With life sky-rocketing towards Christmas at a startling pace, one can’t help but think a lot about stuff. Stuff for under the tree. Stuff for the I-bought-this-generic-item-at-a-big-box-store-on-the-way-to-work secret santa gift exchange. Stuff bought but never used. Stuff lusted after but not really needed. That insatiable appetite to consume that is fed by shiny junk mail, enticing never-to-be-repeated sales and the race to keep up with the Jones’, whoever they might be.
Luckily, there’s some respite at hand from this crazy quest to consume.
A vibrant group of fellows in the Sydney class of 2012 at the Centre for Sustainability Leadership have just launched Streetbank Australia – a collaborative consumption website created in the UK and given Australian impetus by members of the Sydney CSL crew in Bondi and surrounds over the past few weeks. You might have spotted superb stencilled street art, press coverage, farmers’ market promotions and plenty of Facebook action…all getting the word out that http://www.streetbank.com is the place for giving and taking with your neighbours. The premise is simple and powerful: if you have stuff, or skills, that you can share, lend or give away, then Streetbank connects you with people who live close by. That’s it.
Simple right? Well, yes and no. You see, my quest for a hammer to borrow, or my offer to bake delicious cakes, does more than just enable sharing between two people. It knits the fabric of community a little closer together. There’s a whole lot of us who don’t even know our neighbours’ names. An Australian study found that in 2005 we only had, on average, 5.7 locals we could ask for help whereas twenty years earlier we had 7.1 to call on if need be (Leigh, 2010, cited in http://grattan.edu.au/static/files/assets/b83340b2/137_report_social_cities_web.pdf). And while we may be ever more connected online, there’s something about actually connecting with our real neighbours that’s irreplaceably important. Research says so, and so does that warmth of connectedness that we all crave. Call me old fashioned, but I long for the share-a-cup-of-sugar neighbourliness of my childhood, and I’m super excited that Streetbank just might help to bring it back.
It takes just a few steps to become part of this exciting social movement. Here they are:
1. Like Streetbank Australia on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StreetbankAustralia
2. Create an account and offer something to your neighbours: http://www.streetbank.com/
3. Drum up interest with your neighbours, to get sharing happening where you live (the site works anywhere in the world, but it might need some fertilising – get tips at http://www.streetbank.com/grow
Streetbank prompts what shopping never will. It asks what we can give, not just what we want to get. And aint it the season for that kind of attitude adjustment.