Co.EXIST: A Step-By-Step Guide To Creating Your Own Sharing Economy

By Eric Smillie. This post originally appeared in Co.EXIST on October 29, 2012.

The sharing economy is booming, and all people need is a little push to get them started. That’s the message of Share Spray, a video from the Center for the New American Dream that stars a stressed-out consumer and her "sharey godmother" (get it?).

New Dream, as the organization calls itself, is an environmental nonprofit that promotes alternatives to consumerism that improve quality of life, a mission that puts sharing right in their wheelhouse. “Sharing saves everyone money,” says Wen Lee, the center’s director of online media and engagement. “At the same time, sharing by its inherent nature involves interacting with people who live close to you, which has been shown to increase social bonds and social bonds are one of the things that psychologists have found that really create lasting happiness and satisfaction for people in their lives. So while we’re saving money and building community we’re reducing our impact on the environment by consuming fewer new resources.”

To get people going, New Dream has published a free guide with step-by-step tips for getting four sharing projects -- from organizing a swap meet to setting up a solar coop -- off the ground in your neighborhood, as well as a list of groups and websites that make it easier. “We hope that once people start, maybe something as simple as sharing fruit from their backyard, and realize how great it is and how it’s benefited their lives they’ll continue to do it and be motivated to try other ways of sharing. We’re just trying to plant the seed and give people an easy way to take that first step,” says Lee.

Of course, the first step can be the hardest. “Even if you can rationally come to the conclusion that sharing is a good idea, actually doing it is still really hard,” says Janelle Orsi, the author of the video script and the voice behind its narration, as well as a lawyer specializing in sharing. “And part of the barrier is the feeling that if you approach someone about sharing they’re probably going to think you’re kind of weird.” To smooth the way, Orsi, has published sample agreements for sharing cars, yards, offices, and other resources as free companions to her book The Sharing Solution. “If these agreements are out there, people are going to be more willing to do it because it won’t seem like such an uncharted area,” she says.

And if you want an actual bottle of share spray to help you along, the product, made with rosewater and trillium flower, does exist and reportedly smells quite nice. “The idea for the script came because I was at a co-op conference recently and someone came up to me and gave me a gift of a bottle of share spray,” says Orsi. “I was going around all day and spraying the share spray on myself and on other people and things. It worked so well, I ended up giving the bottle away.”

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