This week in Sunday Life I car share

Photo by Charlotte Abramow

I own a power drill. It has moved house with me – shifting from one shelf under the sink to the next – three times. And you know how many times I’ve used it in our five years together? Twice. Which is normal apparently. The average drill emerges from under the sink for 12 minutes in its lifetime.

This sad statistic confirms a festering sentiment out there in the world: owning stuff is annoying and increasingly cluttery and inefficient. It’s like that itchy jumper you had to wear as a kid. It scratches at you incessantly, prompting a violent desire to strip.

But buying stuff is only a fraction of the equation. The real pain is living with it – storing the waffle maker in the bulging corner cupboard, servicing the lawnmower, packing up the Barbie campervan when you move house. And how can I explain it…it’s also the way it all just sits there idle, making you feel guilty like a dog needing a walk.

As Rachel Bosman author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption said when we spoke via email this week, “you don’t need to own a drill, you just need a hole in the wall…so borrow the drill, don’t own one”. Beautifully put. And indeed neighbourhood share schemes are popping up everywhere – in Australia there’s The Sharehood and Landshare, which launched in February and connects people wanting to grow veggies with folk who have a spare patch.

In March, sharing – instead of owning – was dubbed one of Time magazine’s Ten Ideas That Will Change the World. Since then much as been made of our itch to “live light”. Bosman confirms it’s not (just) an ethical or environmental crusade. It goes deeper than that.

This week I gave the concept a crack by signing up for car sharing, mostly because I find owning a car incredibly annoying. I also find this statistic staggering: on average we use our cars 8 per cent of the week. The rest of the time they hang about idle accumulating duco damage and parking tickets (at least mine does).

On Monday I joined GoGet, a scheme started in 2003 that has grown to a fleet of 600 cars used by 12,000 members around Australia. I was sent a security swipe and entered a lovely share-y world of “pods” (each car has it’s own parking spot; you might have seen them around town – in premium positions and free) and community decision-making (even the voice used for the tele-prompting service is voted on by members). There are few rules – we’re asked, if we don’t mind, to fill the car using a supplied credit card if the tank goes below a quarter.

And somehow it works.

I did the sums. Hiring a GoGet costs about $7 per hour including petrol and insurance. If you drive twice a week, as I do, it’ll cost you about $200 per month versus $800 a month to maintain your own. As the car manufacturing slumps, the car share business is estimated to be worth $12.5 billion worldwide, with car companies now investing in schemes.

As I drove “Derek the Hyundai” and “Stephen the Prius” around town this week I had two thoughts. First, share schemes totally stick it to the cynics who say the internet is killing connection. I have utter faith in our ability to correct pendulum swings. And look if we aren’t doing exactly that with this nascent trend. Sure we’re all working solo on our laptops to all hours. But now we can do it in share offices, like Melbourne’s The Hub, drinking bottled beer with strangers on a time-share basis. We’re connecting with like-styled folk on clothingexchange and sharing our books generously via bookcrossing.com. *

This style of consuming also sticks it to George Bush who was re-elected in 2004 declaring the supremacy of the “ownership society”. “The more ownership there is in America, the more vitality,” he said. How wrong could he have been?! Actually, that’s too vast a question to tackle here.

The other musing: this “less stuff used more often” thing makes us nicer. I was thrilled as other GoGetters waved to me as I passed them throughout the week. And as I dropped Derek off to his pod I double-checked I’d left him clean for the next user. I wanted to play nicely, to be a good sharer. As Time wrote: “We yearn to trust and be trusted”. We also yearn to help – drilling holes in walls for neighbours – and connect, far more than we yearn to own a power drill.

Also check out these other schemes….and please add more of your own below…or any sharing ideas you have.

  • Parkatmyplace.com.uk – has a range of parking options in people’s garages or driveways
  • Yours2share.com – specialises in expensive holiday homes, horses, planes and boats
  • Airbnb.com – offers travellers private accommodation around the world.
  • LandshareAustralia.com.au – matches people with excess land with people who need gardens.
  • Drivemycarrentals.com.au – has private vehicles across the country for rent
  • Givit.org.au – is a charity swap based in South-East Queensland, matching people’s excess goods with those who need them.
  • Bookcrossing.com – encourages people to leave books lying around for others to pick up and read. It tracks books across the world as they are picked up by travellers.
  • Rentoid.com (where you can rent out your drill!) and Drivemycar Rentals (peer-to-peer car rental)

Also check out these 7 ways to have more by owning less

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