whats mine is yours or collaborative consumption

Dear Uma: Pete and I went to a New Year's Eve party and, aside from the misbehaviour of my little black dress, we had a good time.

Dear Uma:

Pete and I went to a New Year’s Eve party and, aside from the misbehaviour of my little black dress, we had a good time.

My dress rode up in front and dragged down in the back, leading Pete to dub it a ‘mixi’ dress and declare it a new fashion.

He is such a comfort to me.

While putting on makeup for this Hogmanay do, I mourned my lack of cheekbones, and again Pete gallantly came to the rescue, telling me that when I smiled, I had cheekbones. I didn’t tell him that was fat: cheekbones don’t move when one smiles, but fat does. I smiled hard and thanked him.

At the party, the very first person who spoke to me shared the information that humans share 70 per cent of their DNA with sea sponges. At last! Someone at a gathering who spoke my language!

Usually our forays into the social whirl of Watson Lake have me picking at Pete’s arm and asking to go home about an hour after our arrival but at this one, he was the one who suggested we leave. Sorry to say, the gentleman with the sparkling repartee does not live in our town, but he will be coming back this summer.

After such an auspicious beginning 2011 is going to be a wonderful year; I just know it.

There is so much good news to be dwelling on and that is what I shall be doing. I am going to dwell on good news. I am going to seek out good news to dwell on. No more bilious vituperation from me, about anything. I am offering you the following gallimaufry of things to feel good about so that we can both be happy at the same time.

A great way to start this glad New Year is to read the book on collaborative consumption, an idea gaining enormous popularity and attention. Who could not be immediately entranced with Rachel and Roo? They are cute and chirpy; she is a ‘social innovator’ and he is a ‘serial entrepreneur’ and together they are working to educate people about sharing their stuff. Or is he the ‘social entrepreneur’ and Rachel the ‘serial innovator’? I think I won’t allow myself to worry about it; I’ll just be glad that they exist, and are chirpily doing such good work in the world.

Collaborative consumption is swapping, trading, sharing, bartering, and/or renting one’s things and it is not only good for ecovores, but it has had the added bonus of teaching people to trust one another, or so claims the social innovator.

Rachel certainly has a point when she talks about all the stuff we have that we don’t use a lot, like cordless drills or snow blowers, that we could be letting other people use.

The new 2011 me is not going to get bogged down in remembering previous experiences with collaborative consumption; the times when it was called simply “lending.”

I will not let myself go into recall mode about lost CDs, books, casserole dishes, a ladder and a favourite sweater. I no longer miss those articles anyway.

Another happy notion to hit the marketplace is Jelloware: glasses made from an algae-based gelatin. Kind of like an ice cream cone for cocktails. Empty your glass and then eat it or throw it on the ground – it’s good for plants. What they don’t tell us is whether or not the Jelloglass is good for refills, or whether it might melt in one’s hand.

Farmville, an online game that has garnered a worldwide following of 90 million players, is virtual farming, and reported to be quite addictive and very happy-making. I checked it out and it didn’t click for me at all, other than to remind me of how much I enjoyed growing real food in our real backyard.

It also reminded me of the time you were raising sheep on your farm and I came for a visit. It was spring, and there were lambs – do you remember this? We were having a tea party in the garden and we were all dressed up.

I was wearing a new Laura Ashley dress I’d bought in London; it was pale green, with a dark green leaf print and had three tiers of flounce starting from below the armpits and finishing at the ankles with a flounce of fabric that could be held to shoulder height.

It was a gorgeous dress, perfect for a spring tea party in a garden. I had topped my ensemble with a wide-brimmed straw hat that had green ribbons trailing down my back.

There was an arbour and gate that led from the garden into the little field where the lambs were kept and we were oohing and aahing over the little darlings, all white and fluffy and gambolling.

At some point you went into the house and came out with a large basket full of baby bottles, saying it was feeding time for the lambs. I wanted to do it, but you said no, forcing me to wheedle and beg until you hung the basket over my arm, shrugged, and told me to go for it. I went through the gate, ignoring your attempts to give me some advice, and imagining what a picture it would make; me in that lovely flouncy dress and hat, feeding lambs. How hard could it be? Was my last coherent thought before I was mugged.

Hard to believe how those small fluffy babies could morph into savage sharp-hoofed ravenous feeders. I staggered out of the field in less than five minutes, looking like the Whomping Willow had had a go at me.

My dress was ripped and shat upon, my hat trampled flat, its ribbons shredded, and one of my sandals was gone. The basket was still over my arm, but the bottles were strewn all over the field. You and your guests were draped over the garden furniture laughing and hooting.

I was not so good a sport in those days as I am now; I think I actually cut short my visit.

Back to happy news.

There is a website called Happy News and I have perused it with an eye to more in depth reading in this coming year of determined gladness.

On offer right now:

Maternal health care in Ethiopia improved.

Good bacteria helps kids with bowel troubles.

Aretha Franklin says medical problem ‘solved.’

King’s cake feeds Mexico City.

Man’s skull regenerates after 50 years.

She lost a leg but gained a brother.

Library book returned after 65 years.

I also discovered a site on how to use old things for new purposes; a pasta maker can be turned into a paper shredder, for instance. Or use a salad spinner to dry cashmere sweaters.

There is a car that runs on air. It’s called an AirPod.

In Japan, an enterprising fellow has invented a machine than can render household plastics back into useable oil. One kilogram of plastic makes one litre of oil, and the machine itself is no larger than a dishwasher.

I think everyone is going to be happier this year. Even businesses are making the effort, such as the supermarket featuring this sign in the window:

“For your convenience we offer courteous efficient self-service.”

In the interests of collaborative consumption, I am sending you one of our Christmas presents. What could be nicer, I ask you, than a can opener called a “Walk ‘n Go”?

Imagine the hours in a year that this device will free up for you, giving you time to do things more important to your happiness.



Heather Bennett is a writer who lives in Watson Lake.