Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Step Ten: Get to Know Your Local Library

There are thousands of things we use only once or twice a year, so why use money and resources to keep them around all the time? Most obviously I'm referring to books (specific books, not books as a category), but this also extends to tools, sports and camping equipment, specialized cooking utensils, crafting supplies, and more.

What you use often or not that often depends entirely on you and your preferences. I use a salad spinner and my knitting needles every day, where-as I only use a casserole dish and a sewing machine a few times a year. I'm happy to re-watch movies over and over again through Netflix, but I find I do better with owning books on my Kindle rather than borrowing them from the library. Knowing these things about myself was part of finding my style, but know that I know it, I'm finding resources to support it. Not buying things has saved me hundreds of dollars, lots of space, and countless hours that would have been spent finding and caring for the objects themselves. However, just because I choose not to own something, doesn't mean I can't ever use one.

This concept is familiar to most of us, though perhaps not in ways we recognize. Of course library books (and magazines, and movies, and cds) come to mind, but if you think about it, sharing is everywhere. Every time we fly on a plane, we're really just renting part of something we couldn't afford on our own. We rent moving trucks, share green-space in our city parks, and share information with each other constantly over the internet. While we certainly wouldn't want to share everything (my underwear are mine and mine alone), I think we can vastly expand our idea of what is share-able.

Sites like Swap Baby Goods, Zipcar, and Rentalic are helping people to share valuable commodities like cars, cribs, and iPads, while sites like U-Exchange and Air BnB even let people share their homes. These services aren't free, but they're a whole lot cheaper than the actual item. Sometimes I like to borrow things to see if it would work for me and my lifestyle; I'm currently renting a camera, and I'm glad I did, because I found out a DSLR is just too big and clunky for me. Other times I just rent something knowing that I don't need it most of the time, just once in a while; every year I rent a truck to haul mulch for my and my loved ones' gardens.

Getting to know your borrowing options will make you more confident when it comes to using somebody else's stuff, as well as help change your outlook on life. Wouldn't it be nice to just borrow something, rather than worry about caring for it indefinitely? Helping the planet by consuming less will leave you with less stress and more money and space. Besides, if you find you need something after borrowing it, well, you'll already know what kind you want, and how to use it, which will save you time when you do get it.

The following is a list of the sharing directories and resources I've compiled thus far. If you know of one I missed, by all means, share it with us in the comments.

Zipcar: the company owns cars which are rented to the public. Cost includes gas and insurance. Located in select cities in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.

RelayRides: Located in the U.S., RelayRides is a platform for car owners to rent out their cars to candidates screened and insured by the site.

SwapMarket: An all-purpose trading site that lets you "turn what you have into what you want". Users are allowed to list and trade whatever items they want, and may exchange items in person or through the mail. The site has a leg-up over Craigslist and Freecycle (which I still use constantly) as the users are monitored and receive feedback from other members.

NeighborGoods: Users create groups within which they can share goods. The service will close down at the end of July, but will still operate under the new name Favortree.

Rentalic: This site lets you loan or borrow things within your community. Listings are free, though you do pay a fee to rent things. The site monitors transactions, but does not provide insurance.

First time reading about a hundred steps to zero waste? Go here for the introduction and index.

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