Learning how to share all over again…

Share all the tools!
Share all the tools!

One of my goals for owning my first home is to keep it free of stuff. This includes the garage. Unfortunately, the garage is already filling up with things. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, living spaces seem to follow the same rules. However, Heather and I found a remedy for our unnecessary accumulation: The NE Seattle Tool Library!

I didn’t know what a tool library was until my wife enlightened me. It’s a common place where people donate tools for public use. Not just hammers and hand saws, but power tools and plumbing supplies and electrical equipment. A whole garage full of crafty goodness, plus a bike repair station and in house large equipment woodworking area. All for a yearly membership fee of $20!

It's like a free hardware store!
It’s like a free hardware store!

It’s based off of the premise of shared resources. Home improvement equipment can cost on the upwards of thousands of dollars. Not to mention the amount of space tools take up gathering dust when not being used. Let’s be honest, unless you’re a hard core manly-man who lives and breathes Home Depot, you might pull out a cordless drill twice a year to do an odd project. Or an emergency comes up and you run down to Ace Hardware for $400 worth of supplies that you may never use again. Very inefficient and wasteful!

Work on your bike at the bike station.
Work on your bike at the bike station.
Shelves of crafty items!
Plenty to choose from at the tool library…

If the community comes together and pools its resources, suddenly you have a plethora of equipment that can be checked out and returned with a common storage space. No more cluttered garage and unused items. Beyond just things to use, there are instruction classes and an information library. Everything you need to repair your sink, sand your deck, or build that brand new arcade cabinet you always wanted! Everyone wins!

This is a big push towards a shared resource economy. Another similar idea (and one that may be implemented at the tool library) is time banking, where people make agreements to share skills. A doctor trades 1 hour of medical service to a family for 1 hour of childcare. A plumber trades 1 hour of plumbing service to a carpenter for 1 hour of carpentry. The importance isn’t on profit but connection.

Ridesharing, couchsurfing, and community gardening are all ways that people across the U.S. are coming together to form closer, more sustainable relationships. It’s an extension of the commons… a public space that is a resource for the whole community and is taken care of by the whole community. A reverse on the trend of resource hoarding; taking as much as you can as fast as you can before someone else can take it.

Come visit the NE Tool Library today!

Heather and I recognize that we have more space than any two people really need. In order to be responsible stewards for this space, we’ve decided to make our space productive. By converting our yard into a growing area, we can produce food not only for ourselves but friends and neighbors. We are constantly on the lookout for ways to be more sustainable and sharing oriented in our new home ownership!

If any of this sounds awesome, look around to see if there are groups and organizations nearby engaging in resource sharing. If not, start one! All it takes is a few people deciding to share with each other to get the idea off the ground.

Black Friday Blues

ahhhhh!!!!

Today is black Friday. Already there are reports of Americans behaving like animals. Somehow the promise of an extra 5% off turns people in savages. This day sickens me with its hype, materialism, and sheer gluttony. What’s worse, it follows a great American holiday based on thankfulness and sharing.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s uniquely American and celebrates our abundance and ability to share abundance. Families come together to break bread. Friends swap their best recipes. Thousands of people volunteer their goods and time to make sure those who usually go without, do not go without. It’s a grand example of how good we can be, in the face of poverty, brokenness, and even disaster.

I’m not homeless… I just really want another 60 inch TV!

Then at the stroke of midnight, we forget everything we celebrated the day before. People wait in the cold and rain to make sure they get the $175 HD flatscreen TV. People stampede for $50 smart phones. In total, it’s expected that $586 billion will be spent on material crap. Even though studies show that this crap doesn’t even make us happier!

When my wife and I served in Peace Corps, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Transylvania. A baker’s dozen volunteers descended into a small village with hard to find American confections like pumpkin pie, cheddar cheese, turkey with stuffing, and more. We came together for friendship, solidarity, and homesickness. We invited Romanian (and Hungarian) neighbors to share in our feast. The best part was explaining Thanksgiving.

We told them it wasn’t a religious or nationalist holiday. It was a day we set aside to give thanks for family, friends, and abundance. We celebrate with food and drink, laughter and comradery. None of us in the small house knew each other very well. But we were all far from home and thankful for what we had. Especially after two years living and working in a country that was still developing. Our Romanian and Hungarian counterparts thought this was a fascinating and wonderful idea. I agree with them.

word.

To me, Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. We are supposed to channel peace on Earth and goodwill to men. Rooted in Christian thought, it celebrates that the savior has been born. A savior that preached things like “do unto others as you would have done unto you” and “whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Now, I am no longer a Christian, but these are still concepts that I respect and want to perpetuate.

It disturbs me that this season is kicked off with a giant monetary sacrifice to the great god of consumerism. We sacrifice our dignity, civility, and humanity just to save a few extra dollars. Which incidentally allows us spend even more money on more stuff!

I understand how important this day is for a struggling economy. However, I do not believe we (as a nation) should be dependent on constantly escalating consumption. It’s like taking poison in hopes of curing a disease. It perpetuates our debt, increases our waste, and doesn’t benefit anybody but the 1%. Plus, it forces people to work long, odd hours, keeping them from celebrating with their families.

This holiday season, do me a favor and rethink your gifts and spending. Instead of buying the latest and greatest i-product, use that money to help relieve suffering and poverty. Save the money and invest it in a socially responsible organization or mission. My wife and I don’t buy presents anymore. Instead, we make donations to organizations in the names of friends and family. It really is a gift that keeps on giving.  Don’t you think we could always use a little more peace and goodwill and less selfishness and greed? Let’s make it happen!