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99 tips for a better world (29 of 99): share

I’m writing today’s tip in a cosy living room in the Richmond District with an attention-seeking cat on my lap. I just made myself a cup of tea and later on will make myself dinner. The UPS guy just came to the door to deliver a package. ‘Coraly?’ he tried to pronounce the name on the box. I nodded and smiled and took the box. I’m not Coraly but he doesn’t need to know that.

I arrived in San Francisco yesterday and Coraly’s home is my hotel for the rest of the week. I found her apartment through – one of the most successful examples of the share economy at work.

The share economy operates on the principle that in addition to buying and selling, we can also share for a fee. What makes this different from regular old renting is that private owners offer the use of their stuff – for a price – when they’re not using it. In the case of Coraly’s apartment, I’m using her spare bedroom. Other examples include people sharing their car or bike or camera.

I’ve been using AirBnB for a couple of years now and am yet to have a bad experience. Indeed, some of my best travel experiences came via AirBnB. The website is reliable and the system for booking works every single time. You don’t have to worry about paying the owner directly because the transactions happen online, and if there is a problem, AirBnB will have your back. The photos of apartments are accurate (AirBnB sends out photographers), and the AirBnB community provides honest and reliable reviews. If someone is hard to deal with, you’ll know about it. And it’s always cheaper than a comparable hotel.

What I love most about the share economy (even more than the cost savings) is the idea that we can extend the usefulness of what already exists, which means needing to make less new stuff. You find a reliable car-pooling system and your family might not need a second car. Someone in your neighbourhood is offering up their KitchenAid – you don’t do all that much baking so instead of buying your own KitchenAid to dominate your bench space every single day of the year, just arrange to borrow the KitchenAid when you need to make a birthday cake.

Maybe sometimes it takes a little bit more effort to share – no impromptu, middle of the night, cake-baking sessions – but in most cases the effort is minor in comparison to the positive impact for our over-consuming society. On the flipside, sharing can be easier (and less problematic for your credit card bill) than buying something outright. With AirBnB it’s often easier than a hotel (I have a laundry, kitchen, flexible check-in/check-out).

As diligent adults we teach children about the virtues of sharing, and we can remind ourselves of those virtues too. Using less stuff is good for us and the planet. And we’d better get used to it because sooner or later the planet is going to stop spewing forth resources every time we want something new. The future is in the hands of those who share.

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