I don’t actually have a question to respond to this week, so … pretend like somebody asked something.

Remember back when people actually used to stop by their neighbor’s house and ask for a cup of sugar? OK, neither do I. Actually, the other day my boyfriend’s neighbor came over and asked to borrow some aluminum foil, and he was sort of shocked. I think it was the first time he’d ever even seen the neighbor, which is impressively depressing, since they live in tiny, side-by-side apartments.

Even if you’re only vaguely aware that other people live around you, think of all the possibilities for sharing stuff with them that would help cut down on your need to buy random crap. Want to watch Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Why buy it when someone down the block has it? Want to read the new Harry Potter book? Well, chances are someone in your ‘hood has it and has already whipped right through it. These are some small examples, but think of the bigger things you own or desire that you’ll rarely, if ever, use. And like a good Brokeass, I can’t justify buying new things financially or environmentally.

At my house, we have a small food processor, a big food processor, a juicer, and a foot massager that we don’t really use that often. I mean, we use them sometimes … but not really enough to justify having our own, you know? And being anti-too-much-crap-in-my-life, I should be willing to dump things I don’t need. But what if I could justify having them by sharing them with the rest of my neighborhood?

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There are two (new?) services (and probably more … these are the two I know about) that allow you to network online with others in your area who have stuff to lend you or might need something you have: Neighborrow and Borrowme. You can log onto the sites and join pre-existing groups in your neighborhood, or make your own for your community or circle of friends. Then you can post things you’re looking to borrow or things you have to lend. I can think of tons of things that I don’t want to buy but might occasionally need to borrow — things like a lawnmower, a tent, a waffle iron, grill … the possibilities are endless.

Some other more specific stuff-sharing sites have also cropped up. There’s Bookcrossing for books and Peerflix for movies, and I’m sure there are others. So many easy ways to cut down on your consumption and spending.

Plus, there’s that added bonus of meeting your neighbors, even if it takes The Internets to do so.

Concerned about the environment but don’t have the economic means to buy your way to carbon neutrality? Need some ideas on how to be savvy about the earth and your dollar? Direct your questions, comments, and ideas to ksheppard@grist.org. And remember, as the old saying goes, it’s better to be broke than to further the break-up of the Arctic ice shelf.

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