How do we get people talking about solutions to recycling challenges? Shareable has introduced a new book, Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons, to provide “a practical reference guide for community-based solutions to urgent challenges faced by cities everywhere.” The book includes 137 examples of local action taken in 80 cities around the world. Shareable provides materials to support related events that spark conversations about local approaches to recycling, transportation, energy, food supplies, and more. Everyone interested in getting things done should check out these resources.
The Gig and Sharing Economies
Cities are hotbeds of innovation where millions of people are experimenting with new work models in the “gig economy.” People are sharing cars, homes, and even sporting gear through internet-based marketplaces. The Brookings Institute reported that “non-employer” networks are growing fastest in cities, accounting for 24 million businesses that produce about 3 percent of U.S. economic activity as of 2016. On-demand services are expected to be common in suburbs in just a couple of years, and to spread to rural areas over the next decade.
A sharing economy revolves around re-use, also referred to as a “circular economy.” Goods are passed around to people who have an immediate need for them, often producing a small fee for the sharer but also becoming part of a “commons,” which can be thought of as a repository of products that is available to everyone to use. What goes into a sharing economy usually stays in use far longer than many products that would otherwise be stored away at home and forgotten.
Information shared through Sharing Cities becomes part of an international commons of useful ideas that can be applied and adapted to local conditions. We think that the waste management issue will be a hotbed of activity in coming years as the United States wrestles with the need to recycle domestically instead of shipping materials overseas for processing and, too often, disposal.
Collaboration among citizens is the key. It may be possible to divide hard social challenges into smaller tasks that make a circular economy viable. For example, in Austin, Texas, bikers collect compostable waste from homes and business locations around the city to reduce food waste. Each bike is set up to carry up to 96 gallons of food waste that gets processed into compost. The organization now serves 600 residences and 30 commercial customers, who pay between $16 and $200 a month to support the service.
Sharing Cities also describes “Repair Cafes” that are appearing in many places, as people turn to repairing and recirculating products instead of throwing them away. There are more than 1,500 Repair Cafes worldwide.
The book is full of these ideas, delivered with summaries of the benefits, costs, and unexpected challenges discovered by innovators. It can get you thinking and acting quickly while avoiding common missteps, because other people have shared their experience.
Communication for the Common Good
Shareable also created the Sharing Cities Network to facilitate discussions among residents to help them work together for the common good. The site includes tools for describing the resources you have to share, as well as tools for starting and promoting local programs.
Earth911 has also created a hub for local discussions in the new Earthling Forums. For example, we’re looking at how to finance Seabin waterfront and marina cleanups on a small scale in Tacoma, Washington.
The book is free, or you can support the project by purchasing an electronic or print version of Sharing Cities. Organizing for action takes commitment and patience, so why wait to act when such useful tools are available?