On Neighbour Day this year, find new ways to say hi.
THIS summer, when four neighbours got fed up with their long lawns in Thornbury, in Melbourne’s north, they formed a mower collective.
One of the communal grass-cutters, Amy Brand, says it was just common sense. “There was a distinct lack of shareable lawnmowers in our area so we all threw in money to buy a mower that can become a community resource.”
She and her neighbours have signed onto The Sharehood, a website that encourages householders to meet and share with people nearby.
When you log in, you get to see the one hundred members who live nearest to you, and the things they’re happy to lend and borrow. You can also see a local noticeboard, where people within walking distance can post events and questions for each other.
The Sharehood began in Northcote in 2008, but there are now members throughout Australia and as far away as Cambridge, in the UK. The site is coordinated by a group of volunteers (including your Greener Homes columnist). To coincide with Neighbour Day, 27 March, The Sharehood is challenging householders to meet one new neighbour. The connection might prove to be good for both your tool shed and your well-being.
Ms Brand moved to Melbourne last year from Darwin. Getting to know people in her street has made her feel more at home. After mowing their lawns, she and her neighbours held a backyard movie night to celebrate.
“I’ve been a little sad at the lack of local community since I moved here,” she says. “I was spoilt for sharing and socialising in Darwin – it just seemed to grow and evolve so naturally. The Sharehood has been a reminder that community exists everywhere, but sometimes you just have to work a little harder to find it.”
The Sharehood is just one of many innovations boosting communities and green living. Lauren Anderson, from the consultancy CC Lab, says clothing exchanges, car-sharing and peer-to-peer renting are all examples of an emerging trend in “collaborative consumption”.
“These systems have created a revolution for sharing that allows us to minimise what we’re purchasing outright,” Ms Anderson says. “We have so much stuff in our possession that is sitting there idly.”
By making better use of the goods we have, we can buy fewer new products and reduce waste, energy and resource use.
Ms Anderson says that while some websites are based on free exchange, others make money for householders. Drive My Car Rentals and Rentoid are examples of “peer-to-peer” rental systems, where people trade with each other. Either way, she argues, collaborative consumption has a direct environmental benefit. “The technology is more of an enabler than an endpoint. It instantly matches haves and wants. People use it to participate in something in real life,” Ms Anderson says.
Landshare Australia is the perfect example – a local version of the popular UK website was launched in February. The website connects gardens with gardeners: enthusiastic vegie growers can find nearby landowners with space to spare.
“From a holistic perspective, sustainability is about people getting in touch with their neighbours, sharing common interests and realising the resources they can pool together,” she says. “Not everybody in the street needs a drill.”