So you want to simplify your lifestyle, and reach out to your neighbours and local community. Maybe you want to learn a new skill, or your drill has broken and you don’t want to splash out on a new one, or you have a drill gathering dust in the cupboard. Or you want to do something new, but it’s hard work to make things happen by yourself, and you would like the assurance that others share your vision or have the skills and willingness to help.
More and more websites are being developed that are enabling people to get in touch with each other. And the best are bringing people together in real life too.
“I want to share my stuff and skills with other people, and they have stuff and skills that I need too”
Local Exchange Trading Systems or Schemes have been around for a long time. They are local networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services with one another, without the need for money. LETS use a system of community credits, so that direct exchanges do not have to be made. People earn LETS credits by providing a service, and can then spend the credits on whatever is offered by others on the scheme: for example childcare, transport, food, home repairs or the hire of tools and equipment. And the service is usually valued by time, so for example an hour of childcare will ‘cost’ the same as an hour of home repairs. Contact details for LETS in Ox, Bucks and Berks.
Ecomodo lets you “lend and borrow each other’s everyday objects, skills and spaces with confidence.” They’ve thought carefully about the ‘with confidence’: the borrower and the item is rated after each transaction; lenders can request security deposits; they offer insurance. You can create a ‘lending circle’ in your neighbourhood, so it is closely tied to real world communities. For example, Low Carbon West Oxford has a lending circle. Update 20 March 2015: Ecomodo has now closed.
Bid & Borrow is very similar, but I think less user-friendly. Again, you can create a ‘sharing network’ in your neighbourhood, and on both sites you can post a wanted ad. Companies can advertise their goods for hire, but I think this detracts, and Bid & Borrow’s local search doesn’t work well. But still, there might be something you need here that isn’t on Ecomodo. Update 22 March 2016: Bid & Borrow has apparently closed.
Finally, there’s Streetbank. It’s the simplest of the sites, which might be a benefit. There are no lending circles; you get to see people within one mile of you, and all their things. There is no mention of ‘confidence’ or charging for items, but then maybe we need to trust people more and get away from money-based transactions. And you when you register, it is a condition that you add one thing that you would be prepared to help with, lend or give away; you can’t get away with not participating.
“I’ve got all this stuff I want to get rid of, but I don’t want it just to go into landfill”
Freecycle groups match people who have things they want to get rid of with people who can use them. You can either offer something, or post a ‘wanted’ message. They say: “Our goal is to keep usable items out of landfills… Another benefit of using Freecycle is that it encourages us to get rid of junk that we no longer need and promote community involvement in the process.” I wanted to get rid of the white gravel in my garden, so I offered it on Freecycle. Almost immediately, someone who wanted it got in contact, and they even took it all up for me! Freecycle groups in Ox, Bucks and Berks
There are websites which offer online swapping, such as Swapshop or a section of Gumtree. But there are also lots of swapshops happening in real life. There’s often no actual swapping involved. Just bring along stuff you don’t want and/or take away someone else’s stuff you do. Community Action Groups maintain a diary of swapshops in Oxfordshire. Is there anything similar in Berkshire or Buckinghamshire?