As children, we’re often encouraged to share (and reprimanded when we don’t). But sharing is difficult, even for adults. Beth Buczynski, author of Sharing Is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources Through Collaborative Consumption, delves into the reasons why sharing can feel difficult — and how a sharing economy can boost sustainability and human connection and decrease consumption and waste.

cover of "Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption," by Beth Buczynski
“Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption,” by Beth Buczynski

Earth911: What gave you the idea for this book, on the collaborative economy?
Beth Buczynski: My first foray into sharing was joining a co-working space — a shared, collaborative community where mobile professionals (i.e., not tied to a desk or office) come to share Wi-Fi, desks and ideas. Shortly thereafter I started writing for, the first online publication dedicated to growing the sharing economy. I was simultaneously learning and writing about how powerful it can be when people join forces to solve problems or gain access to things. The possibilities of an entire economy built on sharing made me really excited, and I wanted to create a simple guide that would help regular people see that sharing can be safe, easy and life-changing.

E911: Did your parents share or barter?
BB: My parents were involved in food co-ops, clothing swaps and, when times were tight, my mom bartered house-cleaning services to pay for our music lessons. At the time, there were just things that we did out of financial necessity, but looking back, I can see that they were pretty darn resourceful and sustainable.

E911: How much does the Internet have to do with a resurgence of interest in sharing?
BB: So the exciting thing about what’s happening now is that we’re seeing mobile technologies elevate and reinvent the behaviors that many used to dismiss as “hippie.” Our experience with social media has better prepared us to engage with a global community of strangers. Not to mention that we now have the technology and software to connect and share with people at a moment’s notice. This helps to remove some of the barriers that made people say, “That’s nice, but not for me.”

E911: Sharing is more than just lending someone a good, right? What other types of “sharing” are possible?
BB: Sure, it often starts with goods, but there are so many more things we can share. We’re seeing a resurgence of time banking, where service to the community can be used as currency; skill sharing, where people come together to trade knowledge at a cost that’s far below formal classes; and space sharing, where people allow others to access unused rooms, parking spots, yards, desks, vacation homes and more.

Next page: Sharing’s ecological impact and how a lack of trust hampers sharing