August 2009 Archives

August 26, 2009

Car Sharing on Campus: A Natural Fit for Chico State and Others

California State University at Chico announced this week that students, faculty, and staff will soon be able to participate in car sharing through a new partnership with Zipcar. Participants will pay a small initial membership fee and then have access to the five cars on campus for an hourly rate of $8 ($66 for the day).

Car sharing is a natural for college campuses. Often, students and faculty have little need for a car, either because the campus is situated within walking distance of stores and services or because it's fairly remote and self-contained. The expense of car payments, insurance, and parking is just not worth it for many--but a car does come in handy sometimes, and car sharing is perfect for those times. Not to mention it helps the campuses contribute to a more sustainable world, one of CSU Chico's stated reason for starting the program.

Zipcar says it has programs on 120 college campuses across the country and I imagine that will only grow.
August 17, 2009

Shared Housing on the Increase in Recessionary Times

This morning's San Francisco Chronicle sports a front page article with the headline "Rooms for rent a sign of the times." The article discusses the financial advantages to sharing, including, for some people, the ability to stay in a home they might otherwise lose because of the inability to make rent or mortgage payments, and offers statistics about the rise in shared housing in the current recession.

Shared housing is great from an economic standpoint, but here are some of the other reasons it's cool (from Chapter 6 of The Sharing Solution):

  • Shared housing can be a gateway to ownership.
  • Shared housing can get you more for your money--like a larger yard or a hot tub.
  • Shared housing helps seniors and people with disabilities, who can share the cost of in-home care and other services.
  • Shared housing creates community and facilitates convenience--having other people around decreases isolation and offers support.
  • Shared housing saves the planet--did you know that 75% of the lumber produced in the U.S. goes into homebuilding? And the construction of new housing, as well as the maintenance of houses once built, tax the planet in innumerable ways. Sharing uses less energy and less stuff, and makes it easier to afford sustainable materials and systems (like solar or grey water).

There are some tricks to sharing successfully, though. Some of the most useful information in the Chronicle article is in a sidebar called "Resources," which offers tips from experienced sharers about how to have a happy housing share. We agree with everything said there, including taking your time choosing your roommates and checking references--and especially the tips about keeping things harmonious in your home, like the advice to write up an agreement, to discuss how you'll resolve disputes, and to address problems while they're still small.

To these excellent bits of advice we'd add the suggestion that you take some time to learn to be an effective communicator, so that when you address those small problems they stay addressed, rather than creating additional problems because you raised the issue in a way that wasn't comfortable for your roomie. We recommend highly Sharon Ellison's book, The Art of Non-Defensive Communication, available at the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication website.

August 7, 2009

Trade Ya! My Tractor for Your Alpaca

I don't even know where to begin. There has been an explosion of new websites where people can trade, borrow, lend, share, and barter all kinds of stuff and services. I started to browse them tonight, landing first on BarterQuest, where you can post things that you have and things that you want, and look for a suitable exchange. I clicked the first category of goods, "Agriculture," and much to my delight, the first barter offer that I saw was for alpacas! I think it would be wonderful to raise alpacas, for many reasons. The listing offered to trade an alpaca for a 40 horsepower tractor with a backhoe attachment. Darn! I don't have a tractor to trade.

But my disappointment faded as I explored deeper into other swap and barter sites. I'm especially thrilled to know about Neighborrow, where you can create "Neighborrow-hoods" and borrow and lend items with people who live near you. Probably no one in my neighborhood will lend me an alpaca, but that's ok.

Next, I explored:

  • PriorAttire, where you can trade in children's and teens' clothing

  • Swap Baby Goods, which includes baby clothes and other gear, like strollers and toys.

  • Zwaggle, where you can share, trade, and swap kids gear, and receive redeemable points (or "zoints," as Zwaggle calls it).

  • SwitchPlanet for trading DVDs and Books

  • Swap a DVD, an "Online Movie Club"

  • SwapStyle, a "fashion-savvy website is for women who want to keep their wardrobes fresh and stylish, without the large price tags."

Add to this list sites I discussed in a prior blog post, including SwapTree and LendAround.

There are plenty of other exciting websites to discuss, including sites that go beyond simple trades, and foster deeper community-building at the neighborhood level. I'll have to blog about these another time, but in the meantime, take a look at rBlock and Bright Neighbor.

August 4, 2009

Picture the Sharing Revolution, Part 3: Our Streets

What will our world look like when the sharing revolution takes to the streets? First of all, in a world where there are carsharing programs, neighbors sharing cars, carpooling, dynamic ridesharing programs, bikesharing, and better public transportation, each household could probably get by with one car, as opposed to 2.28, the national average. That would mean half as many cars parked on the streets, much less traffic, and a lot of potential to get rid of some streets.

Why cut out some of our streets? There are many reasons, and here's a few:

  1. Isolated neighbors. The more traffic on a street, the less likely parents will allow their kids to play outside, the less likely neighbors are to have ever met each other.

  2. Sleepless nights. People get a better night's sleep when they live on a quiet street.

  3. Runaway water. Streets interrupt the natural flow and percolation of water by creating impervious surfaces. Fewer paved streets would allow water to penetrate the soil, reducing storm floods and polluted run-off, and promoting healthy groundwater supplies.

  4. Hot hot hot. Asphalt absorbs the heat, contributing to the urban heat island effect, and tempting people to fry eggs on the pavement to see if it really works.

  5. Crash. Wider streets make people drive faster, which makes for more accidents.

In many cities and suburbs, neighborhoods have grid layout. Here is a picture of this rather uninteresting design:
Street grid graphic.jpg

Now what happens if you take that grid and plunk a park down in the middle of some of the intersections? You get a neighborhood full of fun parks that are also quiet because they are surrounded on four sides by cul-de-sacs (see graphic below). You get many more quiet streets (in grey) and relegate the thru-traffic to a few streets (in black). These aren't just typical cul-de-sacs where it feels like a private and isolated dead-end road. Pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, and scooter-ers can all pass through easily. Does this look like a fun neighborhood?
Street heaven graphic.jpg
Grey = Quiet Streets; Black = Busier Streets; Green = Fun Parks!

Ready to transform our neighborhoods? Check out these great resources:

August 3, 2009

Bike-Sharing Comes to San Francisco--Temporarily

Over the past weekend, shared bicycles were available in San Francisco's beautiful Golden Gate Park. A state-of-the-art pay station spent five hours in the park on Sunday, allowing riders to swipe a credit card or use a prepaid pass to take one of the bikes out for a spin.

Users loved it, and city employees, including Mayor Gavin Newsom, are enthusiastic, but it was only a one-day thing. Mayor Newsom's plan to start a pilot bike-sharing program in the city by the Bay has been stalled out since he announced it in January, hampered by criticism that it was too small to succeed and by fears of vandalism and theft. 

Sunday's bikes were part of the "Bixi" system--a blend of the words "bike" and "taxi"--that is currently in use in Montreal. Let's hope it, or some form of bike-sharing, catches on in more cities soon.

August 2, 2009

Upcoming Sharing Solution Events

Come hear authors Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow discuss ways we can live more sustainably by sharing resources of all kinds - sharing a car with a neighbor, sharing yard space for food cultivation, starting a tool lending library, forming cohousing, childcare co-ops, community-supported agriculture programs, and more. All book talks include a fun cartoon presentation depicting how sharing will save the planet! We hope you can make it!

Book Talk at Vroman's Bookstore
Janelle Orsi presents The Sharing Solution
695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA
Friday, August 7, 2009, 7:00pm

Book Talk at Foster City Library
Janelle Orsi presents The Sharing Solution
1000 East Hillside Blvd., Foster City, CA (650-574-4842)
Monday, August 24, 2009, 7:30pm

Book Talk at Books, Inc., San Francisco
Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow present The Sharing Solution
2251 Chestnut Street (Marina neighborhood), San Francisco, CA
Tuesday, September 29, 2009, 7:30pm

Book Talk at Broadway Books, Portland, Oregon
Emily Doskow presents The Sharing Solution
1714 NE Broadway, Portland, OR
Monday, October 5, 2009, 7:00pm

Book Talk at Dimond Branch Library, Oakland
Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow present The Sharing Solution
3565 Fruitvale Ave., Oakland, CA
Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 7:00pm