April 2009 Archives

April 27, 2009

Technology and Sharing

Sharing is an old-fashioned idea with a lot of high-tech potential. Here are some of the technologies that are making sharing more and more convenient for everyone:

  • Matchmaking Websites. Websites such as Craigslist (online classified ads) and GoLoco (a ridesharing match-up website) can be used to quickly connect people who want to share.
  • Social Networking Websites. Social networking websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Ning.com are great ways for groups to form, communicate, and keep track of information.
  • Online Calendars. By using online calendars that give multiple users access, sharers can schedule use of a shared item, plan to take turns doing child care, or arrange mealsharing, for example.
  • Online Mapping Programs. Online mapping programs have been used to help sharers find each other. In a handful of cities, especially in Canada, people use programs such as Google Maps to make connections between people with spare yard space and people who would like a space for gardening.
  • Databases. Databases make it possible to keep track of a lot of information efficiently, which is essential where there are a lot of sharers or shared items involved. For example, a grocery buying club can use a database to keep track of inventory, orders, and club member purchases and payments.
  • Access Technologies. These technologies make it possible to control access to a shared item. For example, the bike-sharing program in Paris provides each member with a membership card and account. To access the bikes, members swipe a card. The system tracks how long the bike is used and bills the bike use to the member's account.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS) Technologies. GPS allows people to know their location and to map it in relation to a sharer or shared item. GPS is being tested as a way to facilitate ridesharing by matching drivers and passengers instantly using cellular phones. GPS can also be used to track the location of a shared item, such as a lawnmower or car.
April 24, 2009

Shared Work Weekend Means New Fence for Neighbor

Amy's Fence 2009 064.jpg

The Maxwell Park Neighborhood Work Group, featured in Chapter 7 of The Sharing Solution ("Sharing Household Goods, Purchases, Tasks, and Space"), was hard at work this weekend.

Amy's Fence 2009 021.jpgThe fence was, unfortunately, somewhat urgent because one of the neighbors in our group, Amy, had some problems with her back neighbor and needed a higher, more secure barrier between their two yards. Fortunately, the group was there for her and over two days we built a beautiful 40-foot-long fence. In the process we also took out an unused brick barbecue (reusing the mortar to mix into the post-hole cement and the bricks for filler behind the fence) and did some pruning and general maintenance on the yard.

Amy's Fence 2009 082.jpg

As you can see, Amy is pretty pleased with the end result. And sharing the work made it happen -- and made it fun. Now that we're fence experts, we'll build one at another member's house next month. 

Check after the jump for a few more photos of our group, hard at work.

Continue reading "Shared Work Weekend Means New Fence for Neighbor" »

April 23, 2009

Time Banking (in a Time of Banking Meltdowns)

Here's a cool sharing concept: Time Banks. The idea is that you give an hour of your time performing a service for someone -- say, mending some clothing -- and you accumulate an hour in your time bank, which you can then redeem for an hour of bike repair by someone else, for example. This appears to be a growing phenomenon, with Time Bank groups sprouting up here and there. It's not a new idea, because it's closely related to the idea of local currency systems, such as the Ithaca Hours currency.

I love the idea of Time Banks, first, because it provides an opportunity for people to experiment with new skills or activities -- i.e., do something other than our day job. If I were to join a time bank, I'd probably offer to pull weeds or walk someone's big adorable dog -- or some other healthy break from my usual days spent in front of the computer.

In addition, as the website states, time banking "unleashes untapped community capacity." It is so true that we live in communities of people rich with skills, abilities, and knowledge. Yet, many of us have a job where we put to use only one or a few of our skills. Time banking could help us tap into that great potential, and encourage us all to grow and develop.

Then there are those people without jobs, which, unfortunately, was a large number last time I checked. Time banking provides new opportunities for the unemployed, people with disabilities, or stay-at-home parents, for example, to get some of their needs met, while feeling like they are making a useful contribution -- even without having a job.

The Time Bank website doesn't say much about taxes, but that's an important thing to keep in mind. As far as I can tell, the same tax rules apply to time banking as they do to bartering. Even in exchanges where no money changes hands, you may still have to pay taxes on the value of what you receive. In general, casual, one-time, and noncommercial exchanges are not taxed. But if one or both of the exchangers are in the business of providing the services exchanged, you'll probably owe tax on the fair market value of the service you receive. In other words, if I accumulated 10 hours in my time bank by performing legal services, and I redeemed them for 10 hours of work by a professional accountant, I should pay taxes on the value of the accounting I received. On the other hand, if I accumulate hours by walking dogs and pulling weeds, and receive a little help with bike repair and tree pruning, taxes wouldn't apply. But it can get complicated, so if you plan to do a lot of Time Banking, make sure you talk to a tax expert to find out what is taxed and what isn't.
April 20, 2009

What to Do With 500 Plums

Last summer, I had a couple of exchanges that went like this:

Exchange #1:
Me: "Hi Donna! I brought you a bag of plums from our tree!"
Donna: [Breathing a long sigh.] "Well, ok. I'll take them. But only if you take a bag of mine."
Exchange #2:
Me: "Hi Elisa! I brought you a bag of plums from our tree!"
Elisa: "Nooooooooooo!"
Okay, okay!!! I had no choice but to retreat with my plums and make 10 jars of jam. It turns out Donna had at least a thousand plums in her backyard, and Elisa had already been bombarded by way too many well-meaning plum sharers. The problem is that none of us wants to see perfectly good fruit go to waste. Now that Berkeley's plum trees are blossoming, it reminds me that I should start thinking about how to manage the plum crop this year.

Fortunately, a start-up Internet company is preparing to launch a site that may get us out of this, ahem, jam. Neighborhood Fruit is a website with a mapping feature that will allow fruit tree owners to post offers for free fruit, and for fruit-lovers, pie bakers, or hungry wanderers to find fruit instantly. Tree owners could leave bags of fruit on their doorstep or give permission for someone to harvest the tree themselves.

I think this is brilliant! If used widely, it could virtually eliminate the surprising amount of food waste that occurs in people's yards. It could mean that small-scale local food artisans -- people who make pies or preserve fruit, for example -- could greatly reduce the cost of their ingredients, and compete with the big food processing companies. It means that a tree owner who is not physically able to harvest his or her own tree could connect with an able-bodied person who can. And it means that this year, I'll be eating peaches, persimmons, blackberries, and pears, and NOT JUST PLUMS!
April 16, 2009

Some Benefits of Sharing

The benefits of sharing are many, and I'm always discovering new ones. Sharing can benefit us personally and financially, and it can make the world a much better place. Here is a listing of some of the benefits:

Social and Personal Benefits.
These are some of the ways that your life, and society as a whole, will be better because of sharing. For example, sharing can help everyone:
  • get to know our neighbors and make neighborhoods safer
  • make friends
  • find resources and referrals more easily
  • find new ways to relate to friends, relatives, coworkers, and neighbors
  • lighten our load of responsibilities
  • create more free time
  • meet the needs of seniors and people with disabilities
  • increase resources and opportunities for low-income households
  • support small businesses and buy locally
  • access better nutrition, and
  • access higher-quality goods.
Environmental Benefits. Sharing is kind to the planet, because it:
  • uses space, energy, and resources more efficiently
  • reduces consumption
  • reduces waste
  • reduces energy use
  • helps us invest in green products, alternative energy, and durable goods
  • shrinks your carbon footprint
  • sets a green example for others, and
  • helps take cars off the road.
Financial Benefits. The financial benefits of sharing really add up. Through sharing, you can:
  • spread the cost of owning high-quality and durable goods
  • reduce the cost of caring for a child or other family member
  • reduce the cost of food, fuel, and supplies
  • accomplish home repairs without paying for labor
  • spread the risk of loss, damage, and depreciation
  • share homeownership and build equity
  • save money through collective buying, and
  • get access to luxury items you couldn't afford alone.
April 13, 2009

Sharing in Every Realm of Life

There are ways to incorporate sharing into almost every realm of life. Here's a sampling of ways to share:

  • Find a friend or a neighbor who would like to share a car and make a schedule to take turns.
  • Join an established car-sharing program, such as City CarShare or ZipCar.
  • Buy a home with a friend.
  • Consider living in cohousing.
  • Retrofit a large house to accommodate two households.
  • Live cooperatively in a group house.
  • Share a vacation home.

Continue reading "Sharing in Every Realm of Life" »

April 10, 2009

Welcome to the Sharing Solution Blog

Welcome to Janelle and Emily's blog about all things sharing! Neither of us invented sharing -- we are, simply put, sharing enthusiasts. We are excited about the possibilities for sharing to alleviate problems in our communities, environment, and economy -- and to reshape our world in beautiful ways.

There is a lot to say about sharing, which is why we have written a whole book, The Sharing Solution, about it, and why much more could be written. The creation of a more sharing and cooperative society is a work-in-progress. Watching the progress will be fascinating, and the results will, no doubt, be inspiring and delightful.

On this blog, we will post:

  • new or interesting sharing ideas
  • personal stories about people who share
  • tips about what works and what doesn't
  • links to and information about helpful resources for sharers
  • information about laws that affect or govern sharing arrangements, and
  • any other thoughts or information about how to make the world a more sharing place.

We are hopeful that our readers will share their thoughts with us and help us learn about new ways of sharing. If you know of an interesting way that people are sharing, have an interesting personal story, or know of a helpful resources, we'd love it if you'd pass along the info to us. Not everything our readers send will make it into the blog, but it will help inform us and expose us to the vast world of sharing ideas. We can be reached by clicking the link on the right, or by emailing  sharing (at) janelleorsi (dot) com. Thank you!