Does this sound like something that could happen to you? Well it happened to Micki Krimmel, Founder & CEO of NeighborGoods.net. While planning for a trip to Thailand she realized she had to spend a lot of money on an item she'd only really use once.
"I did some research and realized that was true for most Americans," she says. "We spend over $22 billion a year on self-storage space in this country. I figured there had to be a way to get more value out of all the stuff we're not using every day."
Thus, NeighborGoods.net was born.
Launched a week ago nationwide (the site has been up and running in Southern California for several months), NeighborGoods might very well change the American consumer's relationship to household goods.
The site gives users the opportunity to share household items with neighbors and friends by posting the item's availability. Then those neighbors and friends can either borrow or rent those items, as indicated by the user. The site boasts over $750,000 worth of available items to date.
So, if you have a yard but no lawnmower, you might check NeighborGoods to see if you can borrow one from a neighbor. On the other hand, if you have a mower you only use once a week, consider listing it in on NeighborGoods as a rental to recoup some of the money you spent to buy it in the first place.
NeighborGoods allows the user complete control over his or her posting, including who gets to see it or borrow it. More valuable stuff may be limited to "friends only." The site also helps its users keep track of their stuff with calendars and automated reminders.
It also has built-in public alarms that a lender can sound when someone has not returned a borrowed item.
Not only is the idea environmentally sound, but it's economical and space-efficient. In urban centers the idea is especially appealing. If space is an issue in your apartment, loaning out or borrowing might be exactly the way to go.
Car sharing networks like Zipcar are services that have had huge success, allowing their members to share cars when public transit is a strong resource in their communities. It appeals to people who may still want the freedom of a car on occasion, without all the expenses of owning one.
Craigslist has served as a popular website for trading goods or for simply getting rid of items cluttering up the house -- either for free or for pay. Its popularity also signifies the desire of a disparate population to create community. With features like "missed connections" and "community activities," craigslist was certainly one of the first websites to--not simply bring together people on different sides of the globe--but also people living in the same neighborhoods.
Freecycle and eBay have also managed to help bolster community activity in their own ways through the sharing or selling of pre-owned products (where -- in the age of the automobile -- this sense of community has otherwise suffered).
"What's exciting about it is that it seems like NeighborGoods is a good fit in urban centers, but it also works in more suburban and rural areas," says Krimmel. "There is a strong desire in our country right now to strengthen local communities wherever people live."
"We love Craigslist, eBay and Freecyle," she adds. "Those sites are very good at helping you get rid of stuff you don't want anymore. But when you want to lend something out -- when you want that item back -- that's where NeighborGoods comes in."
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