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The Mesh Directory: Explore Clever Ways to Benefit from "Stuff" Without Having to Own It

Have you heard a lot about the "sharing economy" or "collaborative consumption," but don't quite know how to tap into it? A new online directory helps you find enterprising businesses and projects around the world that, collectively, are fostering "a community and economy where access trumps ownership."

The so-called Mesh Directory serves as a clearinghouse for businesses that throw the conventional model of "create, sell, and profit" out the window. Instead, these companies use social media and wireless networks to provide people with goods and services at the exact moment they need them, without the burden and expense of owning them outright.

From bike sharing and home exchanges to peer-to-peer lending, energy cooperatives, and open source design, these businesses are spreading like wildfire. Consider now-household names like Zipcar for car sharing, Kickstarter for fundraising, Groupon for daily deals, and Airbnb for lodging. Or, you can check out less-known companies like Never Liked It Anyway, which bills itself as "a place where once loved gifts from once loved partners get a second chance." Here, users can post ads featuring their unwanted jewelry, wedding paraphernalia, and other items in the hope that there's a willing buyer out there.

The Mesh Directory contains links to hundreds of other websites worth exploring, in categories ranging from kids' stuff and DIY to food & drink, energy, and mobility. And the list is growing daily. According to Lisa Gansky, the site's developer and author of the 2010 book The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing, the Mesh is your essential guide to the new wave of information-enabled commerce that's improving both our communities and our planet.

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