The Problem: No Sharing Community
In today’s world, it’s incredibly easy to accumulate all kinds of crap. I would put money on the guess that a majority of my generation are the bane of our parents’ lives. We head off to university, leaving all of our childhood belongings in our bedrooms. We finish uni, and head home, dumping even more possessions before moving to new cities to pursue our careers. Our parents are left with boxes on boxes of unused belongings that we are too sentimental to part with.
I am definitely guilty of this; even as I sit here back in my parents’ house in Devon I can feel the presence of my boxes in the attic. I make a conscious effort to go through my stuff and cull every time I am home – you should too, I can guarantee that at least half of the stuff that you felt sentimental about a year ago will mean nothing to you now. We are a consumerist society. We buy things that we don’t really need, and when they break we buy a new one rather than fixing it.
UK Sharing Community
During my environmental studies in London, I was further researching the closed-loop economy (an economy with no outputs of waste), when I discovered the concept of the sharing economy by volunteering with an organisation called The People Who Share for Global Sharing Day (which incidentally is a whole week this year from June 5th – 11th). The idea behind it is of sharing our skills, and swapping our unwanted items for other peoples – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! In the UK, there are a few websites that promote sharing behaviour. I’m sure that you will have heard about Air BnB and Borrow My Doggy (although for both of those you have to pay a subscription fee), but a less-known website is Streetlife. Signing up to Streetlife involves giving you postcode so that you can see who is searching for, and advertising what in your local area. What’s great about Streetlife is that it encourages members to borrow and lend as apposed to giving away, meaning that you don’t necessarily have to say goodbye to something forever.
Starting a Sharing Community in Chiang Mai
However, obviously I have not been living in the UK for some time. Chiang Mai is a city that can easily be associated with the hippy lifestyle. The people that are living there are very like-minded, many are living on a similar wage, and many are involved in the traveller lifestyle that warrants minimalistic and lightweight living. In my last few months of my Chiang Mai life, I realised how much stuff I had collected, and how many of my outfits that I no longer wore as they didn’t really suit me. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands by starting Chiang Mai Sharing Community group on Facebook, inviting as many people as I could to post whenever they needed to borrow something. Today, the group stands at 263 members. The group is great, but it still didn’t solve my problem of excess.
Many of you (especially the women) will have heard about clothes swaps: a type of party that involves guests bringing a few items of clothing and swapping them amongst each other, so guests leave with the same amount of clothes that they came with. I wanted to take this idea to a new level, and managed to do just that with the help of Focus Gallery (a great venue for hosting any kind of event in Chiang Mai). Over the next two months I hosted a clothes swap, that then developed into a swap market that allowed people to swap any items that they wanted to. The best thing is, that you didn’t have to leave with as many things as you came with: anything that was left over was given to local charities, including an orphanage and hilltribes. Both members and local people ended up with a new wardrobe – voila! Everyone’s a winner when you’re part of a sharing community!
The whole experience left me feeling great, and I hope that the group will continue to run now that I am not there. It felt good to be organizing something again, that encourages a change in our learned behaviour. Remember: being part of a sharing community reduces your expenditure, reduces waste and consumerism, increases your social relationships and strengthens the local community! So next time that you go to throw something away, think about finding a nearby sharing community or swap event.
If you would like any advice on starting a sharing community, please don’t hesitate to ask me! Have you started something similar in your area? Have you got a crazy idea for promoting a closed-loop economy? Let me know, I would love to hear about it!