By: Sarah Ditton — Development & Sustainability
Sharing is the status quo within housing cooperatives. Cooperatives are defined by people sharing space, decision-making power, buying power, and chores. Oftentimes, cooperative housemates share much more – emotional support, skills, good (and bad) times, and food.
Sharing is truly amazing. It is sustainable and affordable. I’d go so far as to say it’s radical.
Sustainable & Affordable
The more you share, the less personal stuff you need. That’s less stuff you have to pay for. And it’s less stuff manufactured, transported, and ultimately thrown out. Sharing is makes life more sustainable and affordable.
If 15 people are sharing a household they are sharing the literal air in that household. If that air is to be cooled in the Summer and heated in the Winter, it will take the same amount of energy and money to do this no matter how many people live there. So those 15 people spend one-fifth the money and using one-fifth the natural gas than would 3 people living in the same household. This idea works for most shareable stuff.
“It just makes sense to have all of these people living together. For example, for each household you need one vacuum cleaner. So in a cooperative, instead of 15 people each needing their own vacuum cleaners, you have just one. Consolidating things like that – sharing household objects and buying food in bulk together, makes financial sense and is really practical. All of those things are really important to me in terms of reducing my carbon footprint.”
Single-family household living encourages us to buy our own set of stuff. If there are only 1-5 people in each of these house, that’s a lot more stuff (and its associated environmental impact and cost) per person than if you have 10-40 people in these households.
Our economic system doesn’t want us to share. The vacuum manufacturers make more money when more people buy vacuum cleaners. They make less money when three different families share the same vacuum cleaner. Sharing reduces the demand for new vacuum cleaners by making more use of the existing ones.
Sharing is radical because it’s a counter-model, an alternative way of thinking and acting. Advertisements don’t ask us to borrow our friend’s dress for an event. We aren’t reminded to share like we’re reminded to buy. But that’s the radical nature of it. By sharing, we are actively deciding to do differently.
Cooperative living is, in part, a radical form of living because it is based on sharing. It makes sharing the status quo, the easy decision. The living space is literally shared.
It’s not always easy. It requires trust to share so deeply. Cooperative residents must have confidence that their housemates will honor and respect their common resources. When everyone shows this respect, trust builds and community grows.
Communities are built on trust and interdependence. Sharing is one of the best ways to make these grow.