). Also avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost near pets. Use humane safe slug/snail deterrents and safer alternatives to netting for wildlife. Many plants (inc yew/oak trees, buttercups and foxgloves) are toxic to equines. Also see how to grow herbs.
If growing near houses or in greenhouses, keep plants away from pets (cats may knock them over). Never place plants near windows, to help stop birds flying into windows.
- Starting & Saving Seeds is the ultimate guide to starting your own seed swap. Create dinner from food you’ve grown, using the techniques in this book. Find the tools to become a seed-starting and seed-saving champion. Julie Thomason-Adolf walks you through each step, with hints to encourage stubborn seeds to germinate, and find charts for quick growing reference.
- Saving Seeds includes details on saving seed stocks, to ensure a good harvest each year. Biodiversity has suffered with corporations replacing heirloom varieties containing genetic engineering. So saving seeds becomes a practical act of preservation, and powerful act of protest.
This post shows you where to donate books you no longer read, or share them with others. Little Free Libraries & Lending Sheds is the book of a worldwide movement began in America. You build a little library (they look like cute US letterboxes from Disney cartoons) then fill it with books for others.
If using these sheds to share other items like plants, don’t add pet-toxic plants or choking food hazards or unsafe toys etc.
BookMooch lets you swap books that you’ve already read, then use your points to ‘buy’ books you’d like to read. BookCrossing lets you ‘release your books to the wild’, by leaving them somewhere noted online (say in a cafe) and then people look up and pick it up, read it, then ‘release it’ somewhere else. You can watch your book journey across the world.
Give a Book donates books to children, schools and people in prison. Haven also donates books to prisoners. Know that whatever the side of the fence you are on regarding prisoners (punishment or leniency), the percentage of prisoners that reoffend is high. Locking people in a cell for 23 hours does nothing to help them change their lives around. Reading books helps prevent crime long-term. You are not allowed to donate certain books, but uplifting and educational ones are welcomed.
My Society is a wonderful organisation run by super-techy people. They have built websites to write to your MP and find out how he/she voted, and complain about local litter to your council. What’s great is that they have made all the technology Open Source. So if you fancy making a local version or you are visiting this site from abroad (ciao!) and fancy doing something similar in Africa, Australia or anywhere, you can! You can also download free posters to promote the sites in your community.
Be My Eyes is an app to use your ‘second pair of eyes’ for blind people, to read recipes and instructions, decipher colours etc to anyone worldwide. It’s free, and one of the few times when there are more volunteers than users.
Creative Commons License can be used and placed on your website, if you are fine with sharing content to help others. We use this for our terms page (copy what you want, but include safety caveats, like toxic plants to pets if copying a gardening article). Not everyone likes to do this (artists etc). But it’s a good way to spread your work without people worrying about getting sued (we’re not America!) Leo Babauta (one of the world’s most popular bloggers) uncopyrights all his material, and says it’s done him no harm at all.
I’m not a big fan of copyright laws, especially as they’re applied by corporations, used to crack down on the little guys so they can continue their large profits. If someone feels like sharing my content, that’s good for me. My work is being spread to many more people than I could do myself. That’s something to celebrate. And if someone wants to take my work and improve upon it, as artists have been doing for centuries, I think that’s a wonderful thing. Leo Babauta
Timebanks were invented in the US by a social entrepreneur who thought up the idea, while in hospital recovering from a heart attack. You basically download the software, then everyone lists their skills (certain jobs like child-minding, building etc has to offer professional qualifications and CRB checks). Then you ‘work’ for others, and earn the same hour of time as everyone else. You then ‘buy’ services using your ‘hours’ for other services. And you can also choose to donate hours to others who can’t work (say someone caring for a relative). They can then use these to ‘buy’ services they could not afford, perhaps like dog-walking or someone to cook meals.
Examples could be dog-walking, doing someone’s shopping, painting and gardening, translating, tutoring, cooking homemade meals, teaching exercise, you name it. The beauty of this is that rather than get rid of local jobs, it tends to ‘fill in’ the services that are not provided (like delivering homemade cakes to someone who would enjoy them). It also lets older people (who often have skills we don’t – mending clothes, fixing sticky locks) to feel of value, and then they can afford something that they otherwise could not buy, in return. It’s also a good ‘try me’ service for anyone considering a local business. If you get flooded with requests for help, you’re onto a winner.
Most timebanks are not taxed, but check with your council. LETS (local exchange trading schemes) are also good, but they can be taxed, so be aware of this. And because Timebanks runs everything on a software with an administrator, people always know where you are, for safety.
The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing moves away from the simple business formula: create something, sell it, collect money. Today consumers have more choices and tools, and the Internet has made peer-to-peer sharing easier. Lisa Gansky reveals the money to be made by brands helping customers buy less, but use more.
What’s Mine is Yours is by the woman who founded the original collaborative consumption movement. She begins the book by what inspired her: hearing of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: a swirling ocean of trash in the Pacific, that is apparently the size of Texas: all made from consumer goods that have been bought and tossed away. In a world where the average car goes unused for 22 hours a day, and most lawn mowers are only used a few hours a year.
Music Break: The Sharing Song
If you’re wondering the relevance – this song written by Billy Joel is about the singer asking a man to share a melody on his piano…
‘Swishing’ is the new art of lending and swapping clothes. You can do this unofficially by just getting a crowd of friends together in someone’s home and swapping items you no longer wear. Or you can be a bit more formal, and hold a swishing session in a local community centre. There are also online sites where you can donate your clothes, and get points which you can use to ‘buy’ new clothes offered by someone else. If you can’t afford to buy organic Frugi clothing for your child, the companies below can often rent them out instead, for less cost.
Another option is to rent clothes. Some towns have dress agencies, and online there are a number of sites where you can rent designer and organic clothes and then swap them for new clothes. Ideal if you have expensive tastes!
The fast fashion industry is full of waste, so this is a great idea for women who have ‘a wardrobe of clothes with nothing to wear’. It’s a good way to get rid of items you no longer need, so someone else can make use of them, and then get ‘free clothing’ in return.