The sharing economy is back in full swing, after a lull before the pandemic. Now with everyone’s income nose-dived, we are back to this wonderful ‘collaborative consumption’ idea. Sharing basically means either swapping (free) or renting (for a few pounds) things that otherwise are expensive and often hardly get used (apparently the average power tool is only used for 20 minutes during its lifetime). From lawnmowers to sewing machines, often you have a whole street of people all owning the same item, but between them it would not even get full use. So sharing is a peaceful political way to reduce consumerism, and save some cash at the same time.
There are many types of sharing: sharing food (lots of mums batch-cook and then get together to swap the meals). This way you only make one big meal a week, but get a week’s worth of different meals for your family. Then there’s car-sharing, renting bikes that are used by others, right through to sharing office space (you work from home but come into the office to send faxes or have meetings). Some people even rent out rooms in their houses (say someone with a large beautiful kitchen to rent out to a cookery teacher, who wanted to give lessons). Then you have official sharing, like timebanks and LETS schemes, which we’ll look at below.
Why We Should Share
Governments are obsessed with consumerism, in order to promote ‘economic growth’. But in simple terms, this just gets people into debt buying stuff they don’t need, and then we have to find places for it to go to landfill. We live on a finite planet, and it makes far more sense to buy once, then share it out.
Don’t trash the planet, just to line the pockets of lazy governments, who can’t come up with better solutions than what ecologal writer Satish Kumar once wrote as the philosophy of ‘buy, buy and then throw away’. People now buy so much junk, that many people then have to pay more money to stash it somewhere else, as there is no room in the house.
Be careful with some items, as for safety, they are best not shared. Think mattresses (mould could carry disease, especially for vulnerable people and children), car seats (may not be safe), toys and pet toys (ditto). Best in these cases to buy new from trusted brand names.
Sharing Your Food
You can obviously just make meals in bulk, then share them among yourselves. One great idea of late are food-sharing apps like Olio. These are when people have food leftover in the fridge (if they are going on holiday, into hospital etc) or cafes and shops have leftover food at the end of the day, that would otherwise be thrown away). You just load up the food on the app, and people can come and collect it for free.
One newer idea is the Karma Fridge. This is a vending machine for shops and cafes, where people can buy sandwiches and cakes (at discount) at day’s end. It means people get good food for less money, and small businesses eek out more profits, rather than have to throw stuff in the bin.
SUMA Food Groups is a great idea from a health store wholesaler. You get a group together, then buy organic wholefoods online in bulk, for big savings. The food is delivered to someone’s garage (with a fridge) and then the administrator divides it all up and takes the money. This way you get good food for less cost. Just remember to put a cup of tea on, for the lorry driver, when he arrives! They don’t do this for chilled/frozen goods and the house has to be accessible for a vehicle the size of a double-decker bus!
Sharing Your Garden
This is a great idea. People who have gardening skills but no garden, get to share the garden of someone with land (perhaps an elderly or disabled person who can’t garden themselves (Lend and Tend runs such a scheme ). You then grow your own food, and then share the harvest with the landowner, as a thank-you for letting you use their land. If you garden with animals, see make your garden safe for pets, to know toxic plants and mulches to avoid. Also don’t plant foliage near windows, to help stop birds flying into windows.
The Grow Sheffield Abundance Handbook is free to download. It gives information on how to run a local ‘scrumping’ project, where fit volunteers climb trees and harvest apples that would otherwise not be picked. Again, the produce is shared (bruised fruits are made into juice or jam, and sold to raise money for community projects).
Incredible Edible began in Yorkshire, but is now worldwide. This takes things much further, with volunteers planting free fruit and nut trees on streets, herb gardens in railway stations (just pick up some thyme for tea on your way home) and apothecary gardens in local schools and health centres. Visit the site to join a local group, or set one up.
Sharing seeds is also popular. Most modern seeds are F1 hybrid (designed not to last, so you have to buy again next year). As it’s mostly illegal to buy seeds that are not hybrid, swapping gets around this (don’t give seeds to homes with pets if you are not knowledgeable – some like lupins are toxic). You can even start a seed library, like Brighton’s annual Seedy Sunday). This not only saves money, but stops heirloom varieties from going extinct. Read Starting & Saving Seeds with tips on becoming a seed-saving champion.
Sharing Your Clothes
Clothes swaps are called ‘swishing’ (not ‘swinging, that’s a different kind of swapping entirely!’) At The Nu Wardrobe, spend your ‘gold and silver coins’ for 99p per swap, then earn a coin for items you list. Take your pick from thousands of pieces, and request to borrow for as long as you like. You can meet in person or arrange delivery via bike or post.
Sharing Your Work Space
With the huge rise in rents and long leases, co-working is taking off. This is for people who work alone, and then you just ‘hot-desk’ with others, renting the desk and anything else (fax machine, voicemail telephones, meeting rooms) a few hours a week, and it also gives you a physical address for post etc. There are no long leases, and the prices are tiny, compared to high rents of the main office companies. Read The Coworking Handbook, by the founder of a successful coworking space in Brussels.
It’s best not to have plants in shared offices, as toxic houseplants (sago palm, cheese plants and lilies) could harm furry friends, if they visit. If you use them, take them home with you, when you leave.
Sharing Your Stuff!
Streetbank is the main site to share ladders, drills, and anything else (including skills like gardening or DIY or language teaching). You can also give away stuff you no longer need. Freecycle is similar, with each local swap site monitored by volunteers.
Fat Llama is similar, but a cheap rental site. So if you need a power tool or painting materials, just rent it off someone local, rather than buy it. Also a good way for hoarders to make a little passive income! You can rent sewing machines to musical instruments, and all lenders are protected up to £25,000. Some lenders here earn hundreds of pounds a month, if they have lots of stuff to lend!
Library of Things is a site where you can borrow (for a small fee) things you only need for a day. Located nationwide (including 8 locations in London), you could rent anything from a pasta maker to a sewing machine, to a steam cleaner. All for a few pounds each day.
Sharing Your Home
Home Share and Share My Home both offers a vetted service, offering low-cost accommodation to people who can’t afford high rents, in return for some company and a few chores, for a few hours each week to someone living alone. The renters pledge to look after pets, tend gardens, do housework etc, and often chats and cups of tea are appreciated. This enables someone to sort their life out on a budget, and an older or disabled person to remain in their own home. Share and Care operates exclusively in London.
Shared Lives Plus is a bit different, giving homes to people who would otherwise go into residential care – from people with mental health issues to those with early stage dementia. You decide what’s suitable, but you can earn up to hundreds of pounds a week with tax relief, and you get regular breaks and a support network, to change someone’s life. It’s like ‘foster care for adults’, based on shared interests. So if there’s an adult with Down Syndrome who loves rollerskating (and so do you), you could be a match made in Heaven!
Share Your Knowledge
My Society is a great organisation run by techy peeps. They have built websites to write to your MP (and one to see how they voted) and how to complain about local litter. But what they’ve done is release their knowledge so that anyone worldwide can download the OpenSource software, to set up something similar. You can download free posters to promote the sites in your community.
Be My Eyes is an app to share your ‘second pair of eyes’, to help blind people to read recipes and instructions, decipher colours or or help them navigate when out and about. It’s one of the few areas that has more volunteers than those who need the service, we all like the sound of doing this!
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
Share Your Car
See the post on how to join a car-sharing club, for more on this. Lift-sharing is not always popular with people who like their own space (and don’t want to be sat next to a motormouth on long journeys). But car-sharing clubs are good. You basically sign up and then rent the car yourself for when you need it. If you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, you’ll save a lot of money and stress. You pay the rent, and the companies pay for everything else (the car, MOT, road tax, insurance, cleaning – and some even petrol and breakdown cover). Bigger companies have vehicles for pets, children and disabled travellers. Each car is used by around 20 people in one day, so takes 19 cars off the road (and frees up thousands of parking spaces).
JustPark is a parking app with over 5 million users. Use it to find cheap parking spaces, owned by private individuals who can make passive income (not just for driveways and garages, but also an easy way to make some quick cash if you have a little office car park that lays empty over weekends). Make tax-free income (up to £1000) by renting out spaces that would cost a fortune for visitors to your town. People can book in advance to save around 30% on big parking multi-storey parks. You can save up to 43% when renting long-term using the Monthly Saver. You can also rent (or rent out) electric vehicle chargers, to make a pretty penny and help the planet too.
Set up a TimeBank
LETS schemes were popular a few years back (using local exchange currencies) but due to tax complications, Timebank are more popular. Invented by a US social entrepreneur (who thought it up while recovering from a heart attack), you basically just download the software, then everyone lists their skills (which can be anything from shopping to dog-walking to painting to electricians and child-minding, depending on qualifications and CRB checks). It doesn’t get rid of jobs, it more fills in the gaps of social care left behind, and everyone earns the same amount of ‘one hour’ (extra hours can be donated to local carers or disabled people).
You can then ‘spend your hours’ on whatever you like. And it’s safe, as the software ensures someone always knows where you are and what you’re ‘working on’. For example, a woman could sew children’s clothes, and her husband may be good at DIY. In return, they can ‘earn hours’ to have someone plant trees in their garden, walk their dogs and do their elderly relative’s shopping, if they had no time or car. It’s also a great way for older forgotten people in society to feel of use – often they have skills (mending doors, baking cakes) that many younger people don’t have.
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.