Jeff will share his chipper-shredder that easily gets a yard’s worth of small branches and leaves ready for composting. Ben is offering computer software lessons, and Elizabeth will share her Italian cooking skills. John is looking for an extension ladder for a day, and Sally wants to borrow an overhead projector.

These Evanstonians have posted their “shareables” on a new online network called 10,000 Neighbors, a joint initiative of Citizens Greener Evanston (CGE) and the City of Evanston. The network is designed to help members of the Evanston community share resources, connect with others with common interests, and join one of the groups already working on CGE’s broader Community Agenda for Sustainability.

‘What’s Mine is Yours’

Everyone has things around the house that were bought for a weekend project or a special event. Perhaps it’s a power drill, now tucked away on a shelf in the basement. Or a folding table that languishes in the garage except at Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, other Evanstonians are wishing they had a power drill or a folding table they could use – just for the weekend. The 10,000 Neighbors network helps match those who have underused items with those who need them.

This sharing of resources takes place on OhSoWe.com, a locally developed website created to promote the values of collaborative consumption. The website helps neighbors build bonds with each other, makes it easy to borrow items that are needed infrequently, and encourages resource conservation. The OhSoWe site also enables community members to join an existing interest group – or to register their own group and invite their friends to start sharing.

Joining 10,000 Neighbors of Evanston is free. The online registration form asks for name, email address and home address. OhSoWe uses the home addresses to provide members with relevant and local search results so they can find other members who live nearby or see whether the person with the power washer to share lives down the block or across town.

Members are also encouraged to “verify” their home address. This can be done by making a $1 donation to the American Red Cross on the OhSoWe website – or by requesting a postcard with further verification instructions. A “verified address” badge appears next to the names of those members who have taken this step.

Although not required, verification gives members confidence that the person who appears to be a neighbor in the OhSoWe system and wants to borrow an item is indeed a neighbor. It helps build the trust people need if they are to be ready to lend something to someone they do not know well.

Anyone wishing to to join 10,000 Neighbors of Evanston may visit http://10000neighbors.com

Community Agenda for Sustainability

Building a collaborative community is one of the five items on CGE’s Community Agenda for Sustainability. The goal is to build a collaborative community of 10,000 members and to reduce consumption in Evanston by facilitating more than 1,000 sharing transactions each year. Members of the collaborative community will be able to use the OhSoWe website to share ideas, goods and services; team up with neighbors to organize a block party; or form a group to explore a common interest or pursue a common goal.

The other four community agenda items are as follows:

Improving energy efficiency in Evanston housing. The goal is to engage 40 percent of Evanston’s single-family households in an energy-efficiency program by the end of 2012. One example: Participants in the CUB Energy Saver program receive personalized energy-saving recommendations and earn points when they reduce their ComEd bills. An energy-efficiency program from Nicor will be launched soon. 

Expanding awareness of sustainability practices. The Community Education Group organizes events designed to help Evanstonians learn how to reduce their environmental impact. Green Drinks events, for example, are held on the second Tuesday of the month and feature speakers on sustainability topics as well as time for networking.

Developing an integrated transportation plan for Evanston. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation by 10 percent over the next five years. Initiatives include developing a plan to better connect the CTA, PACE and Northwestern University transportation systems and promoting the use and expansion of Evanston’s public transit, biking and walking infrastructure.

Promoting innovative approaches to renewable energy. The goals are to build community support for investments in renewable energy sources and to increase the number of installations of solar power systems in Evanston by 100 percent over the next three years.
The Renewable Energy Group works to develop support for an offshore windfarm and promotes awareness of renewable energy options available to the Evanston
community.