Yesterday James Wells issued a call for folks to "declare independence from what is harmful, yet somehow accepted in our world." His own contribution had to do with wasteful consumption; I commented that his topic was fortuitous in that I had had a mini-epiphany of sorts on that subject just the previous night, and he suggested that I write a diary about it. And so, here is my own modest contribution to that theme on this independence Day.
A few weeks back I made mention of an initiative that I am helping to get started here in the Lansing area that will hopefully create a Mondragon-type worker-owned and -managed cooperative business enterprise (something I said that I would write a diary about and haven't yet got around to but will in the near future). As this project has gotten underway I have had the very fortunate opportunity to begin collaborating with a couple of young folks who have launched the Mid-Michigan Time Bank. Christian and Edge remind me of myself when I was their age. Full of piss and vinegar, these two recent MSU grads have eschewed a free ride through Graduate School and employment in Corporate America to instead forge a path that includes going door-to-door to recruit people into the MMTB. They are also working to start an eco-village outside of town with a group of like-minded friends. Their enthusiasm and optimism for creating a future that they might want to raise children in someday is inspiring; I wish that all Americans shared such commitment.
Anyway, the other night I was contemplating the sale of my 1996 Sonoma pickup truck to help with some financial difficulties I'm having, when suddenly it occurs to me: why not donate the damn thing to the MMTB? I only use it occasionally for hauling manure and very large items, anyway. Instead of having it sit virtually unused in my backyard gathering leaves and mouse nests, the MMTB members could be using it to help them in their projects in all sorts of ways, especially when Chris and Edge and their friends get their eco-village off the ground. It will still be available for my own use when needed, and the donation will be a nice deposit in my time bank account that I can draw on in the future. Yes, I need the money right now, but I'll find another source for that somehow. This is a much better idea. I like it. A lot.
So this gets me to thinking about all the other stuff in my home and garage and shop that is just lying around unused and gathering dust. That router: I bought that many years ago for one project and have used it only a few times since then. There has got to be someone who would love to use it on a project for a fellow member. Same with my SawZall: three or four projects in all of fifteen years. The list goes on. All this stuff that I conspicuously consumed long ago could right now be in the hands of people like Chris and Edge who have hardly any stuff at all and could be using to build that better sustainable world we all so want to see happen.
That's what Collaborative Consumption is all about:
Collaborative consumption is a class of economic arrangements in which participants share access to products or services, rather than having individual ownership. Often this model is enabled by technology and peer communitiesIn the twenty years I worked as an Environmental Engineer at General Motors I accumulated a fair amount of stuff. And although I'd like to think that as a fervent environmentalist I made positive contributions to our planet working inside the system, in all honesty I really can't say for sure right now that if I were to sit down and do a full accounting of all the costs and benefits of my actions during that time that I would come out favorably in the karmic scales of environmental justice. If not, at the very least my current decision to begin putting these tools into the hands of people who need them most and are helping to build a more just and sustainable future might in some small way help redeem my past conspicuous consumption.
The concept has been championed by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers in their 2010 book What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. In June 2010, ABC Television's Big Ideas programme included a segment showing Botsman's speech at the TEDx Sydney conference in 2010, describing collaborative consumption as "a new socio-economic 'big idea' promising a revolution in the way we consume". In 2011 Botsman described it as a social revolution that allows people to “create value out of shared and open resources in ways that balance personal self-interest with the good of the larger community.” At TEDGlobal2012 Botsman articulated that the concept of trust, across multiple platforms, would constitute the currency of a new collaborative economy, asserting that “reputation capital creates a massive positive disruption in who has power, influence and trust."
In 2010, collaborative consumption was named one of TIME Magazine's 10 ideas that will change the world. The financial crisis of 2007–2010 and subsequent housing bubbles have prompted consumers to reconnect through peer-to-peer marketplaces that are turning underutilized assets and resources into new jobs, income streams and community networks. Napster pioneered peer-to-peer file sharing and subsequent platforms have emerged to facilitate the sharing of content, cars, bikes, tools and random household appliances. A growing generational shift has begun where consumers are less compelled to own, but place more value on access.
And so, on this Independence Day, I encourage you to take a look around at all the stuff you own and don't use very often and ask yourself the same questions I did. Then go find your local time bank and get involved. If there isn't a local time bank, think about starting one in your area. A sustainable and prosperous future is not going to come about on its own or with lofty-sounding goals written on a blog post. It's going to happen one router and SawzAll and pickup truck at a time. As Barack Obama put it:
Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.Happy Independence Day, everyone!