Introduction

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We first learn about sharing as children, when we are taught to share our toys with others. Over time, most of us share less—even though most of us also have more "toys" now than we did when we were young. They are just different kinds of toys: bigger and more expensive. Especially in recent decades, our culture has encouraged each of us, or at least each family unit, to have our own things and to handle our own responsibilities.

Recently, however, people are finding this lifestyle less attractive. Maybe it's the high cost of living. Maybe it's the fact that we work longer hours than ever. Maybe it's the resulting disconnect we feel from our communities and families. Or maybe it's something in the air—such as smog, carbon emissions, or global warming.

For a variety of reasons, people are looking for ways of living that are more sustainable—not only environmentally sustainable, but also economically and personally sustainable. One of the most sustainable choices we can make is sharing.

Sharing contributes to the greater good in lots of ways. First, it's nice. It can help people feel connected to their neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers. It builds community and meets our needs in creative ways. It sets a good example for our children.

Second, it's economical. Almost every type of sharing we discuss in this book will save you some money—sometimes more, sometimes less, but always some.

Third, it's green. Most kinds of sharing result in fewer resources being used, and that's good for the planet. Sharing also makes it possible to afford more environmentally friendly choices, such as solar panels, grey water systems, and community supported agriculture.

In many ways, sharing is already an integral part of our society. We share the sidewalks, streets, and highways—and the cost of building and maintaining them. We share public schools, public utilities, and public services, all of which we pay for through our taxes.

Most of us share in ways that are closer to home, too. Do you leave your child with your neighbor once in a while so you can run to the store, returning the favor when your neighbor has a quick errand to do? Do you pick up riders when you drive to work in the morning? Are you part of a vacation timeshare? Do you have roommates or live in a condominium? All of these things involve sharing.

Increasingly, people are taking sharing to new levels. Most things can be shared, from lawnmowers to motor homes, from an hour of babysitting to a full-time nanny. This book provides all the information you need to start sharing in any—or every—area of your life.

Part I explains sharing basics, including what you might want to share; who you can share with; what issues you should consider and discuss at the outset; how to communicate, make decisions, and resolve disputes in your sharing group; and how to make a written sharing agreement. In this section, we cover:

  • how to set up practical and logistical details
  • how to plan for foreseeable and unforeseeable changes
  • how to deal with legal issues that might arise in connection with your sharing arrangement
  • how to manage the people aspects of sharing, like differing needs and communication styles, and
  • how to deal with conflict in productive ways.

Part II provides detailed solutions, information, ideas, tips, and tools for particular types of sharing, including:

  • how to share simple things, like tools and food from your garden
  • how to share bigger things, like a car, a job, or office space
  • how to share help, like a nanny or a caregiver for an elder, and
  • how to share the most important things, like your home.

Each chapter in Part II contains a number of sharing solutions, practical strategies you can use to create sharing arrangements for the topic that chapter covers, such as transportation, food, or work. Each chapter highlights the ways sharing benefits you, through demonstrating your "triple bottom line": the personal, environmental, and financial benefits of sharing.

The ultimate beauty of sharing is that it's a solution we create for ourselves. It's not a government program, nor is it the "latest and greatest" product marketed to us on billboards. It's a solution based on our own needs and lifestyles, in our own communities. It's a way for each of us to shape our own lives in positive ways and simultaneously benefit the world as a whole. In that respect, sharing is more than a simple trend: Some might even say our society is moving toward a sharing revolution. We hope you'll use The Sharing Solution to become part of it.

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