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“Is Bristol a Sharing City?”

What is a Sharing City?  That is the question I found myself exploring this month, as I traveled to South Korea to represent Bristol Green Capital Partnership at the ICLEI global congress of Cities committed to sustainability.

zipbob2

South Korea celebrating Global Sharing Day: Share Hub and Zipbob raised a campaign about sharing food with the neighbors.

Seoul has officially named itself a Sharing City and has done an incredible amount of work in the past few years to build up understanding and action around a different economic model that aims to refocus minds towards ‘access not ownership’.

How often do you use that drill in the cupboard?  How long does your toddler where that party dress for before they’ve outgrown it?  How often do you drive a car with no passengers?  Who sleeps in your long-since-left-home-child’s room?  When the toaster breaks does it go in the bin, or is there a neighbour you’ve not even met, who would relish the chance to use their skills to fix it and return it or pass it on?

Almost every aspect of life can be reframed as an opportunity to share – bringing economic, social and environmental benefits to both the giver and receiver.  In a world where we are defined so often as ‘consumers’, this movement invites us re-use, recycle, re-connect and rediscover the pleasure of savouring and sharing what we have.

libraryAs I set in a workshop with participants from communities across all continents, I heard inspirational story after story.  People sharing their loft or garage spaces.  Neighbours sharing books, toys, cars, handbags and lawnmowers.  Schools and Colleges sharing data and expertise and companies helping people share everything from lifts and parking spaces, to skills and wisdom.  Public services sharing buildings after hours and individuals sharing homes with traveling strangers.

Every story had a similar theme – this is good for your pocket, your heart, your life and the planet.  It really was a sharing of the Soul of Seoul.

Artspace Lifespace Project: an artist led initiative that recycles vacant, under-used and problem properties into thriving active creative resources.

Artspace Lifespace Project: an artist led initiative that recycles vacant, under-used and problem properties into thriving active creative resources.

What was a welcome surprise, was that almost every one of these examples had an equivalent in Bristol.  Bristol is already a Sharing City, but I had had to come to the other side of the world to recognize it as that.  What would be different if we named it?  How would that simple act of giving a face for all this activity, give people here a pride in their communities and a chance to get involved?

Lifecycle: Riders cross the finish line at the Life Cycle Pier to Port sponsored ride.

Lifecycle: Riders cross the finish line at the Life Cycle Pier to Port sponsored ride.

Within Bristol Green Capital Partnership we have numerous member organizations building a thriving ‘sharing economy’ right here in Bristol.

We have transport sharing via bicycle refurbishment and recycling; Lifecycle, APE Project, Bike Workshop and Roll for the Soul amongst many others; Car Sharing and Car Clubs.

Skills are shared via on and offline networks; Volunteer Bristol, Neighbourly, Helpful Peeps and others).

The Local Economy is focused on sharing local resources via the Bristol Pound, Love Bristol and numerous local gift economy sites like Freecycle.

Image from http://foodcycle.org.uk/: collect surplus produce locally from and using these ingredients to prepare nutritious meals to be served to the community.

http://foodcycle.org.uk/: collecting surplus produce locally and using these ingredients to prepare nutritious meals for the community.

Food is grown, gathered and shared by volunteers and students alike; Foodcycle, Fare Share, Skipchen and numerous Community Gardens are just the tip of our food sharing economy.

I could go on, but is there a city in the UK that is doing more sharing?  How do we celebrate this and ‘share’ its successes?

So, just as the Mayor of Bristol started conversations with the Mayor of Seoul about ‘sharing the sharing model’, I was having numerous conversations with delegates from around the world about learning and sharing from each others’ examples of the a Sharing City in action.

By own organization, Happy City’s long term strapline – Live More, Share More, Enjoy Life, for Less – couldn’t be a more appropriate one for Bristol as “Sharing City’ – and I think people, places and the planet will thank us for reconnecting with this radically simple idea.

This is the second of three blogs we will be publishing by Liz Zeidler, Chair of BGCP, following her trip to the ICLEI congress at the invitation of the hosts, where she shared Bristol's history of partnership and the role of BGCP-style models in sustainable urban futures.

The first blog, "A powerful call to action from Seoul", is available to read here.

Read more about Bristol Wood Recycling Project and the Bristol Re-Use Network here.

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