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The pros of sharing

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By Lisa Fox, co-founder of Open Shed.

I first heard the term ‘collaborative consumption’ in December 2010 when I listened to Rachel Botsman’s excellent TEDx talk. Inspired, I went on to read her book, co-authored by Roo Rodgers, What’s Mine Is (Y)ours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. The book discusses mainly US and European sites and I became very interested in how I could start participating in the collaborative consumption movement in Australia. But I wasn’t able to find a peer-to-peer rental site with trust and safety features that I felt comfortable using. So, I convinced Duncan - my partner and a skilled web developer - to help me create it.

In March 2011, we quit our jobs, gave up our rented inner city apartment and started house-sitting around Australia (to keep our living costs low) to bring you what is now Open Shed. The site went live Australia-wide in October 2011.

Duncan and I both believe peer-to-peer renting just makes sense . We don’t have to own 'stuff' to make use of it. And by helping Australians to share their 'stuff' with other people through Open Shed, they can significantly reduce their environmental impact, save money and space, and reconnect with their neighbours through like minded interests and helping each other out.

We also believe there is a real need for Open Shed in Australia, and its potential is huge! In September 2011, Gumtree’s Second Hand Economy Report found that the average Australian has $3,772 in unused goods. That's $43 billion worth of stuff stashed away in sheds, spare rooms, cupboards etc., across Australia - think of all that renting potential!

We have heavily focused on building a site that makes peer-to-peer rental transactions as easy and as safe as possible, so that sharing resources will become a mainstream way to consume and access what Australians need, when they need it.

The first rental on Open Shed was actually a cute ladies' clown costume. I love being able to say that because it's so fun and random, there is no way in a million years would I have guessed that it would be the first item to be rented. Because of the name Open Shed people instantly think tools, but really you can rent out all types of stuff via the site. Through our recent survey we found that the top three categories of items that interest people are:

1. Tools and DIY equipment
2. Gardening items
3. Camping and travel items

Duncan and I keep our personal 'stuff' to a minimum since we are travel around house sitting, so we actually don’t have many of our own listings on the Open Shed. But I did have a great sharing experience while house sitting in Hervey Bay. I rented my GHD hair straightener to a local for one night when her hair straightener died on a Sunday and she wouldn’t be able to buy a replacement until after an important meeting on the Monday. It was great to meet someone new in the area and it also made me feel so good to be able to help her out. I understand how frustrating it can be not to be able to straighten your hair when you really want straight hair. One of the reasons I actually listed my GHD on Open Shed was because I forgot to take mine on holidays once and wished I could rent one for a night.

So, before you think you haven't got anything worthwhile to share in the collaborative consumption movement, think laterally, dig deep into those cupboards - and get involved!