Share Your Lawnmower. And Your Dog.

Getting a little tired of the cost of things?

Are you wondering why an ink cartridge costs more than your monthly heating bill?

Imagine going through your day and getting all the stuff you need by sharing or renting it from others and joining in a new phenomenon that’s taking place across the world.

All sorts of “sharing sites” are springing up on the Internet, allowing people to share or rent their couches, houses, tools, meals, rides, skills and even dogs for very reasonable prices. If you think this is silly, tune into the fact that more than 3 million people have “couch-surfed” in 230 countries, and more than 2 million have “borrowed” a bike somewhere. This new trend has its own buzz word: It’s called “collaborative consumption.”

Collaborative consumption puts things we want or need at our fingertips for a reduced cost, and it’s also something that’s being touted as good for the environment because it encourages less waste.

You could share a daycare provider, for example, with your neighbor and then a ride to work with a friend from church. Your lunch might consist of items you grew in a community garden, and your office might be one that you share with other businesses. After work, you could borrow a saw from the community tool library and get to work on that bench you’ve been meaning to build.

Or, if you are yearning for a wonderful (but cheap) vacation you could go online and find someone who is willing to drive or share a ride with you to the Buffalo airport instead of paying outrageous parking fees or hiring an expensive taxi. You might book a lovely apartment in Florida on the website Airbnb where people offer to rent you their homes or single rooms (or even a couch) for peanuts, so you can save on costly hotels. You can then access a car-sharing sight where someone in Ft. Lauderdale is willing to let you borrow their car for very little-with insurance included. While you’re there, you can arrange to have dinner at the home of a local family who is eager to meet and cook for travelers.

This is all possible, and I think there’s something very empowering about it.

In a time where our monthly grocery bills cost more than a car did when my parents were young, it’s time to think outside of the box.

Humanity seems tired of being held hostage by consumerism and the crushing price tags that come with it. Rather than renting a car from a corporation for $175 a day, rent one from a sharing site that is backed by a trusted, mainstream insurance company, removing the risks but not the savings. If you just need a ride, there are sharing websites that dispatch a driver to you for a small donation.

If sharing seems a little too “warm and fuzzy” for you, consider that the phenomenon is slated to become a $110 billion dollar business by 2016.

SnapGoods is a site where you can rent just about anything you might need for just about anything you’d like to do. There are ladders, musical instruments, camera equipment and camping supplies for a daily, weekly or monthly rental for very reasonable prices.

Tool libraries are springing up across the country, allowing do-it-yourselfers to have access to chisels, saws, hammers and other equipment for little or no cost. Both Buffalo and Rochester have tool libraries.

Peer-to-peer rentals are an interesting part of this phenomenon, where people just like you are offering to rent you their boats, cars, guest rooms and other assets-all coordinated on the Internet. You can even rent someone’s parking space. Renters say it’s a great way to make extra money on items they don’t use often or are willing to share.

Websites such as Airbnb, RelayRides and SnapGoods bring owners and renters together. Social networks, online reviews and background checks allow renters to build trust, and online payment systems take care of the billing.

There’s still a lot to be worked out in this model-security for one. What’s amazing though, is how seamless the system has worked so far, with very few problems reported. Think back to how suspicious we were of online shopping 10 years ago, but now most of us do it without much thought.

Of course, big box stores, corporations and governments looking for tax revenues aren’t taking so kindly to this new way of sharing assets. But I think they’re going to have to adjust. We’ve been playing by their rules (and their price tags) for a long time now, and people are looking for ways to empower themselves again.