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December 9, 2009

The Return of the Holiday Party: How Sharing Makes it Happen

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Yup, it's that time of year again--holiday time. But it's also recession time, and businesses are spending less--and an easy place to cut costs is to reduce the costs of company events. One of the casualties of the recession has been the traditional company holiday party--but sharing is helping the tradition make a comeback. According to the New York Times, smaller companies can present parties on a budget by sharing the costs of venue and food with other companies. For example, a Philadelphia catering company offers Snow Balls, described as "all-inclusive, shared corporate holiday parties," as the solution to the difficulties of entertaining during the recession. A New Jersey hotel is offering similar options. The benefits extend beyond giving the employees an event to go to--organizers point out that the companies and their employees have the opportunity to network with the other businesses sharing the venue. Certainly, connecting with others is one of our favorite benefits of sharing, at holiday time and throughout the year. 

September 30, 2009

Social Sustainability Blog Reviews The Sharing Solution

Really nice shout-out for The Sharing Solution yesterday on "Social Sustainability: Musings on the Social Side of Sustainability." Thanks Jennifer! And look for a more to come on this blog about Living Green: Communities that Sustain, by Jennifer Fosket and Laura Mamo. 
July 5, 2009

Sharing Revolution v. Big Grey Cloud

With all the excitement around the release of The Sharing Solution, I have been daydreaming lately about the sharing revolution. The sharing revolution. Hmm... that seems to merit capital letters: THE SHARING REVOLUTION!

That's better.

We are on the brink of something exciting, something with the power to transform our world. I love to imagine the near future, when people everywhere share cars with their neighbors, start local tool-lending libraries and childcare cooperatives, do regular mealsharing with friends, and form casual cohousing arrangements in every neighborhood. What's more, the value of all of these things is somehow greater than the sum of their parts, and the potential of it all makes me gasp.

First of all, I've seen all those tiny green sprouts popping up all over the place. They are everywhere: sprouts of hope, new technologies, new attitudes, social justice, green collar jobs, and community building. They are sprouts of community gardens, solar panels, bicycle lanes, buy-local initiatives, recycling programs, fair trade, microlending programs, restored creeks, and so many other beautiful things.

Okay, granted, there's a huge grey cloud making it hard to see these little sprouts. It's true that the economy, the environment, war, unemployment, evictions, foreclosures, homelessness, contamination, water shortages, businesses closing, and the disappearance of fish in the sea, to name a few, make for one very large grey cloud (VERY LARGE GREY CLOUD).

But the sprouts are most definitely there. What I'm wondering is: When are these sprouts going to grow enough to overtake the grey cloud? Seems to me that if they grow just enough, they'll create fertile ground for more growth, and more, and more! But for now, their growth is frustratingly slow. Too slow?

I could think of ways to speed them up, but many ways require change mostly beyond my control. There are top-down changes, like getting the government to put money into green-collar job creation, instead of, say, prisons. But I'm not holding my breath -- and I'm not expecting our government to catalyze the growth of the sustainability movement (though I truly appreciate that our President is on the right track).

What about all those millions of people with wonderful ideas, great intentions, and the will to change the world? The grassroots! Couldn't they (I mean, we) get this new green revolution going? Unfortunately, with the way things are going, I'm worried that we won't. So many of us are overworked, burnt out, struggling to make ends meet, and worried a lot about our own survival right now. It's not easy contending with a large grey cloud.

But I only say all this to emphasize the importance of the missing ingredient: Sharing! Or, perhaps I should say: SHARING! Sharing has the most potential to add momentum to the changes already taking place, getting us to the tipping point where a sustainable and socially just world is truly possible. Sharing is not just the fertilizer that helps those green sprouts grow bigger. Sharing is more like a catalyst -- one small ingredient that you can add to the mix that makes everything just explode.

The power of sharing is unique in a handful of ways:

  • Sharing, unlike recycling, is naturally contagious. Sharing opens up a pattern of generosity and mutual caring that breeds on itself. A lot of other things we do to change the world aren't quite so viral. One person reducing his or her waste, for example, may or may not inspire a neighbor to do so. But offering to let your neighbor use your basketball hoop or eat strawberries from your patch opens up the flood gates of generosity.
  • Sharing is self-serving, so we'll want to do it. Sharing helps us meet our needs more efficiently and cheaply, and sharing our snow blower with a neighbor might mean that she will let us use her hot tub. (Yessss!) Sharing builds community, which makes us happier people, and cooperation has been shown to release endorphins. So there's no need to force anyone to share -- people will naturally start doing it to enjoy the benefits.
  • Sharing reverses the drain on our time, energy, and resources. For those of us who are spread way too thin, sharing saves resources, money, time, and energy, thereby freeing us up to garden, compost, recycle, hang our laundry, ride our bicycle, volunteer, advocate for social and environmental justice, and do things to help ourselves and the planet. We'll all get a little more rest, the support of a community of sharers, and the strength we need to get all the sprouts growing. In short, sharing gives the grassroots the time, energy, and resources we need to grow a better world.
  • Sharing connects all of our isolated world-changing acts and boosts their potential. As I noted, the sprouts are everywhere -- people planting urban food gardens, composting their food waste, and installing solar panels. But many of these are things we do in isolation -- and when we can find the time and energy. Sharing adds the element of community, which boosts the potential and the impact of everything we do -- neighbors can get together to jointly purchase or bargain for solar power, or they can start a neighborhood compost project. It's more efficient, and each additional person who joins the effort compounds the benefit to the earth and to the others in the group. Much of what we do to save the world can be done better if we organize and cooperate, and it can be much more fun that way, too!
  • We don't have to wait for someone else to hurry up and do anything. We don't have to wait until our government starts a new program or provides needed funding. We don't need to change the laws. We don't have to wait until a scientist invents a solution. We don't even need to form a nonprofit or fundraise to get started. We just start sharing. Today.
  • Every single one of us can share. I've been known to say things like: "I can't afford to make a donation;" "I don't have time to volunteer more;" and "I don't know how to install solar panels." It's all true. But it's hard to say, "I can't afford to share," or "I don't have time to share," or "I don't know how to share." Sharing is something that everyone can do. Even a curmudgeon, even a poor person, even a busy person. I think the hardest part is getting started, then ironing out the details, understanding everyone's expectations, and figuring out the logistics. But my friend Emily Doskow and I just wrote a book to help everyone through that part. So otherwise, there's nothing stopping any of us from sharing.
  • Sharing is a clean and easy way to get rid of the big grey cloud. Somehow or another, we need to get rid of that cloud. Otherwise our future looks like, well, a big grey cloud. There are all kinds of approaches to this -- some folks reform the system, lobbying, advocating, and making changes bit-by-bit. This is an important thing to do, but it's way too slow. Others propose bringing down the system in one fell swoop, which usually involves an uprising, or a full-blown violent revolution. I can only imagine that this would be messy. Very messy. The system has very large weapons, and even if we do succeed in taking out the system, we will then be faced with the task of rebuilding something on top of a big mess. Fortunately, we really don't need to remove the system before we can start replacing it. Even while the grey cloud is still hanging out, we can start sharing, nourishing our local economies, going organic, and creating rewarding green-collar job opportunities. The spouts of our new system will simply overtake the cloud with time.

First, there's the "grow or die" economy -- where companies must compete in order to survive, grow in order to compete, and create increasing demand for their products in order to grow. And the best way for a company to sell a lot of a product is to create a culture of "self-reliance" and "convenience," convincing all people that they should have one of their OWN. This culture of "self-reliance" is so ingrained in us that it would feel awkward asking the guy in the neighboring apartment unit if he would like to share a vacuum cleaner. Vacuum manufacturers would want us to believe that we should each have a vacuum, or even two.

Second, there's the fact that, until recently, we could maintain this lifestyle without actually seeing the impact of it. Now we have seen how perpetual growth is eating away at the planet's natural resources, melting the icecaps, and undermining a stable economy. Now the images of factory farms and third world sweatshops have made their way into our minds, and we are all searching for a more compassionate and sustainable way.

In the meantime, we have gotten out of practice with sharing. Sharing and cooperation are arguably as old as civilization itself. But today, much of the sharing and cooperation we do are managed by the government or businesses via incredibly complex systems of global cooperation. As consumers, we mostly just experience the end-products, such as electricity, water, manufactured goods, and food. So while we benefit greatly from cooperation, we have lost the ability to do it directly and face-to-face. In this sense, we are a vulnerable culture. We are blinded to the harms that our consumption inflicts on the world, and we are not prepared to meet our needs if or when the complex system crumbles.

So we might as well roll up our sleeves now, gather our friends, family, and neighbors, and get creative. Solar power cooperatives, neighborhood rainwater catchment installations, a cooperatively owned water purification system, community supported agriculture, neighborhood fruit tree harvests... The possibilities are endless and they will completely transform our world. That's why it's a sharing revolution. Not a trend, not a movement, but a REVOLUTION. Goodbye grey cloud. Sharing is here to save the planet.

June 9, 2009

The Sharing Solution: Come to Our Events!

Want to hear more about The Sharing Solution and even join the conversation? Here's a listing of some of our upcoming radio shows and bookstore readings. Hope you can be there or tune in!

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Tues., June 9, 5:30 pm PT
With Jonathan Rowe, KWMV  "American Off-Line"
Point Reyes, CA

Listen to Janelle
Wed., June 10, 6:30 am PT
With Jan Miyasaki, WORT-FM "The 8:00 Buzz"
Madison, WI 

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Wed., June 10, 9:05 am PT
With Frankie Boyer, WROL, WSRO "The Frankie Boyer Show;"
Boston, MA

Listen to Emily
Thurs., June 11, 9:30 am
WGDR "Relocalizing Vermont,"
Plainfield, VT

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Thurs., June 11, 4:00 pm PT
Jeff Farias
www.thejefffariasshow.com

Sharing Solution Launch Party at the Berkeley Ecology Center
Friday, June 12 at 7:00pm
2530 San Pablo Avenue
Berkeley, CA
www.ecologycenter.org

Listen to Emily
Sun., June 14, 12:30 p.m. PT
KKUP, "The Wimmin's Music Program"
Santa Cruz, CA

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Tues., June 16, 5:00 pm PT
With Jean Ponzi,  KDHX "Earthworm"
St. Louis, MO

Reading at Laurel Book Store
Thursday, June 18 at 7:00pm
4100 MacArthur Blvd. (Laurel District)
Oakland, CA
www.laurelbookstore.com

Reading at Copperfield's Bookstore

Thursday, June 25 at 7:00pm
138 North Main Street
Sebastapol, CA
www.copperfields.net

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Mon. June 22, 11:00 am PT
With Patricia Raskin, "Positive Living" Voice America
www.voiceamerica.com

Reading at A Great Good Place for Books
Wednesday, July 8 at 7:00pm
6120 LaSalle Avenue (Montclair neighborhood)
Oakland, CA
www.ggpbooks.com

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Thurs., July 9, 8:00 pm PT
With John Ford, KAOS
Evergreen, WA
 
Listen to Janelle
Mon, July 13, 10:00 am PT
With France Kassing, KDVS 90.3 FM
University of California - Davis

Listen to Emily and Janelle
Mon., July 13, 6:00 pm PT
With Jone Devlin, KPFT (Pacifica) "Lesbian and Gay Voices"
Houston, TX
 
Reading at Diesel, A Bookstore
Wednesday, July 29 at 7:00pm
5433 College Avenue (Rockridge neighborhood)
Oakland, CA
diesel.booksense.com
May 26, 2009

Cash-Strapped States Find Sharing Is One Solution

Once in a while, someone hears about The Sharing Solution and says, "That's SO California!" To the contrary, sharing is catching on all over the place, as the New York Times reports in an article about sharing between state and local governments. Minnesota and Wisconsin, for example, are sharing everything from fish to sign language interpreters, saving up to $20 million over the next two years, as demonstrated in the Wisconsin Minnesota Collaboration Report.

Other states are sharing, too. In New Jersey, one county closed its juvenile detention facility, saving millions, and sent the detainees to a neighboring county. In Missouri and Pennsylvania, cities and boroughs voted to consolidate into other counties or towns to save money on services that otherwise would be duplicated. As the economy continues to struggle, we feel sure more and more people, organizations, and entities will catch on to the sharing solution.

May 24, 2009

The Sharing Solution Featured in East Bay Express

The May 20 issue of the East Bay Express weekly newspaper includes an article by Matthew Craggs about The Sharing Solution and its authors.

May 12, 2009

Annie Leonard's "Story of Stuff" in New York Times

Berkeley's own Annie Leonard, the "unapologetic" activist for sustainability who created the online video "The Story of Stuff," is the subject of an article in the New York Times on May 11, 2009. The 20-minute video, first posted in 2007, has become a popular way for teachers to present climate change issues in the classroom.

Annie Leonard is a fan of The Sharing Solution -- these are her comments about the book:

From the neighborhood level to the global, sharing may be the single most important strategy to reduce our environmental impact, gain financial health, promote equity and have fun. The Sharing Solution provides valuable advice and how-to tips for seasoned sharers and new converts. This book is a tremendously valuable resource for us all, and a must-read for those who want to chart a new path: a more sustainable, more compassionate and more fun one.

Congratulations to Annie Leonard on this great visibility for her important project!

April 24, 2009

Shared Work Weekend Means New Fence for Neighbor

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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 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!