"Why buy when you can rent?" asked The Economist magazine in October. In an article describing what you should do when you are green, broke but connected they suggest renting. They observe a reversal of a 50 year trend in which laundromats have been closing down as people buy their own washing machines and a world in which Radio Rentals is no more. There is a move towards "consumer philandering" where you can rent a different item every day. So Zipcar allows you to drive a BMW one day and a Volvo the next. Or "Bag Borrow or Steal" a website which allows you to rent a handbag for the night. We are hoping that in 2011 The Economist will be asking "Why rent when you can borrow!?" and talking with the same excitement about consumer philanthropy. After all according to Mark Levine in the New York Times "Sharing is clean, crisp, urbane, postmodern" while "owning is dull, selfish, timid, backward."
We would love 30 seconds of your time – it will make a big difference. We would love it if you could connect your Facebook account with your Streetbank account by clicking here. It means that whenever you add an item to Streetbank it will automatically get posted on your Facebook Wall. This will really help us get word out about Streetbank and the more people know about Streetbank, the bigger and more vibrant Streetbank will become and the more things and skills you and your fellow Streetbankers will enjoy.
â€œThat great project in your community â€“ go and lead it. The waste in government â€“ go and find it. The new school in your neighbourhood â€“ go and demand it. The beat meeting on your street â€“ sign up. The neighbourhood group â€“ join up. That business you always dreamed of â€“ start upâ€¦ Society is not a spectator sport. â€œ
Itâ€™s the middle of apple season in Britain right now. If youâ€™ve got a tree, chances are youâ€™ve got more than you can eat – or maybe a neighbour or a friend has a tree thatâ€™s just loaded with fruit thatâ€™s going to go uneaten. Get those apples on Streetbank! Someone somewhere nearby doesnâ€™t have an apple tree, and wishes they did.
Over the next few weeks we're going to be doing something behind the scenes that will allow you to widen your Streetbank community to 10 miles if you want to. You will only be able to see other "10 milers" so those of you living in less busy areas can have a few more friends. Those of you living in the busiest areas will probably prefer to stick with your 1 mile area and will remain visible only to other "1 milers" but if you are feeling especially sociable you can see who else has clicked the 10 mile button. Anyway, you've been asking for something like this and we think we've finally worked out how it can be done! And done in a way that continues to encourage community at the most local level at the same time as making Streetbank work in less busy areas. Let us know if you have any comments. We'll keep you posted.
When we explain Streetbank to friends they often think of it as a swapping site. A place of I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine. So when we say actually it is really about no strings attached help , they look surprised but usually say something along the lines of â€œso let me get this right, all you get is a warm feeling inside…. hmmm… Iâ€™m not sure it will work but that is niceâ€. Generally, though we hear that the receiver of the help is grateful and just occasionally does something grateful in response.
"My friend John can’t resist a skip. He is simply incapable of walking past one, at any time of day or night, without peering over the side. Inevitably, he ends up in it, and goes home with a plank, a half tin of paint, or a length of wire. Last week I met him in the street with a discarded computer tower under one arm. He had found it on the kerb, and it’s now in a collection of computers to be refurbished.
The highly regarded think tank, New Economics Foundation have written to us to explain why Streetbank makes us happier – here’s what they have to say:
How is it Streetbank claims that using its service will make us happier?
We benefit from Streetbank by consuming less stuff, putting existing stuff to good use and keeping it from landfill, but the added bonus is that we incidentally engage with two of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’.
We’d love to hear your Streetbank stories! We’re beginning to get some press coverage (click on Press tab at the bottom for more details) such as in the Daily Candy, the Hammersmith and Fulham News and next week the Big Issue….
Weâ€™ve called this website â€œStreetbankâ€ and weâ€™ve come in for a bit of flak. People say to us â€œthe â€œstreetâ€ bit we get but why â€œbankâ€…. banks are about money and no money changes handsâ€. But we say, banks are first and foremost about lending.
Thanks so much for so many great thoughts. A few themes seem to be emerging here:
1/ A lot of you have said that you would like to browse what is on offer by neighbours that live beyond a mile away. You would be able to see more stuff, it would be great for people living in rural areas or places where Streetbank was yet to take off and it would be an easy change for us to make.
The weather forecast here in London is sunshine for the next ten days – promising a glorious Easter and hopefully a magical Royal Wedding. These two events will be bringing communities together across the UK. We think neighbours will be more open, less puzzled by a cheery smile, more disarmed by a comment about the unseasonally warm weather or an exclamation of “Happy Easter!” So if you are passing a neighbour in the street why not take the opportunity to say “hello” or if you haven’t met them before introduce yourself – we think this is the season when you’ll get the warmest response. Have you got to know anyone living in your street and if so, how did it happen?
Thanks so much to those of you who were able to join in with the Streetbank Launch Party last Thursday. Over 150 of you participated in an evening of Higgidy Pie eating, skill swapping, unicycling, giving and receiving, tie colouring and little cupcakes.
In the last few years society has come over all risk averse. Itâ€™s a bit nuts because all the signs are that we are physically safer than ever before. But physical risk aversion is one thing. Social risk aversion is another and it is arguably worse. We are almost at the point where we wonâ€™t say “hello” in the street in case they are a psychopath.
Is affluence such a good thing? At Streetbank, weâ€™re beginning to wonder. Certainly, economic growth means more money for hospitals and schools and generally that means better services. Personally, I like the idea of getting richer â€“ and most of us think of money and happiness being pretty closely linked. But the link is increasingly being questioned. Oliver James in his book Affluenza argues that our efforts to get rich are driven by a desire to do better than the Jonesâ€™s but this leaves us stressed out when we succeed and miserable when we donâ€™t.
Streetbank has a new layout. But donâ€™t be confused! We have changed things a bit â€“ the old home page with the borrowing, giving away and skills tabs still exists â€“ just now it is called â€œthingsâ€ though let us know if you can think of a better name. And from now on this will be the front page â€“ a mixture of blogs with contributions from us, from you and from other people who have thought about community, simple living and living a full life.
Streetbank is having a PARTY! Come and celebrate the launch of Streetbank and meet some of the local Streetbank community at St Paul’s Church, Hammersmith on Thurs 15th April from 6.15 – 9pm, all welcome.
We're doing some complicated things behind the scenes which will make Streetbank faster and ensure that very few messages forwarded to your email get junked. (If you have sent a message recently and received no response please don't give up on humanity it is more likely to be that the message was junked - or possibly junked on the way back to you by your email system). The new system is up and running in part so this should now not happen but there are a few bugs that we are ironing out. Funny bits of code appearing in strange places if you dig a bit. Also the Wednesday newsletter is not yet working. It didn't come out last Wednesday and it won't come out this Wednesday. Apologies. In the meantime, thanks for your patience.
Sam - Tuesday 8th March
We received a call from Philippa, earlier in the week, whose day job is to organise "UK AWARE" a sustainable living event held at Kensington Olympia on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th March. Philippa is working flat out but had time to share the vision and invite us to come along. As a streetbee you get half price tickets (a snip at £3.50) to the exhibition by visiting www.ukaware.com and using "STREETBANK" in the promotional code box when booking your ticket. It will bring together a bunch of really interesting organisations offering cars, computers, fashion, food, eco-tourism and energy saving advice as well as seminars and workshops on all aspects of a low impact lifestyle. Hopefully see you there!