Here’s the scenario: there’s an item that you want. Let’s say it’s a movie. You go to your local video rental store, but they don’t have it, so you try finding it to purchase. The closest place selling this movie is sixty miles away. Still, you really want to see it, so you get in your car and drive the whole way there to buy it. You watch it once and then never again. If you were using Acts of Sharing, you’d know that your friend across town had that movie. You could have just borrowed it. “What is Acts of Sharing?” you ask. It’s a social networking site that promotes sharing of goods in order to build community and promote sustainable living, and it’s nominated for a South by Southwest Interactive Award in the Community category.

How Acts of Sharing Works
Like other social networking sites, the first step is to create an account and start adding your friends. Since you’re going to be sharing your own personal belongings, though, the Acts of Sharing website makes it clear that you should only add people that you know well. Then you begin searching for things you have and are willing to lend, as well as things you want to borrow from someone else.

The common things are there:

  • Books
  • Movies
  • Board or card games
  • Video game systems, games, and peripherals

The introduction video also gives you other suggestions to help you think about what you want to share:

  • Guitars and other musical instruments
  • Clothing
  • Tools
  • Chainsaws
  • Jumper cables
  • A Chevy Avalanche (or any car…)

According to the stats on the page, a Chevy Avalanche is actually one of the most sought-after items at the moment, so that gives you an idea of what people are sharing. The best practice is probably not to go out of your comfort zone. If your car is an extension of yourself, it’s probably best to leave it off of your list.

You create something of a digital library with all of the things you’re willing to lend to your friends. When someone indicates that they want to borrow an item you have, you’re able to change the status of that item to show that it’s checked out. From there, it’s up to you to complete the transaction. You agree on a meeting place (another reason why it’s important to only add people you know well) and come together to exchange goods.

Items are checked out for a certain period of time, so it’s possible for you to be overdue. Built in to Acts of Sharing is a rating system that’s similar to what you find on sites like eBay. If you return an item to your friend on time, they check it back in appropriately and you get a certain point value. If you’re late checking the item back in, your points can be duly affected. The lender can also leave comments, so they can tell everyone else if you’re a great borrower or a bad one. It seems that social problems would almost be implicit in this system since they’re not really anonymous. Sally might get angry at Sandy for telling all of their friends that she’s not a very good borrower, and then things could get hairy.

Overall, though, this is a great system for sharing all from one place.

Social, Ecological, and Economical Outcomes
Sure, Acts of Sharing is a fun way to get what you need and help others do the same, but there’s a little bit more than that below the surface.

One of Acts of Sharing’s goals is to create or improve a sense of community with their site. Sharing goods requires that you and your friends get together in order to exchange them. The more you share, the more you see friends that you otherwise might not see as often. Groups of friends sharing with each other come together. A sense of community is established and social interactions are increased. This is a bonus for people who feel like they’re weighed down with work and never get out of the house. Get up and start sharing!

The sort of long-term goal is to promote a sustainable living. To put it simply, we create way too much waste. We buy things only to use them once and never again. Throwing them away isn’t environmentally friendly, either. With the economy in its current state, it’s difficult for a lot of people to even justify purchasing things, so it makes more sense to borrow. Sharing saves money (AOS has a kind of widget that will tell you how much you’ve saved by sharing) and creates less waste, so it’s a better move for our environment.

With its efforts to do so much good, it’s no surprise that Acts of Sharing is nominated for South by Southwest’s Community award. Checking out this website will be well worth your time, and you never know what kinds of interesting things your friends are willing to share.

Image Source: Wikipedia