How to share in Oxfordshire
Here’s the scene: you’re planning an event or project, and you require some things to bring it to life. Your finger is on the ‘add to cart’ button but… WAIT! There’s another way. Arts production was possible before Amazon existed…
We can share! As a society, we need to stop hoarding resources, and a simple way to do that is to share what we already have. Reusable plastic cups that are gathering dust in an arts centre’s cupboard are more sustainable than new, nicely branded compostable cups – you get the idea. It’s tempting to order biodegradable, compostable or ‘eco-friendly’ materials and equipment, but at the end of the day, these items still required energy to produce and transport, and therefore almost every new product is responsible for new carbon emissions. When we understand the environmental cost of buying new, we can see the true value of sharing what we already have with others. Sharing is good for everyone, because it’s good for our planet.
If you’re reading this, the chances are that you already have an idea of why it’s important to avoid buying new wherever possible. Simply put, our planets resources are limited, we’re experiencing climate and ecological breakdown resulting from our consumption, and we don’t have long to change our ways before the damage is irreversible.
But there’s good news. When Sharebee surveyed 2000 people, they found that 60% of people want to share more! So lets do it.
Here are 6 ways that you can share in Oxfordshire…
Check SHARE Oxford Library of Things
Oxford is one of the pioneering places to have its own Library of Things! SHARE Oxford Library of Things aims to help make Oxford a sharing community for the future, tackling the climate emergency and cost of living crisis and forging community bonds with their library of things, repair cafés and online community.
They are a community action group, operating out of Makespace, a space that rapidly filled up and looks like a cave of wonders.
You can hire anything from a gazebo to an electric cargo bike, power tools, bunting or even a pedal powered smoothie maker, for an affordable price that goes towards ensuring that the library is financially sustainable.
You can take a look at their inventory here, and learn a bit more about their story below…
List an item on Sharebee
Sharebee is a new app building a sharing community that’s useful for people and good for the planet. They’ve got a growing presence in London, and it would be great to establish a sharing network in Oxford, but we need your help to do it.
Sharebee makes sharing easy – safely connecting people who want to lend with people who want to borrow. Protecting stuff that is lent, tracking whose got your stuff, saving time, space and money. And every time you lend or borrow you’ll be saving some C02. Lets stop defaulting to buying things we only use once or twice and start sharing instead.
Here’s a little film about how it works…
Sharebee’s founder Samuel Carter joined Ben Tuppen of SHARE Oxford Library of Things at an action group we hosted back in April. We discussed how we, as a network of artists and cultural organisations, might be able to share using these two resources. Hopefully sometime soon we can establish a protected ‘hive’ of GAON members who would like to share with each other. Get in touch if you’d be interested!
Come to a Swap Shop or host your own
The most eco-friendly materials are the ones that you already own! Lots of different community groups in Oxfordshire and further afield host clothing and plant swaps from time to time, and back in April we worked with Oxford Brookes University Fine Art student Ash Goller to hold one for art materials.
The premise of ‘The Artisan Swap Shop’ is simple: gather up the materials you don’t use anymore (half used paints, fabric scraps, mediums that you didn’t get on with etc.), come along to a Swap Shop hosted by Ash, and swap for something that inspires you!
The first Swap Shop we held at Fusion Arts 95 Gloucester Green drew 30 visitors, who swapped canvases, oil pastels, sketchbooks, spray paints and more. Anything left over (and there was quite a bit) was donated to Orinoco, a scrapstore in Cowley and Banbury. It went so well that we exhibited a drop-in, un-manned Swap Shop stall as part of the recent Adapt Transform exhibition at Modern Art Oxford and the Oxford Brookes University’s Glass Tank gallery. Visitors could pop by at any time to adopt some unloved materials alongside other exhibits that explored urban design and creativity.
You could easily host a similar event yourself, by organising a time and place for people to bring items to, and letting lots of community groups know. It helps to have a reserve of a few items at the start for people to begin swapping with, or for those that discover the event by accident. Ash was able to source lots of unwanted materials from uni friends and the skip outside the art building. Let us know if you plan to host a similar event and we’ll do our best to spread the word.
Post on community facebook groups
Back in April, we needed a heat press for a workshop – which is pretty niche! We checked the Library of Things and Sharebee, but unfortunately neither had one of those yet. So, I turned to the community.
In Oxford we’re very lucky to have several active community Facebook groups, many catering to specific sectors like Oxfordshire Theatre Makers or Oxford Arts Events. Within an hour of posting my request to borrow a heat press on the Oxford Community Facebook page, a kind community member got in touch and we’d arranged for Pedal and Post to collect their spare heat press from Littlemore in no time at all.
I was so impressed with how quick and easy it had been to find. Maybe it was luck, maybe it was people power! When we needed another pair of heat proof gloves a few days before the event, I posted again. Once again, someone came to my aid, and we picked up some gloves from Flo’s – the Place in the Park.
This was my experience – maybe yours will be different. I mentioned a reputable organisation in my post, and linked to the related event so that they could see that it was legitimate. People might be more hesitant to lend something to individuals that aren’t associated with a known group, but you don’t know until you try.
The SHARE Oxford Facebook group has 700 people and might be a great place to ask if you’re not sure where to start.
Speaking of community power, you can even share cars!
ShareOurCar wants to make it easier for communities to share cars. Sharing cars saves people money, makes nicer streets, and helps mitigate climate change.
They created the UK’s first neighbourhood closed loop trusted group in East Oxford, partnering with Hiyacar (Airbnb for cars) who verify the drivers, provide the insurance, and manage the booking system.
Find out more about how they manage their local group here.
Ask them directly!
If none of the above have helped you, informal sharing is quick and easy for small groups. If you are a trusted organisation, and you can think of another group that might have something that you would like to borrow, why not ask? There’s a chance that you could work something out between yourselves and begin to develop a mutually beneficial relationship.
Sharing isn’t always possible for high value equipment like PA systems and power tools due to insurance policies, but depending on the circumstances, you might be able to insure things affordably for a day or so under your name.
For cheaper items like costumes, bean bags, tables or glasses, lots of organisations are willing to share in the interest of helping the creative sector in Oxford to become more sustainable.
So there you have it – sharing in Oxfordshire is that easy. Your events and art projects can be built by the community around you, saving you money and carbon emissions. Let me know how you get on!