Collaborative Consumption: Learning How to be Resilient Supports Community-Based Education

Collaborative Consumption: Supporting Sustainability & Community-Based Education

Farmers’ Markets, both winter and summer, are a terrific opportunity to partake in collaborative consumption… farmers share their knowledge and families absorb the information, learning how to grow a better garden or how to better preserve their foods. The power of collaborative consumption not only supports sustainable efforts, but is a great source for community-based education too!

More and more, communities across western Massachusetts – and around the world! – are working together to create opportunities for pooling knowledge, sharing skills, and increasing each others’ access to useful resources. In creating systems and channels through which to access shared information and materials, communities are building resourceful, resilient foundations upon which to grow. And in addition to the community-sustaining benefits of such systems are a variety of community-based educational opportunities for kids to learn!

Commonly known as collaborative consumption, such practices work to shift emphasis from ownership of goods to access to them, a shift that would decrease the amount of resources necessary for a sustainable way of life. In addition to focusing on goods, communities that practice collaborative consumption often include systems through which to share skills and knowledge with each other, making them even more resilient.

In Western MA, collaborative consumption has manifested in many different ways. The Pittsfield Repair Cafe offers once-a-month events where volunteers share their time and expertise in fixing all manner of items, while Valley Time Trade uses time as a currency, allowing community members to pay for services by putting time and effort into a future endeavor. Projects like the Northfield Tool Lending Library and the Amherst Toy Lending Library allow communities to share sets of items big and small, allowing everyone to have access to tools, toys, and other things regardless of the cost associated with buying them…

Valley Food Swap is another group that shares homegrown and homemade food in the Pioneer Valley, and even some of our local libraries, including the Jones Library in Amherst and the Forbes Library in Northampton, have instruments patrons can check out to learn and practice their musical skills!

Other efforts and organizations combine learning opportunities with access to resources and skill sharing. The Bagshare Project and the Hilltown Seed Saving Network both do just this – offering resources (bags and seeds) to the community by combining the skills of many and also providing opportunities for others to learn these skills.

Folks of all ages are welcome to participate in (and benefit from!) collaborative consumption-style organization such as these. By bringing broken items to a repair cafe, kids can not only learn the value of fixing instead of replacing, but they may learn some of the skills necessary to fix the item for themselves (and for others) in the future. Valley Time Trade and The Bagshare Project are both open to collaborative consumers of all age, allowing kids to develop and share their skills with others too. And if they need tools for their endeavors? The Northfield Tool Lending Library and similar local projects may offer resources to borrow.

Aside from learning valuable skills by participating in skill shares and time trades, kids can learn about alternatives to money-driven capitalism by exploring collaborative consumption. After sharing skills or utilizing shared resources, have a discussion with your kids about how your experience may have been different if you (or those you helped) didn’t have access to such resources. Where would you get the money to pay for them? Would you ever be able to learn to do it yourself without someone else’s help? Does the need for money decrease anyone’s access to resources?

Check in with these and other organizations to find out what events they will be hosting over the months!  We will share them on our list of Weekly Suggested Events as they arise!  If you have a collaborative consumption event you’d like to share, self-post it at any time to our Sustainability Bulletin Board.

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield; Williamsburg Farmers’ Market]

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