Recently in Neighborhood Sharing Category

May 10, 2010

Peer-to-Peer Car-Sharing On Its Way

Car-sharing happens on many levels. Your friend borrows your car for a day; you and your neighbor agree to share equal ownership and use of one car; you and five neighbors and friends share ownership of a pickup truck; you use ZipCar when you need to go the grocery store.

Soon, you may be able to share your personal vehicle or use vehicles belonging to your neighbors, using technology similar to that used by rental and car-sharing systems. It's called peer-to-peer car-sharing and it's catching on in the United States and abroad. In California, a peer-to-peer car-sharing bill has passed out of committee and is headed to the Assembly floor in May. A new site called RelayRides is launching person-to-person car-sharing in the Baltimore and Boston areas. And in the UK, WhipCar says peer-to-peer rentals area available across the country.
 
November 3, 2009

"Bioneering" Ideas for Sharing, Part 1

The weekend before last, I shared a "Cooperative Living and Sharing Brainstorm Booth" with Regenerative Real Estate at the incredible Bioneers Conference.  Our booth featured a coffee table and chairs in a circle, and we invited passers by to come in, have a cup of tea, and brainstorm with us on huge poster boards.  It's safe to say that was the most idea-stimulating three days of my life!  Bioneers brings together some amazing thinkers and activists, and they shared a lot of thoughts.
bioneers booth 1.jpg

In my next few blog posts, I'll list some of the ideas that we brought home on post-it notes attached to out brainstorm boards.  First, here are some of the ideas we collected in answer to the question: "How do we create STRONG COMMUNITY in our neighborhoods?"

  • Remodel the suburbs
  • Reclaim your suburban neighborhood!
  • Set up a barter system, produce share, and clothing swap
  • Neighborhood kiosks and bulletin boards
  • See what City Repair did
  • Draft ethics and agreements that the whole group creates and supports, creating a sense of ownership/accountability to the community
  • Front yard and safe active common space
  • Connect food and home. Agriculture where we live.
  • Collaboration between landlords and tenants.
  • Create unity among tenants of rental housing.
  • Get out from under the hypnosis of consumerist society and realize a new world is possible.
  • Foster multigenerational communities: children and elders together!
  • Map the skill base of your neighobrs (find out who are the painters, builders, doctors, lawyers, gardeners, massage therapists, etc.)
  • Regular annual food-based house parties
  • It's all about architecture
  • Foster compassion toward yourself and extend it to others.
  • Imagine you're an ecosystem nurtured by "THANKS!!!!" from the future. (We thank Paul Horan of Young Ecosystem Scholars Support Services for sharing that piece of wisdom.)
  • Bring together a community and ask: What are we going to do that is EXTRAORDINARY?
  • Feast together!
bioneers booth 3.jpg

October 1, 2009

Plant Sharing - Good For Us, Good For Our Plants

Every year, my mom, an avid gardener, puts out the word to her friends and colleagues that she is having a massive plant give-away. Her garden seems to get more vibrant every year, but I found out that part of the work of maintaining it is digging up a good portion of the plants annually. A lot of perennial plants tend to grow outward from the center, forming ever-widening clumps, while dying back in the center. This explains why my mint plants all grow to be shaped like donuts, and eventually just look pathetic. What I should do is take the mint out of the pot, divide the soil into four clumps, keep one clump, and give the other three as gifts.

By dividing literally hundreds of plants and giving them away to good homes, my mom gives her garden really good karma. I mean, look at at it:
momsgarden.JPG

garden1.jpg

I also read a heart-warming story about a woman in North Carolina who grew 2000 vegetable starts to give away, after learning that many local families were struggling to put food on the table as a result of the recession. First, she put out the word on the Internet and got a ton of seeds donated. She started them in small pots, then had an event to hand them out. She gave them to anyone, on the condition that they also share the harvest. Great way to spread the sharing spirit! She literally planted the seeds of sharing in the community - I love it!

By the way, if you want to do something for Climate Action Day, giving out tons of seedlings is an idea!

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:

July 9, 2009

Picture the Sharing Revolution, Part 2: Driveways

Today, the average household has about 2.28 cars. If every household gave up one car and met any transportation gaps with carsharing, carpooling, bicycling, and public transportation, we'd free up a ton of driveway space. Here are some thoughts about what people can do with all of this newfound space:

  • Driveway Movie Theater. My partner pointed out that with a long extension cord and projector, we could turn our driveways into good old-fashioned outdoor theaters (not "drive-ins" mind you, because no one will be driving). Wait until sunset, cover the garage door with a sheet, set up some chairs in the driveway, fire up the popcorn popper, and press "play."
  • A Mural at Every House. Garage doors are great spaces for murals, and murals are a wonderful way to bring communities together and make the world a more beautiful place.
  • Chalk Art Studio and Gallery. Along the same lines of beautifying the neighborhood, you can turn one driveway into a chalk art studio and gallery. Keep a bucket or two of good chalk around, and let the creativity flow. A sloped driveway would be especially good for this, because it makes for easier viewing by awestruck passers-by.
  • Skating Rink and Skate Park. Create a barrier at the end of the driveway so that no one rolls into the street, install a grinding rail, and set the kids loose to skate to their hearts' content. (With proper supervision, of course, and only if everyone is using wrist guards and helmets. I'd also recommend knee, elbow, and -- oof -- butt pads.)
  • Basketball Court. That's a no brainer.
  • Parking for the Neighborhood Electric Cars. You can use one driveway as a charging station for the shared electric vehicles in the neighborhood.
  • Container Herb and Vegetable Garden. Install a container garden in one driveway so that all neighbors can all come grab a sprig of oregano or rosemary when a recipe calls for it.
A note about removing driveways: Another option is to remove all or part of a driveway and put in a garden, lawn, or playground. But before you convert parking land to park land, check your local zoning laws and get permission from your city. In many neighborhoods, it's a requirement that each house have a certain amount of driveway space. This is how cities control crowded street parking conditions. There's a possibility that your driveway is larger than your zoning law requires, so it may be worth checking into the possibility of partial removal.
July 7, 2009

Picture the Sharing Revolution, Part 1: Garages

A sharing revolution will transform everything about our world -- it will transform our streets, our neighborhoods, our work, even our garages. Especially our garages. This is Part One of a series. I'm going to start, piece-by-piece, examining what our world would look like once the sharing revolution takes hold.

Starting with garages.

More than half of all U.S. households have them, and more often than not, they are like GIANT CLOSETS -- filled to the brim with stuff we use infrequently: lawn mowers, weed whackers, ladders, snow blowers, sports equipment, tools, junk you've been meaning to get rid of but haven't gotten around to yet, etc.

But to a sharing neighborhood, each garage is 400 square feet of pure potential. If everyone on a block gets together and consolidates their stuff (getting down to one lawn mower on the whole block, for example), if they get rid of some cars and plan more carpooling and carsharing, have a huge neighborhood yard sale, repurpose each garage, and give everyone access, the neighborhood could be transformed into a virtual resort. Picture a block where 8 neighbors repurpose their garages:

  • Garage #1: The Gym. Drawing from neighbors' existing equipment, put in the stationary bike, a treadmill, an elliptical machine or two, weights, and so on, and give everyone access during reasonable hours. Cancel your gym memberships and save some money, too.
  • Garage #2: The Music Room. Soundproof the heck out of one garage, roll in a piano, put in a drum set, DJ's decks and a disco ball, and the neighborhood garage bands will be off and rockin'. Sometimes open the garage door and have a dance party in the driveway.
  • Garage #3: The Workshop. Consolidate tools, workbenches, and other useful items into one garage. Be sure to carefully label everything or take inventory so you don't forget whose tools are whose. All neighbors can come to repair broken household items, or do wood working projects.
  • Garage #4: The Rec Room. Give it a cozy feel with some carpeting and couches, fill it with toys, games, and a ping pong table, and let the fun begin!
  • Garage #5: Art Studio. This would be a place for folks to share art supplies, spread out with their art projects, and store their works in progress.
  • Garage #6: Stuff Library. This is where you store that one neighborhood lawn mower, and any other items that neighbors are willing to lend to each other -- bread machines, sewing machines, camping gear, volleyball net, and so on.
  • Garage #7: Dry Goods "Store." Neighbors who want to save money could make bulk orders together and store goods in once place, and maybe come up with a ticket system for dividing expenses. For example, neighbors could buy 500 rolls of [recycled] toilet paper and store them in Garage #7. Each time a neighbor needs to stock up, he or she can go in the garage, "pay" 4 tickets per roll, and take home what is needed. It's like having an informal grocery cooperative on your own block.
  • Garage #8: The Library. Carefully label your books and DVDs and shelve them here. Come up with a system for checking items out. Add a couch or two, and the library becomes a quiet place for anyone to come, relax, and get lost in book land.
This all sounds like a huge and possibly daunting project, but the idea can start small. You can start by teaming up with one neighbor. Store things in one neighbor's garage and turn the other neighbor's garage into a gym or rec room. When it feels right, propose the idea to another neighbor, and turn their garage into a workshop, and so on. Then add another neighbor. And another!
June 30, 2009

Why Are Chickens Leading the Sharing Revolution?

Now that The Sharing Solution is officially released, Emily and I have spent much of the past few weeks talking - on the radio and in bookstores - to people about sharing. I love it when people respond with their sharing stories and ideas, many of which will ultimately make their way on to this blog.

But I NEVER would have guessed that one of the most frequent comments we hear is: "Oh, my neighbor and I have been thinking about sharing chickens!" The first time I heard this, it was charming. Cool idea, I thought. But now we've heard it again....and again....and AGAIN! Chicken sharing, chicken clubs, coop-building parties, and all kinds of people who are really putting the "coop" in "cooperative."

Chicken sharing actually makes a lot of practical sense. Let's say you, like most people, eat eggs, and you are thinking about getting chickens (and by that, I really mean hens; roosters make noise, not eggs, and they are often illegal to keep in high-density residential areas). If you live in an urban or even suburban area, this could meaning devoting a significant portion of your yard to building a coop and giving the chickens a little free range. Many people wouldn't go to all of this effort for just one or two chickens. But what if you get 15 chickens, have a coop building party with seven of your neighbors, and start taking turns caring for the chickens? You could even take down part of a fence so that the chickens can have more space to roam into your neighbor's yard. Each neighbor is assigned one day of the week to feed the chickens and collect eggs.

What do you get? Fifteen hens will produce, on average, around 7 dozen eggs per week. This means that each neighbor will have a dozen fresh and delicious eggs. If that sounds good, take a look at www.backyardchickens.com, which has all kinds of great resources to get you started.

Chicken sharing is very much in line with the movement to eat fresh, local, organic, and sustainably produced food, so it makes sense that many people are turning to chicken sharing. And I imagine that chicken sharing will naturally lead to other kinds of sharing in the neighborhood. If I had a dozen or more eggs per week, I'd probably make a few quiches and share them with the neighbors, which might lead to more regular meal exchanges. Maybe we'd plan a monthly brunch potluck. Maybe start a shared vegetable garden in another neighbor's yard, and start cooperating to compost all of our food scraps. Maybe start a dog-walking rotation, or a child care cooperative. The possibilities are endless.

So I still don't know which came first -- I just know that both the chicken and the egg are at the forefront of a movement, and that every neighborhood with a chicken club has already hatched a small sharing revolution.