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The Sharing Economy: What It Is and How You Can Get in on It

The Sharing Economy -- It’s one of those buzzwords where we can intuitively decipher the meaning but may not know much about the specifics without sitting down and doing some research. Anyone practicing minimalism and/or a low waste lifestyle could likely benefit from a little less owning and a little more sharing. So let’s talk about the Sharing Economy – what it is, which companies are betting on it, and how you can participate in it.

The concept is as simple as it sounds. It’s a departure from ownership -- the business-to-consumer (B2C) model, and a move toward sharing and renting -- a peer-to-peer (P2P) model. It’s of interest in the business community since Sharing Economy poster companies (think Airbnb and Uber) are completely changing philosophies that have existed for decades if not centuries. But it’s not just business people who should take note. Minimalists may find it to be a refreshing response to the increasingly outdated belief that owning more things is a necessary element of the American dream. If you’re wondering how you can participate in sharing culture, here are some items you can start sharing, and some companies making it easy for you.

Note were going to gloss over home sharing (i.e., Airbnb, Couchsurfing) and car sharing (i.e., Lyft, Uber, Zipcar), since we’re guessing you’re plenty familiar with your options there.

Books

It’s one of the oldest shared items in the book #punintended. Aside from patronizing your good ole local library, you might enjoy giving and taking from a neighborhood Little Free Library, or listening to rented audio books through apps like cloudLibrary (it’s  also free!).

Clothes

There are two major ways to participate in clothes sharing: buying, selling, and trading second-hand, and renting. If you’re looking to sell, buy, or trade, your nearby thrift or consignment shop is always a top choice. You can also keep your trading local by finding or initiating a clothing swap through a platform like Meetup.com. If you don’t have local options, Poshmark and Thredup are making it super easy to sell and trade online. You can also avoid owning altogether through platforms like Le Tote and Gwynnie Bee that allow you to rent everyday clothing items. But while the concept of renting clothes seems like a perfect minimalist solution, having your rented clothes regularly shipped long distances in non-reusable packaging is far from a low waster’s ideal. So if you’re looking to get into the clothes sharing game, we’re recommending you stick to owning things longer and buying second-hand.

Tools & Supplies

It’s pretty crazy to think about how many tools exist and how infrequently they are used -- that every household on a block has its own toolkit, and that on any given day it’s likely that no tools will actually be put to use. Thankfully there are resources to help us avoid buying the tools that we know we’ll only need once or twice. Local Tools can help you find a tool lending library close to you. Local Buy Nothing groups on Facebook are another great source for locating odds and ends without having to purchase them new.

Composting

Whether its food scraps, space for a compost bin, or a garden for finished compost, you can share your resources with other local composters! Community gardens are an excellent option, but if you don’t have one nearby, if the wait list is too long, or  if membership is too expensive, try the ShareWaste app! It helps you connect with someone in your neighborhood who can either collect or donate food scraps.

Work Spaces

Shared work spaces check a lot of boxes on the list of perfect office scenarios. For those of us in a traditional work space with 9 – 5 schedules, our offices sit vacant for two thirds of every weekday and all of every weekend. What a waste. It can be much more cost effective for an employer to rent a shared work space than to lease an entire office building, buy furniture, pay utilities, etc. Moreover, co-work spaces allow employees to work closer to home, and spend their days getting to know people in their own communities. Wework is a popular option with locations all over the world. You can also find awesome local co-work spaces like Union Cowork in San Diego and Hatchlab PDX in Portland.

If there are some things that you just don't want to share, we think that's totally okay. Sometimes owning high-quality goods and taking great care of them is just as eco-friendly. But for all the items we don't need to own, we're pretty psyched about the future of sharing! Let us know if there is anything we missed, and tell us about any awesome sharing experiences you've had!

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