I just had a great relaxing weekend at South Lake Tahoe, where the weather was gorgeous but the economy was in a bit of a tailspin. It was way too quiet for Memorial Day weekend, and there are many vacant buildings and stalled construction projects. The largest, covering several city blocks right at Stateline (just next to the four biggest casinos, one of which is shutting down next year) has been a huge hole in the ground since late 2007. People are scaling back their travel expenses, and tourist destinations are taking it on the chin, and everyone is looking for ways to save money.
On the bright side, my parents have an arrangement with the next door neighbor to share a snow blower. It technically belongs to the neighbor, but he isn’t around much in the winter. So the winter tenants at our cabin store it in the garage so he can “borrow” it as needed. And if you can share a snow-blower in Tahoe (where snow is measured in feet, and everyone needs to deal with it right at the same time), you can share just about anything.
Indeed, the Associated Press has reported on people getting wise about sharing. The nation’s garages are crammed full of big expensive tools that we rarely need, so rather than stick to the foolish old ways of everyone owning their own wood chipper (or renting one at much higher expense), some savvy folks are pooling their resources.
This is not just a result of recession, though. Mother Earth News reported on this same dynamic (with handy how-to tips!) five years ago. And for just a couple of examples of long-running tool cooperatives, please check out the tool library of Seattle’s Phinney Neighborhood Association, which has a fee schedule for a whole variety of big fancy tools. Or consider the Berkeley tool library, which is now a part of the regular public library and provides tools for free.
Wikipedia has a list of other tool libraries, many of which have web sites. So if you want to get all official and complicated, you’ve got plenty of company. But meanwhile, just keep an eye on your neighbors. If you notice that they’ve got something you need, just bring up the idea. Maybe you can borrow their chainsaw in exchange for loaning them your air compressor. Or loan them your pickup if they’ll let you use their rototiller.
The possibilities are limitless, but you’ve gotta ask.