We’ve posted extensively in the past about reducing, reusing, and recycling as ways to save money, cut down on waste, and get the most out of our limited resources. However, there’s another method that can help us achieve these goals that we haven’t discussed yet, and it’s one that we all learned as toddlers… sharing!
Pooling resources and sharing with your neighbors or your community can have many benefits, like introducing you to new friends, reducing energy use, and supporting the local economy. There are a lot of great ways we can share that are becoming increasingly popular.
Here are just a few of the ways you can “learn to share” with your community:
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1. Share cars (or bikes!)
Car sharing services like ZipCar or UhaulCarShare offer memberships that provide you access to cars that you can borrow for an hourly rate. For instance, if you needed to make a special trip across town for an errand, you could pick up a car from a designated spot and use it to do your errand for as low as $5/hour, plus mileage fees. Car sharing is an attractive and affordable option for those who normally use public transit, but need access to a car occasionally.
Bike shares work in much the same way, and are popping up in several major cities across the U.S. Bike shares allow people who work in these cities a lot of freedom to get around their metro area quickly, whether its for lunch, meeting up with friends, or a quick errand. No more waiting for buses, and as an added bonus, it’s great exercise!
2. Share workspace
Have you heard of the new “co-working” trend? It’s an increasingly popular concept among freelancers, work-at-home professionals, and independent contractors. The basic idea is that you pay a daily or monthly fee to “rent” an office space or workspace. These spaces typically have added benefits similar to traditional offices, like free coffee and snacks and even discounted gym memberships. Co-working is a great option for those who enjoy the flexibility of working from home, but find themselves missing the community environment of an office job. And as someone who works from home, I can definitely sympathize with the need to get out of the house every once in a while! If you’re interested in coworking spaces in your city, a Google search of “coworking [your city name]” will get you started!
3. Share a backyard
Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in cities across the world. Unfortunately, many apartment and condo-dwellers who would love to have a garden don’t have any yard space of their own to start one. Sharing Backyards is an online service that looks to pair up these would-be gardeners with home-owners or land-owners who have space to spare. Individuals who list their available space will dictate the terms on which the space will be shared, like water costs, soil amendments, and harvest share. Some want to garden collaboratively, while others just want their land being put to good use, so there are a lot of options out there for prospective urban gardeners!
4. Share a room
Services like Airbnb and Couchsurfing give users a platform on which to rent out their unused homes, rooms, beds, or couches to people who need a place to stay. From a couple hundred dollars a night to virtually free, there are options out there to fit every kind of budget, at locations (quite literally) all over the world! Sites like these depend on user reviews, so you are able to read about the experiences of people who stayed there to determine if a particular place will fit your needs. On the other side of things, if you’ve got a spare bedroom and could use some extra cash, renting your room out for short-term stays could be a great option!
5. Share clothes
There are lots of ways to share your cast offs or get your hands on someone else’s hand-me-downs. In addition to buying from or donating to Goodwill or The Salvation Army…you can also swap clothes online at sites like thredUp and Freecycle. At thredUp, for example, participants list what clothes they want to share on the company’s site and exchange items through the mail.
Clothing-swap parties are easy to organize and are becoming popular throughout the country. Round up your old clothes, invite your friends over, and swap. In New York, a group called Score! organizes mega-clothing exchanges and parties across the city. They bring DJs, artists, and fashion photographers to take pictures of attendees in their “scored” outfits. Why not organize one of these in your town?
6. Share childcare duties
Babysitting cooperatives are an organized way for parents to swap childcare duties with other parents in your area. Some groups are highly organized and operate on token or point systems (for instance, you would pay one token to another parent for one hour of babysitting your child,) but other groups are less formal. Babysitting cooperatives can be a great option for parents who work part-time, or who have a non-standard work schedule. And if your needs extend beyond just babysitting, there are groups for that too! Some groups will also trade services like car-pooling, tutoring, housework, and more. Visit the Babysitter Exchange website to find babysitting cooperatives in your area.
7. Share a farm
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a partnership between a farm and members of the community. Each member of a CSA helps to cover the operational costs of the farm by purchasing a “share”, and in return receives locally-grown, high-quality produce throughout the growing season (often at below retail prices.) The farmer also benefits because he is guaranteed a reliable market for what he grows. And CSAs aren’t limited to just produce! Many farms have begun offering shares of meat, eggs, and dairy in addition to fresh produce. With this model, your weekly CSA box may all but eliminate your trips to the grocery store during the peak season! You can search for CSAs in your area at LocalHarvest.org.
Not only does sharing resources often save people money and help the environment, it can also help foster a meaningful connection between people and their communities. Participating in one (or several!) of these methods of sharing could have you loving where you live in no time.