When 24-year-old Keara Schwartz bought her first home in Cincinnati, she was shocked at all of the stuff she "needed" to own as a homeowner: items ranging from a tall ladder to get leaves off the roof to a lawn mower or chain saw. She was a little bit overwhelmed at the cost and decided to do something about it.
Purchasing all of these things isn't just expensive. All of those new items represent our planet's natural resources. The aluminum to make that step ladder was likely mined and processed somewhere far off, the materials have to be shipped all over the world to make different components, then the ladder itself is assembled in a factory and shipped to stores. All of that adds up to a huge impact, especially when you consider how many new ladders folks probably purchase every year. The same goes for pretty much anything you have to buy new - the impacts of buying new are staggering when you trace a product's story back to the raw materials.
Back in the day, when you were in the middle of baking and realized you were out of something, you could knock on a neighbor's door to borrow a cup of sugar. What if there were a way to bring back that sense of community and help each other consume less at the same time?
That's where Schwartz's site Share Some Sugar comes in. Folks can search for an item they're looking to borrow and the engine locates neighbors who have the item based on zip code. The site launched in November and already has over 500 members and 2400 items to borrow. Right now, a lot of zip codes turn up empty, but the site is still in beta. Anyone can join, regardless of location, and the more folks who sign up the better the service will be!
Alternatives to Buying New
Is Share Some Sugar not too active yet in your area? Don't fret! There are other ways to get the tools you need without hitting the big box store.
You can try reaching out to your neighbors directly. Schwartz may not have had the best of luck, but that doesn't mean you won't. Even if they don't have what you're looking for, it's a great excuse to connect with your neighbors. If you do decide to go knocking on doors, just play it safe. Bring a friend or, at the very least, tell someone where you'll be and when you expect to be back.
A lot of neighborhoods now have online forums or email groups. In the Atlanta area where I live, it's really common. Folks talk about all sorts of 'hood-related issues, from crime to community gardens. If your neighborhood has an organization like this, it can also be a great resource for borrowing items that you need.
Of course, you might not be able to borrow every tool you're looking for. When that's the case, there are a couple of other options: renting or acquiring second hand. You can often rent larger tools, like chainsaws and carpet cleaners, at a local hardware store like Lowe's or Home Depot.
Craigslist and Freecycle are great resources for finding second hand items for sale. You can also hit thrift stores or yard sales. Just make sure you try out those items to make sure they're in good shape! I can't tell you how disappointed I was to get home with my avocado green, retro thrift store vacuum and discover it didn't work.
Have you guys had success sharing and swapping tools with neighbors? We'd love to hear your experiences in the comments!