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Happiness and the sharing economy
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Pass it on
I'm reading
Happiness and the sharing economy
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
Happiness and the sharing economy
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
2 December 2015

Happiness and the sharing economy

The way to a more sustainable future is through our most natural instinct—the need to share.

Written by Maria Hannaford

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

This blog post is sponsored by Bank Australia

What does this mean?

If Kevin McCloud’s latest TV series Escape to the Wild is anything to go by, there’s much more contentment and joy to be found in “doing” than we could ever hope to experience through “consuming.”

The series tracks regular UK families who’ve relocated to some of the most remote spots on the globe (think the foothills of the Andes and the middle of a rainforest in Belize), turning their backs on consumerism and setting foot onto a frontier not treaded by Western civilisation since our species was a lot hairier—total self-sufficiency.

From building their own homes out of mud to growing all of their own food, the families have a sense of satisfaction that almost makes me feel like ditching my comfortable urban lifestyle and heading to the bush myself. Why? Because I, like all humans, instinctively yearn for that kind of satisfaction. That level of raw contentment is something that is missing from our daily lives.

The downside for the Bush Brits is the social isolation they experience, a trade-off they endure for the privilege of living off the land in stunning yet remote locations. It seems no matter how much you nourish the soul by crafting your own staples out of the earth, the absence of a community with which to share the fruits of your labour will be felt through and through. Such is the strength of our innate need to share.

The good news is that I don’t have to traverse to the most far-flung places on the globe to fulfil this need. I can do it from my front nature strip, a vacant urban block, a front lawn or from a rooftop. Urban farming, food sharing and food swapping initiatives are taking off big time, fuelled by our instinctive desire to share life’s simplest pleasures with the people around us.

3000Acres is a Melbourne organisation connecting people wanting to grow food with available land across Melbourne and beyond. A vacant lot is registered on the site and interested community members are connected with the right people in local government to make it happen. Their most recent accomplishment is the transformation of a grubby little carpark beside the ramp at Jewell train station in Brunswick, now embellished with 10 planter boxes brimming with spring vegetables.

In Western Australia, the community garden-esque initiative SUN wants to create a network of gardens walking distance from every house. John McBain, founder of SUN and Secretary of the Australian City Farm and Community Garden Network, is quick to sing the praises of growing and sharing food as a community:

“For individuals, the benefit isn’t just that they can grow food, it’s that there’s a non-threatening place to meet and spend time with other people. For communities, food gardens break the monotony of urban development and for the environment they reduce green waste and create little ecosystems.

SUN aims to develop a network of gardens within walking distance of every house that use local green waste to grow food. I guess SUN is a commercial version of community gardens as the SUN model includes one third of produce being sold. Like community gardens we give food to workers and the remaining third is donated to charities such as Foodbank WA,” says John.

There are similar initiatives in flight across the country, but this next project is my favourite. Known as the Urban Food Street, it began six years ago when a couple living on a regular suburban street in QLD’s Buderim where so appalled at the cost of a single lime (back then, $2) they decided to plant citrus trees along the nature strip. Now 11 Buderim streets have edible nature strips that feed the community living there. From olives to tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes, the only rule is “pick only what you need”. People donate their time, plants or money and the entire operation runs like the kind of utopia governments say is impossible to achieve; residents feel happy, connected and content.

The sharing economy doesn’t start and stop with food either. Initiatives like OpenShed and Shareable make sharing just about anything from your lawnmower to clothes possible. Choice ran a neat little summary of the top sharing sites a while back; otherwise a quick search on your web browser will bring up a plethora of choices (pun unintended).

The benefits to this sharing-is-caring commerce are environmental as well as psychological. The resources saved from not producing more but rather sharing what’s already there (resources such as plastic, steel, water, gas etc) make it a clear way forward to a more sustainable as well as happy future.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’m off to dig a hole in my nature strip. I have a mandarin tree that needs planting.

Maria Hannaford

Maria Hannaford is the Research and Content Coordinator at Sustainable Table, an organisation that empowers people to use their shopping dollar to vote for a food system that is fair, humane, healthy and good for the environment.

Image: supplied by the Sustainable Table.

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