Build a World of Sharing

Urban Farm on former empty lot

Urban Farm on former empty lot

At the annual Master Recycler Open House last month, Master Recyclers and community partners heard from three inspiring organizers who help  neighbors share.

What happened afterward was a stimulating conversation about how Master Recyclers, local jurisdictions, non-profits and businesses in our region could work to build an infrastructure that makes it easier for people to share their stuff.

The group first tackled the question of what barriers may exist that impede people from sharing. People used to share a lot more, but we lived in tighter communities that were made up of friends, congregations and families. There is a sense we don’t know one another like those old days. This leaves us with a very practical problem that we simply don’t know what stuff everyone has and when it is available. This distance also creates problems of trust. Our stuff is really important to us. How do we know we will get our stuff back? What if someone breaks something? Do I really want my neighbors to know what cool stuff I have in my garage?

So how can we help folks overcome these barriers? The group brainstormed ideas about types of infrastructure that could help. Here are a few gems:

  • Inventory “idle” stuff. Could be a neighborhood list of tools, a lending library or a central web page that has Apps that show you where the closest stuff is available.
  • Easy access to information about when and how stuff can be checked out.
  • Non-profits or neighbors can decide to gather stuff and then share it as a group. So everyone owns the stuff. Inventorying, checking out and maintenance is then the responsibility of everyone.

One wonderful result of sharing, according to our panel is that it leads to sharing much more stuff  and even began to share skills, ideas and time. The Trash to Treasure swap  had an example where a person just spontaneously started fixing broken electronics that were in a pile for swapping so that people would take them home. The Urban Farm Collective and the Lending Tool Library both talked about how people are beginning to share their skills in woodworking and gardening.

Master recyclers can help with this effort. Spread the word about the resources that already exist. Tell your stories about how you share. Join in on local efforts to lead the way on some of these sharing projects. Start a swap, help build a lending library, organize a phone tree in your neighborhood that inventories the tools people are willing to share.