Yesterday I went to a fabulous workshop put on by Waste Watch on shared community assets. It was basically a room full of people all doing great things in their communities, encouraging principles of “collaborative consumption‘ and a better use and allocation of resources.
I learned some really interesting things, like how people prefer higher levels of health, happiness and love to wealth (based on research by the New Economics Foundation). I know this may sound like a given but in this age of excessive consumption that fact is both surprising and oddly reassuring.
I also met some lovely people running very inspiring projects, like TimeBank, Food Cycle, Lourish, Ecomodo, and many others. Although most people in the room came from different backgrounds, the common ground was all of our interests in sustainable consumption, through sharing various things, like time, food, possessions and space.
Sharing as a concept, way or life, value set – whatever you’d like to refer to it as – isn’t anything new. We are taught from a young age that sharing and being generous are good qualities. Yet somewhere between being young and told to share toys with others kids we get lead astray by many things, including shiny adverts and cultural attitudes alluding that a life with more stuff is an enhanced way of being. And it’s not.
The difficulty of course lies in behavioural and cultural change. How is it that you can show people that you don’t need to own a drill to be able to use one or have access to one. Or that one company’s food surplus could make a world or difference to a small charity trying to feed London’s poor? Why don’t more people share?
At the moment a lot of sharing services live online. The internet has had a profound impact on how people interact with each other and redefined what a community is. However, I’d argue that the vast majority of people using online swap services all come from a similar demographic, the demographic that I fall in. Digitally active. Young (ish). Middle class. For me, I find it super easy to kit out my house in free stuff. It’s also really easy to trade clothes online. But what I’d really interested in is sharing as a movement and way of life rather than just loads of cool services available to those who know how to look for them. It would do the planet a whole lot of good if people stopped buying things they only use once and started thinking about where they can get something they need or want before heading to the shops. For some people, this is already the norm, but for most, more needs to be done to pave the sharing way. Hopefully more people, in addition to the lovely ones I met yesterday will champion the shift to a society that shares more and shares better.