Today’s Solutions: December 01, 2021
Below is an excerpt from Beth Buczynski’s new book ‘Sharing is Good’ published by New Society Publishers in August 2013. In it Buczynski outlines the benefits of collaborative consumption, why sharing drives progress, and how to overcome hurdles that keep people from sharing. Beth Buczynski regularly contributes to Care2 and EcoSalon. She was listed in Mashable’s 75 environmentalists to follow on twitter. Follow her at @ecosphericblog
Sharing may not be new, but adopting a lifestyle centered around collaborative consumption is still uncharted territory for many of us. To be a good citizen of the sharing economy, you must have an adventurous spirit and be willing to blaze a new and wonderful trail. The most successful sharers are those who aren’t afraid to be early adopters; they are willing to explore new ways of doing things and share those experiences with the rest of the community.
The exciting thing about this movement is that we’ve never seen anything like it before. We’re still trying to figure out what a people- centered economy looks like. For some people, not knowing the rules and not being in charge of the process will be nerve-wracking, but we can’t give up. Nothing worth doing has ever been easy. Successful sharers have to be willing to experiment, to try even though it might deliver lackluster results, or even failure. But what’s out there to be gained? Very likely it’s new connections, enjoyable experiences, and the opportunity to relish the thrill of solving a problem without wasting time, energy or money! All of those benefits are out there, just waiting for us, but we have to be willing to take the first step of that unpredictable journey.
bethbuczynski_1367884868_58Ready for Adventure
Part of developing an adventurous spirit means learning to be flexible. Our consumption-obsessed culture has us trained to think that we are always a customer — and always right. As consumers, we’ve learned to be selfish, concerned only with our specific wants and desires. Even giving has become self-centered. Just look at what’s happened to the holidays. Advertising tells us that buying things for other people will make them love us more, or make us appear more successful, or will just make us feel good about ourselves. It’s become less and less about the recipient and more and more about the buyer (giver). We have the attitudes of emperors rather than the humility of servants. As Annie Leonard points out in “The Story of Change,” at StoryofStuff.org, we’ve forgotten that we are merely citizens of a world shared with millions of others just like ourselves. We’re used to getting everything “on demand,” right when we want it, as quickly as possible. When you plug into a community of sharers, on the other hand, you need to be patient. You may need to work with other people’s schedules, and, in some cases, take action on a moment’s notice. If you list a need on a peer-to-peer marketplace like Yerdle and someone contacts you with a way to fill it, your response is probably going to be time sensitive. If you’re looking for a ride home for the holidays through a ridesharing service like Ridejoy, you might have to leave at a different time than you had wanted or be willing to take a different route in order to accommodate your fellow travelers.
Being adventurous also means not turning back when things get hard or seem to go wrong. Where would we be today if Lewis and Clark had turned back the first time they came to a dangerous river or mountain pass? What would have happened if Jonas Salk de- cided that three attempts to develop the polio vaccine was enough, and he might as well give up? Even though the sharing economy has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, we’re far from having figured it all out. New ideas about how to build a life around sharing are being born every day. Some of them are brilliant, some aren’t. And some may be just a little ahead of their time.
Although collaborative consumption can deliver so many positive benefits for our families, communities, and environment, it’s not a silver bullet or a one-size-fits-all solution to everything. Sometimes, sharing services don’t catch on. Sometimes, your peers aren’t interested in attending a community potluck. Sometimes, no one shows up to a clothing swap. Sometimes, the thing that you rent isn’t as awesome as it looked in the picture.
Part of being an adventurous sharer means rolling with the punches and trying to learn whatever lessons there are to be learned, even in failure. My first experience renting a room through Airbnb was a huge success: the hosts picked me up from the airport, the room looked just like I expected, and we hung out drinking wine on the back porch the first night of my stay. I was thrilled! So, I booked another room when I needed to travel to attend a friend’s wedding. This time was different. These hosts didn’t offer to pick me up, so I had to rent a car. When I got to the address listed on Airbnb, the house and the neighborhood looked nothing like the pictures, and the hosts didn’t answer when I called to verify. There I was, lost, in a strange city in the middle of the night. I ended up getting a hotel. It turns out, the address was listed incorrectly on the website. When I got in touch with the hosts the next morning, they were very apologetic. They gave me the correct address, I found it without a problem (it was a beautiful house!) and they refunded my money for the first night immediately. I made it to my friend’s wedding without incident, and my hosts set out a great breakfast the next morning. After the first part of that negative experience, I could have decided to go back to the predictable yet boring world of commercial hotels, but I stuck it out and met some great people. Since then, I’ve used Airbnb several times and had more great experiences.
The moral of the story is to remember that we’re all new at this. There is no perfect way to share. Put on your explorer cap and take some pleasure in the fact that you are forging down the road less traveled. There will be some twists and turns. There may be obstructions in the trail. You just have to adjust your expectations, realize that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, and try, try, again.
Buy Sharing is Good on New Society’s website.
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