The Secret of Sharing

The next time you’re thinking about buying something you may only use sparingly, think again. Widespread sharing can lead to less junk going to landfills, while increasing demand for higher quality products that can withstand more use over their lifetime.  

Sharing is so uncool.  Talk about sharing, and most people will recall (with no small amount of bitterness) being forced to share toys with a sibling, or how their roommate ruined their favorite pair of shoes.  Maybe that’s why we relish buying so many toys of our very own.

Things have changed a lot since your brother pulled the heads off your Barbies, though.  Sharing is happening all over the place, with online communities making it easy, frictionless, and fun.  Old school models of sharing goods and services, like libraries and laundromats, are inevitably giving way to new models like Netflix and ZipCar.  Sharing, also known as “collaborative consumption”, is changing the way we think about what’s yours, mine, and ours.

The crux here is that people really want the benefit of products, not ownership.  For instance, over 60% of Americans own their own power drill, but the average drill is only used for 12 minutes in its lifetime!  We don’t really need the drill itself; we just need the hole.

I think sharing is a revolutionary green idea.  Widespread sharing can lead to less junk going to landfills, while increasing demand for higher quality products that can withstand more use over their lifetime.  Local sharing can build a sense of community among neighbors. Some types of sharing, like renting out that power drill you hardly ever use, can even earn you extra money!  And because it’s all happening online, you can see the track record of people you share with, preventing a swap with someone who might ruin your proverbial shoes.

So the next time you’re thinking about buying something you may only use sparingly, think again.  There may be a way to get what you want without breaking the bank, or make better use of something you already have.  Here are some websites to get you started:

  • Swap.com (www.swap.com) lets you trade books, DVDs, and video games gathering dust on your shelf for ones you want.
  • SharedEarth.com (www.sharedearth.com) connects gardeners looking for land with landowners who wouldn’t mind some free veggies and flowers.
  • Airbnb.com (www.airbnb.com) helps you rent your spare bedroom or find a cheap place to stay with a friendly local host.

Having a hard time getting excited about sharing?  Watch the video that inspired this blog post: