Caring is a sharing economy


SEEDLING SWAPS Sharing locally grown seedlings, like tomato plants, is a great way to  help prevent food waste and needless air miles.

Green living
McKinley Neal

It’s unfortunate that we sometimes have to go through bad circumstances to recognise the good work we are capable of doing. It has been incredible to see how groups and communities came together to support people through the pandemic and now as a result of the invasion of the Ukraine.
I keep thinking about how this collective solidarity and care is absolutely critical for an appropriate response to the effects of climate change, which have been pointed out with the recent collapse of Arctic ice shelves and devastating severe weather patterns.
Although we have been offered high-tech solutions to ostensibly connect people through the ‘sharing economy’, the approach of large companies running websites to list homes for rent, transport options, freelance work and other services are still based on individual-to-individual transactions, with commissions going to the company.
Some social media and messaging services that facilitate group chats have helped in this regard, as it enables people to make offers to people who are interested in a specific type of item or service. Search Facebook for local ‘zero waste’ or ‘freecycle’ groups to nab items people are offering, often totally free (you just have to collect them). You can usually post requests for something you are looking for that is not already listed.
There are also ways that we can all facilitate a more cooperative model, where people are sharing goods they have more directly. Exchanging goods via swaps or what has been known as a gift economy or ‘Really, Really Free Market’, which facilitate direct exchange of goods between people on a regular basis. People bring items they no longer use or need and give them away to others, taking other items if needed as well. It works particularly well with clothing (often best when it is divided by size, or type—for babies and kids, formal wear, etc), household goods and media such as books, magazines and music.
For more specialised goods, a ‘library of things’ is a way to organise and maintain a wide range of goods that can be loaned to people as needed. Often these work on a membership model, so people can pay a flat fee for a year and then borrow what they need periodically. This is often focused on items like tools that are more expensive to own and are used infrequently, but can include items for special occasions like parties. There is a new, volunteer-run Belfast Tool Library, and in Dublin the Rediscovery Centre accepts excess materials from businesses that members can take as needed for any number of projects.
And in times like these, sharing nutritious, locally grown food or plants is a real act of solidarity with our neighbours, and is helpful to prevent food waste. PAX hosts a plant exchange to facilitate people sharing plants, many of them edible, that they have grown from seed or cuttings, and the Edible Landscape Project in Wesport has a group message where people offer extra plants as well.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic toods, reusable goods, household products, eco-trendly personal care Items and gifts.