Poor Thanksgiving. Despite its noble focus on gratitude and good food, Thanksgiving has become a mere stepping stone for the massive shopping holiday that lies ahead. Black Friday sales begin on Thursday night, encouraging us to leave our tables and families in order to start the spending frenzy as early as possible.
Ever year the madness becomes more pronounced, with people willing to be trampled or arrested just to claim the last flat screen or smart phone. This year, after all we’ve fought for socially and politically, this behavior seems even more pathetic. So let’s end it. I’m not just suggesting more benign forms of holiday consumption, like Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday. I’m talking about finally emancipating ourselves from the idea that a festive holiday requires purchasing of any kind.
I’m talking about making this the year of the Sharing Economy.
You’ve probably heard about collaborative consumption services like Zipcar or Airbnb. These services demonstrate that sharing isn’t only fun and convenient, it’s a boon for the economy as well. But don’t think that businesses have a corner on the market. Peer-to-peer sharing services facilitate direct sharing between friends, neighbors, and even strangers. Resources are redistributed, reused, and repurposed for little to no cost, netting massive environmental benefits. With an emphasis on access, not ownership, the sharing economy has the power to end our addiction to stuff without sacrificing quality of life or individuality.
Okay, enough with the soap box. The title of this post promised to show you how sharing can lead to a better, more sustainable holiday, so here you go:
1. Swap and Barter
What if, instead of scouring malls and big box stores for that perfect present, we had access to the closets, garages, and storage spaces of a million friends and neighbors? Swapping or bartering is a simple way to fill a need without a store, or in many cases, money. In-person swaps are common, but they take planning and are limited to the resources in your immediate community. Check out sites like Yerdle, Swap.com, SwapStyle, thredUP, Zwaggle, BookMooch, BarterQuest, and SwapAce to find thousands of items — from clothes to furniture to video games — offered up for little to nothing.
Throwing a holiday party can be expensive: there’s the food and drinks to buy and prepare, not to mention decorations to hang and games to plan. It’s no wonder people are more stressed around the holidays than any other time of the year! Instead of relying on the local discount store for these supplies, why not tap into the power of your community? Sites like NeighborGoods, Freecycle, Zilok, and Getable can help you find the things you need in a matter of minutes.
3. Give the Gift of Sharing
If you really want to help your friends and family decrease their carbon footprint, why not give them a nudge in the right direction? Memberships or gift certificates to some of the most popular collaborative consumption services could be the catalyst for a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle that will last all year long. Think about gifting access to sharing services like Zipcar, RelayRides, Airbnb, Parkatmyhouse, FlatClub, Liquid, Zimride, Wheelz, Vayable or SideTour to those who might be willing to try something new in the New Year!
Now matter how you choose to participate in the sharing economy, a few things are guaranteed: you will save money; you will reduce negative impact on the environment; you will make new connections and strengthen existing relationships; and most importantly, you will have a lot more fun than camping out on the sidewalk in front of Walmart.
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