In a shareable world, things like car sharing, clothing swaps, childcare coops, potlucks and co-housing make life more fun, green and affordable.
Never been better
time for sharing

          Some green groups are promoting the simple notion of sharing as a way to green communities and combat waste.

     The convergence of environmental awareness and consumer culture has created a whole new movement today whereby sharing is cool. Indeed, some environmentalists view sharing as key to maintaining our quality of life and our sanity in an increasingly cluttered world.

     “Sharing is a relatively simple concept and a basic part of human life,” reports Janelle Orsi on Shareable, an online magazine that tells the story of sharing. “What’s new is that people are applying sharing in innovative and far-reaching ways, many of which require complex planning, new ways of thinking and organizing, and new technologies. In short, people are taking sharing to new levels, ranging from relatively simple applications of sharing to community-wide sharing initiatives — and beyond.”

     “In a shareable world, things like car sharing, clothing swaps, childcare coops, potlucks, and cohousing make life more fun, green, and affordable,” reports Shareable. “When we share, not only is a better life possible, but so is a better world.”

     The non-profit Freecycle Network, which runs a Craigslist-style website where people can list items they want to give away, pioneered using the Internet to facilitate diverting reusable goods from landfills when it launched back in 2003. To date, more than nine million individuals across 5,000 different regions have used the group’s website to find new homes for old items.

     According to Shareable, other examples such as Zipcar, Wikipedia, Kiva and Creative Commons show how successful sharing can be. “They show what’s possible when we share. They show that we don’t act merely for our own good, but go out of our way to contribute to the common good. They show that we can solve the crises we face, and thrive as never before. They show that a new world is emerging where the more you share the more respect you get, and where life works because everyone helps each other.”

     Shareable and the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit that highlights the connections between consumption, quality of life and the environment, have collaborated on the production of the new “Guide to Sharing,” a free downloadable booklet loaded with practical ideas about exchanging stuff, time, skills and space.

     Some of the ideas in the guide include: organizing a community swap; starting a local toy, seed or tool library; launching a skills exchange where community members can swap professional skills like carpentry or grant-writing; or setting up a food, transportation or gardening co-op. Some other sharing tips include car-sharing, gift circles, sharing backyard chickens with neighbors and launching a “free market” where people meet to trade skills and stuff.

     For her part, Janelle Orsi envisions a future where public land is dedicated to community gardening, public libraries also lend tools, equipment and other goods, and citywide bike sharing, carpooling and wifi programs are all the rage. Orsi and others warn we had better get used to sharing, as it is here to stay.

     CONTACTS: Freecycle Network,; Shareable,; Center for a New American Dream,

     EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (


Santa says `no' 

to president's

offer of drones

                         By Cary Brunswick 

     ``This weather is terrible,’’ the president said to an aide as he boarded Air Force One for his flight to the North Pole. ``I was expecting all this snow and ice up there, but not here in Washington.’’

     The president scheduled the meeting with Santa Claus a month earlier. He met Santa about a dozen years ago at a mall outside Chicago, but had not had a chance to talk to him since then, and he wanted to offer the jolly fellow some advice.

     The aide, Steve, told the president that Hilda, the winter storm, was expected to move through quickly and should not delay the flight.

     ``Hilda,’’ the president repeated with annoyance. ``Who is naming these winter storms, anyway? It is ridiculous. Can’t we put a stop to it?’’

     Steve replied that, yes, as president, he could probably pressure the Weather Channel to stop naming the storms. ``But I wouldn’t recommend it, sir. You know the Republicans would fight it, and besides, even the liberals would say it was censorship or some kind of civil rights violation.’’

     ``Yes, you are probably right,’’ the president said. ``After all, people can still read whatever they desire, watch the TV shows they want and freely use the Internet, text and e-mail.’’ Then, chuckling, ``NSA may be spying on what people are doing, but at least we let them do it.’’

     After the jet was cleared for take off, sped down the runway and reached cruising altitude, Steve asked the president about his first meeting with Santa back in 2002.  

     ``Well, it was sort of embarrassing,’’ the president said, and he related how he and his wife took their oldest daughter to the mall so she could see Santa. Though only 4, he said, his daughter wanted to ask Santa for a popular video game that showed Americans killing Arabs.

      ``I didn’t want her exposed to that kind of stuff, so I took Santa aside during a break and asked him to disregard that item from my daughter’s wish list. Of course, it was all for naught. A year later, my predecessor invaded Iraq and, in real life, we started killing tens of thousands of Arabs.’’

     The president told Steve he wanted to read and doze for the remainder of the flight, but when alone he snuck out his laptop and tried again to get on the government’s new health-insurance website. He enjoyed a long winter’s nap while waiting to connect.

     Santa was pacing the corridors at the North Pole’s frigid airport when Air Force One slid down on the runway, which was kept icy because of all the upcoming sleigh traffic. It was Santa’s busiest time of the year and the elves were complaining about how they can barely survive on minimum wage. So, he was somewhat annoyed that the president wanted to visit now.

     ``Hello Mr. President,’’ Santa said, taking off his white gloves as he greeted the visitor with a handshake. ``I’m honored by your presence but I checked your daughters’ lists and you needn’t worry. No violent video games. In fact, they both asked for DVDs on creative thinking, because they said they were spending all their time in school preparing for standardized tests.’’

     ``That’s fine,’’ the president said, ``but I’m sick of hearing complaints about Common Core. That’s not why I wanted to talk to you, anyway. I have a plan that should help you get all your work on Christmas Eve done more efficiently.’’

     Santa smiled between his rosy cheeks and said he would welcome anything to make his job easier.

     ``Great,’’ the president said, explaining how he was looking for peacetime uses for the government’s drones. ``Eventually, we’ll end the fighting in the Middle East, but there’s something to be said for these planes that don’t need a pilot on board. They are so precise. Just think, you could sit here at the North Pole in front of a computer screen and get all the presents delivered by drones.’’

     Santa’s interest was piqued. He told the president that Donner, Blitzen and the other reindeer were getting older, so going high-tech with pilot-less mini-jets could be a solution.

     But at the same time, Santa was skeptical. ``I’m curious, Mr. President. How can you be sure you are dropping the presents at the right locations? There could be some real mix-ups.’’

     ``Well,’’ the president said, ``I’m afraid there would always be some collateral errors with gifts.’’

     Santa replied: ``I believe I’ll have to pass on your offer, Mr. President. Just one mistake is one too many when I think of the hurt on a child’s face.''