Zero Waste Meet Sharing Economy
You know the major players in what’s being called the ‘Sharing Economy’: AirBnb, CraigsList, ebay, FreeCycle.com. I suspect that if we take a page out of their book, we can bring neighbors together online and off and accelerate efforts towards getting to ‘zero waste’ in our communities.
By facilitating the process of moving our stuff from peer to peer, via sharing more (and shopping less), we can help keep unwanted stuff out of landfills, and cut down on the waste associated with consumption (buying new things). Importantly, importantly, we can attract new folks to the ‘waste cause’ by showing them how ‘sharing’ helps them connect socially and have fun, make a little money or save some, and declutter and de-stress. Intrigued? Here’s 7 ways to get your entire community working together to share more to cut down on waste and live better.
Sell/Buy Used Stuff
Online sites like CraigsList, eBay, and Facebook “For Sale or Swap” sites connect peers in buying and selling unwanted stuff to each other. So can community-based sharing events like stoop sales, yard sales, and white elephant sales. Take the rummage out of the sale: focus neighborhood sales events around a single theme and coveted items like food, sci fi books, vintage clothing, and toys for kids.
Stop buying. Start renting. Start saving money. You can now rent practically anything online, including as we’ve been showcasing on WeHateToWaste.com, like formal wear and accessories, and graduation gowns. You can even rent jeans from MUD in the Netherlands. These days, too, you can rent your own stuff out to others, using a site like CraigsList, but some legal stuff applies.
Ever ask why can’t public libraries lend other things besides books and CDs? They can and they are! Now there are tool lending libraries, and as documented in The New York Times, there are a growing number of ‘Libraries of Things’ like the Sacramento Public Library that loans out sewing machines, musical instruments, crafting supplies, even 3D scanners. Check out this video for more:
ASK: What would you and the neighbors like to borrow from your local library?
In the meantime, create a little free library of books or other lendables in your own yard or even office cubby. (Learn how to start a little free library HERE). Also, check out peer-to-peer online platforms, like NextDoor.com Peerby.com and Neighborgoods.net that let neighbors borrow things by just posting a request.
Why buy, maintain all the stuff we rarely use when it’s possible to conveniently share stuff with neighbors? If we can share Bikes in cities, why not other stuff? Let’s start with ‘bag shares’ in stores as a solution to the problem of forgetting to bring one’s reusable bag.
How to Start Sharing More in Apartment Buildings
Live in an apartment house? Need an umbrella in your place? How about a wet one? Try ganging neighbors together to start an umbrella share in the lobby.
Food counts, too! While you’re in sharing mode, consider sharing the leftovers and other edible odds and ends by inviting friends over to an Empty the Fridge “leftover pooling” party (a variation on pot luck).
If I’m allowed to dream, I wish I could share a vacuum, iron and ironing board — and all kinds of other clunky household stuff — with others in my apartment building. I picture a ‘Sharing Closet’ just down my hall (it’s likely to be run by neighbors but perhaps down the road, it’s run by Home Depot for a service charge or just by the members of the coop).
New Yorkers can’t get enough of the new Stop n Swap events that GrowNYC have been running at various locations around the city. Now everyone can get in on the fun. Turn swapping into an opportunity to socialize with neighbors and friends by staging your own swap event for clothing, books, food, even unwanted holiday gifts. This Center for a New American Dream Guide has tips.
Swap anytime and all the time by re-purposing a cardboard box as a “Free Stuff” box anywhere that people congregate. All it takes is a repurposed cardbaord carton to get started. Encourage folks to drop in household articles or specific items like dry foods, toys and games or back to school supplies. Think bigger and start a neighbor ‘swap shop’ like the Re-center that just opened in Northampton, Mass. Or the Free Store of the University of Louisville.
Donating to charity thrift shops (and the possibility of a tax deduction) needs no introduction. Again, to ‘take the rummage out of the sale’, are single-item donation opportunities to meet specific needs of neighbors like NY Cares winter coat drive, Materials for the Arts, an extraordinary not for profit in NYC that provides donated art supplies free to teachers, and MoveForHunger.org, that picks up food from your pantry on moving day for redistribution to the needy.
Freecycle.org. is part of a thriving gift economy, as is ‘The Buy Nothing Project’ that describes itself as “a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors”. Buy Nothing groups that work via Facebook exist in all 50 states and numerous countries around the world. Learn more HERE.
In a future post, I’ll talk about opportunities to bring folks together to share skills as a way to help achieve zero waste. Meanwhile, try out some of these new opportunities to keep your stuff moving while introducing friends and neighbors into positive, community-based waste practices. Please share your experiences with us at WeHateToWaste.com. The possibilities are endless!
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