My small house in the East Bay has piles of stuff. The kitchen features a fondue pot brimming with dust bunnies, while the backyard shed is crammed with tools that I purchased for long forgotten home repair projects. My kids’ rooms are full of toys for every occasion and season that will be part of their bedroom clutter for the majority of the upcoming school year. Amongst the mounds of mess, I find myself wondering, what do people do with all their stuff? I suppose some might have large garages, and others might rent storage units to keep these rarely used items sitting on the shelves until their next adventure.
As Coastal Cleanup Day approaches, I am faced with the challenge of not only motivating volunteers to come out to the shoreline, but also to have Bay Area residents think about the ocean as a living creature in need of rescue. On September 21st, I want Bay Area families to go home with renewed senses of conviction, and with the idea of reducing our ocean pollution by buying less stuff and by repurposing or giving away the stuff they do not use.
Sharing our rarely used stuff is more environmentally friendly than buying it new, and I find it’s also a great way to social network in our community. Although Not a new idea, the forces of capitalism have made it seem necessary that we all own a lawnmower or a pasta maker when, really, if you have items that you haven’t used in years, then you probably don’t need to own that item.
Tool libraries have been around for years, but are becoming increasingly popular, because they prove to be such an effective way to share resources. This type of library allows members to check out tools for large work events and home improvement projects. This idea is being expanded to other household items, appliances and even recreational equipment. However, we still need many more of these small libraries to amplify the effect of the sharing economy. Bike and car sharing are also great examples of the new sharing economy.
Additionally, many people have used websites to take the “sharing is caring” motto to a whole new level. Facebook and Craigslist are regularly inundated with posts from friends or strangers giving items away for free. Recently, a new website that is devoted to this sharing system, called Yerdle, has been created. This website uses social media as a tool for individuals to list the items they are willing to give away or let others borrow, household items, recreational equipment, and other stuff from friends. This is a very interesting idea for people that want to meet like-minded individuals and share their resources.
The new sharing economy could be a revolutionary way of thinking about the stuff we own and store. The more we develop these sharing opportunities, the better off we will be. Ultimately, it comes down to using fewer resources to make new stuff and refusing to buy items that we use just a few times before disposing of them or storing for years. These items eventually become trash destined to pile up in the municipal dump. So, this year, be an ocean hero, and do not buy items you will use only once or twice. Instead, consider all your options and try to borrow these items from a community library, a neighbor, or your social network.