Sharing is Good

by: Sara on 10/08/2013
Posted in: Guest Posts

"The new sharing economy - reduce waste, save money and become more self-sufficient, all without buying more stuff." Today's guest post comes from Beth Buczynski, the author of the just released book, Sharing is Good, How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption. Beth is a passionate believer in building a new economy based on sharing and community to help end our dangerous obsession with consumer culture.

I’ve had the good fortune to make a living as an environmental blogger and editor. Day in and day out, I publish articles about clean energy, new technologies, and the best ways to live a sustainable life.

But I’m also a real person. I have bills to pay and financing anything that’s not an absolute necessity is difficult in the best of times. I began to notice that even my own advice about how to live “green” always seemed to revolve around buying something--a Prius, an LED light bulb, reuseable bags. I knew I couldn’t buy it all, and like many, I felt guilty and frustrated.

“After all,” I thought, “wasn’t over-consumption at the root of many environmental problems?”

I wanted a better solution. One that respected my individuality but acknowledged that we’re all in this together. I found it in the sharing economy, a trend sparked by the recession that’s now completely changing the way we live, work, and conduct commerce.

Also referred to as collaborative consumption, the sharing economy represents a new way of living, in which access to things is valued over ownership, experience is valued over material possessions, and "mine" becomes "ours," so everyone's needs can be met without waste.

It may sound a little weird or idealistic, but as I discovered while writing my first book,“Sharing is Good,” cooperation is what spurred successful evolution, in both humans and animals. We’re hard-wired to share, but a century of capitalist consumption has us out of practice as a species.

As I investigated different styles of collaborative consumption all over the world, I discovered something amazing: sharing was allowing people to live greener lives without forcing them to go without. People who shared each other, whether in person or over the Internet, were forming new relationships and generating much-needed income while reducing overall consumption and waste.

While writing “Sharing is Good” I met a retiree who earned hundreds of dollars a month by renting out her bright red Volkswagen Beetle through a peer-to-peer car sharing company. I discovered entrepreneurs who financed startups entirely through crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, and homeowners who gained access to loads of fresh produce (and new friends!) by sharing their yard with gardening enthusiasts who lacked their own plot of land.

Sharing has also given birth to a new generation of companies that use mobile technologies to make sharing easy and safe, while still generating profit and stimulating the economy.

Just look at the incredible success of Airbnb, an online marketplace that allows budget-conscious travelers to book the spare bedrooms--or entire villas--of millions of people around the world. Or Skillshare, a web community that make it possible to share any skill with a global community. The flexible-schedule classes range from baking cupcakes to raising startup capital, and people are signing up in droves.

And what about being green? Well, it turns out that the sharing economy can help shrink our carbon footprint without a lot of personal sacrifice.

As I write in the book, “sharing drastically extends the life cycle of physical foods, thus limiting the need to buy new things until it’s truly necessary” and reduces the amount of broken stuff we send to the landfill. And it doesn’t stop there. A 2011 study from the University of California, Berkeley, showed that car-sharing programs have the power to significantly reduce overall greenhouse gas emission in North America by giving people access to more efficient cars, and for many, eliminating the need to own a car all together.

All of this growth, conservation, and access to new experiences, and it’s based on a concept most of us learn in kindergarten--sharing.

Now, before I buy, book, or throw something away, I ask myself if I could share it instead. The answer is usually just a click away, and instead of feeling despondent, I feel empowered. Slowly but surely, I’m detangling my happiness from how much stuff I have. I’m replacing eco-guilt with the confidence of a better alternative. And so can you!

 Join the discussion by liking Sharing Is Good on Facebook or following @TheSharingBook on Twitter!

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