By Kate Reed, Project Coordinator

Generally the things that we don’t use every day – that take up space in our garages, kitchen cupboards, or spare rooms – could easily and usefully be shared. Plus, some things we own are only used for a short time; the average power drill is only used for about 13 minutes in its entire lifetime. What if, instead of buying a power drill, you could easily borrow one from a neighbour, saving money and building up your connecton with your neighbour at the same time?

Inspired by Frome’s Share Shop, here at the Network of Wellbeing (NOW) we have been seeding the idea of starting a Share Shop in Totnes (in Devon, United Kingdom). A Share Shop is a ‘library of things’; instead of books, people can borrow all sorts of useful things, ranging from ladders, drills, camping equipment, gardening equipment, dinner sets, fancy dress outfits, toys, musical instruments – the list is as big as your imagination!

The aim is to help people connect more, spend less and waste less. The great benefits are that sharing allows everyone, including people with low or no income, to borrow tools and other things that they would otherwise have to buy. It encourages more collaboration, neighbourliness and encourages a local culture of sharing.

As well as these social and economic benefits, there important environmental benefits of sharing too. By sharing we use less of the earth’s precious resources in creating more ‘stuff’, and cut down on the associated pollution this entails. Ideally it may also prevent people throwing away goods into landfill, especially if we can have a repair aspect to the shop too.

Totnes Share Shop Inspiration Morning

To explore the local community interest in having a Share Shop in Totnes we started by asking people for their views and ideas through questionnaires, and we established that many people are keen on the idea. We then began to talk to community leaders who were also supportive, and a few weeks ago we hosted a Share Shop Inspiration Morning, inviting those interested in the local community to come together and explore how to take the project forward.

The Inspiration Morning was a brilliant meeting with lively participation. Huge thanks to everyone who came, for sharing your enthusiasm and ideas! There were at least 30 people there, including our mayor Jacqi Hodgson, who spoke about her enthusiasm for having a Share Shop in Totnes, and our local MP Sarah Wollaston, who supports the Share Shop and has offered to promote it in her newsletter.

To kick off the Inspiration Morning we watched a short film from Frome’s Share Shop, which is a very inspiring watch for those interested in sharing projects. Following this we broke off into small groups to envision what a Share Shop could look like in Totnes. People’s visions spanned from having a mobile market stall where people could borrow things, to having an intergenerational social space where people could share things, skills, and social activities. We had ideas on venues, funding, promotion, finding volunteers, and how we’d source all of the different things that could be shared.

An enthusiastic group of eight people have volunteered to form a steering group to take the Totnes Share Shop vision forward, and the steering group met for the first time on Friday 4th March. In this productive meeting we looked at the information collected from the Inspiration Morning and decided the next step is to look for potential venues, as the type of venue we get will influence what can be offered under one roof. We are also looking at how to involve young people in the project, and are hoping to connect with local schools too.

Update: the ShareShed is now live! See to get involved.

Photos used in this post: photo 1 – credit to Got Credit and photo 2 was taken by NOW at the recent Totnes Share Shop Inspiration Morning.