7 Cool City Sharing Programs to Borrow What You Need

May 9, 2019

Living in a city has its perks…and expenses. However, strength in numbers can help ease those expenses with the emergence of the sharing economy. Dig deeper than the biggest names and you’ll find free or low-cost marketplaces in your city for clothing, vegetables, power tools, books, guitars, 3D printers, bike repair, and more.

Jeffrey Tanenhaus is a Tulsa-based writer and supporter of the sharing economy. He once undocked a Citi Bike from New York and rode it to California, linking up with different bike sharing networks along the way.

 

Learn more about Zipcar for Business.

very excited woman holding a blazer in the air

1. CLOTHING SWAPS: Savvy shoppers know to never pay retail prices. Refresh your wardrobe on the cheap at clothing swaps. In New York City, you can snag free clothing, shoes, hats, and accessories as well as toys, games, and housewares at rotating Stop 'N' Swaps. You don't even need to bring items to take something. In San Francisco, Clothing Swap, Inc. goes beyond thrift store quality with glamorous gowns and cocktail dresses during catered events with wine. Admission costs benefit a non-profit, and unclaimed articles are donated.

Image courtesy of Clothing Swap, Inc.

two people working on raised garden beds

2. COMMUNITY GARDENS: Digging your hands in dirt is just as satisfying as rifling through clothing racks. Community gardens are a great way to meet neighbors and walk away with free, healthy food. The American Community Gardening Association has a comprehensive directory. Meanwhile, the Austin-born Food is Free project provides a model of low-maintenance community gardening that is taking root in a front yard near you. Best of all, anyone can harvest the produce for free.

workbenches full of power tools

3. TOOL LIBRARIES: Instead of buying books you'll just read once, you can go to a library. Instead of buying tools you'll just use once...go to a tool library? Yup, and they're more prevalent than you think. Well-equipped sheds have thousands of mechanical, power, and hand tools for carpentry, woodworking, concrete, masonry, plumbing, drilling, digging, gardening, grinding, and sawing. Most require a nominal annual membership, but it beats paying full price for a belt sander. Find a tool library in your city and get to work!

Image courtesy of Toronto Tool Library.

hand opening a little free library box

4. LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES: Perhaps the most powerful tool is knowledge. Little Free Library is a book-sharing platform where each branch has its own unique character and collection. They're so tiny you might never have noticed one. These outdoor neighborhood book exchanges—sometimes planted in community gardens—allow 24/7 access to free reads. Take a book, read a book, leave a book. No late fees!

four guitars and a banjo

5. MUSICAL INSTRUMENT LIBRARIES: Just like tools and books, there are also libraries for musical instruments. In Philadelphia and Toronto, these libraries offer free access to string and percussion instruments and gear, such as guitars, amps, banjos, violins, and hand drums. In Toronto, the collection even extends to brass, wind, and keyboards, making this an inexpensive way to discover your inner virtuoso. Need help hitting the right notes? Check out Mandolin For Dummies on a nearby shelf. Just don't practice inside the stacks. (It is still a library, after all.)

woman holding a row of small electrical components

6. MAKERSPACES: Want to make something more permanent than music? Stay right where you are—hands-on, high-tech Makerspaces have you covered. Maker culture uses science, technology, and engineering to create physical and digital projects in community workspaces. Resources can include a 3D printer, audio equipment, vinyl cutter, design software, laser cutter...even old school crochet hooks and sewing machines. Dabble in a new hobby at free public maker labs in Chicago, Denver, DC, and Pittsburgh, or pay a membership fee to access private facilities in other cities.

Image courtesy of Genspace.

a person pumping a bike from a community pump

7. BIKE KITCHENS: Zipcar makes getting around town easy, but sometimes just two wheels are enough. Your bike keeps you in shape and you need to keep it conditioned, too. Dero's free DIY bike repair stations have tools to pump air, fix flats, and adjust brakes. Need hands-on help? Low-cost bike kitchens in San Francisco and Somerville, MA are repair cooperatives open to the public that provide tools, parts, and advice on fixing your ride. What a wheelie great deal!

Image courtesy of Dero Fixit.

very excited woman holding a blazer in the air

1. CLOTHING SWAPS: Savvy shoppers know to never pay retail prices. Refresh your wardrobe on the cheap at clothing swaps. In New York City, you can snag free clothing, shoes, hats, and accessories as well as toys, games, and housewares at rotating Stop 'N' Swaps. You don't even need to bring items to take something. In San Francisco, Clothing Swap, Inc. goes beyond thrift store quality with glamorous gowns and cocktail dresses during catered events with wine. Admission costs benefit a non-profit, and unclaimed articles are donated.

Image courtesy of Clothing Swap, Inc.

two people working on raised garden beds

2. COMMUNITY GARDENS: Digging your hands in dirt is just as satisfying as rifling through clothing racks. Community gardens are a great way to meet neighbors and walk away with free, healthy food. The American Community Gardening Association has a comprehensive directory. Meanwhile, the Austin-born Food is Free project provides a model of low-maintenance community gardening that is taking root in a front yard near you. Best of all, anyone can harvest the produce for free.

workbenches full of power tools

3. TOOL LIBRARIES: Instead of buying books you'll just read once, you can go to a library. Instead of buying tools you'll just use once...go to a tool library? Yup, and they're more prevalent than you think. Well-equipped sheds have thousands of mechanical, power, and hand tools for carpentry, woodworking, concrete, masonry, plumbing, drilling, digging, gardening, grinding, and sawing. Most require a nominal annual membership, but it beats paying full price for a belt sander. Find a tool library in your city and get to work!

Image courtesy of Toronto Tool Library.

hand opening a little free library box

4. LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES: Perhaps the most powerful tool is knowledge. Little Free Library is a book-sharing platform where each branch has its own unique character and collection. They're so tiny you might never have noticed one. These outdoor neighborhood book exchanges—sometimes planted in community gardens—allow 24/7 access to free reads. Take a book, read a book, leave a book. No late fees!

four guitars and a banjo

5. MUSICAL INSTRUMENT LIBRARIES: Just like tools and books, there are also libraries for musical instruments. In Philadelphia and Toronto, these libraries offer free access to string and percussion instruments and gear, such as guitars, amps, banjos, violins, and hand drums. In Toronto, the collection even extends to brass, wind, and keyboards, making this an inexpensive way to discover your inner virtuoso. Need help hitting the right notes? Check out Mandolin For Dummies on a nearby shelf. Just don't practice inside the stacks. (It is still a library, after all.)

woman holding a row of small electrical components

6. MAKERSPACES: Want to make something more permanent than music? Stay right where you are—hands-on, high-tech Makerspaces have you covered. Maker culture uses science, technology, and engineering to create physical and digital projects in community workspaces. Resources can include a 3D printer, audio equipment, vinyl cutter, design software, laser cutter...even old school crochet hooks and sewing machines. Dabble in a new hobby at free public maker labs in Chicago, Denver, DC, and Pittsburgh, or pay a membership fee to access private facilities in other cities.

Image courtesy of Genspace.

a person pumping a bike from a community pump

7. BIKE KITCHENS: Zipcar makes getting around town easy, but sometimes just two wheels are enough. Your bike keeps you in shape and you need to keep it conditioned, too. Dero's free DIY bike repair stations have tools to pump air, fix flats, and adjust brakes. Need hands-on help? Low-cost bike kitchens in San Francisco and Somerville, MA are repair cooperatives open to the public that provide tools, parts, and advice on fixing your ride. What a wheelie great deal!

Image courtesy of Dero Fixit.