Learn to Save with the Sharing Economy

December 29, 2015

Recently, the Dime has had a few things to say about the relatively new idea of a “sharing economy”. Whether it’s finding a different way to get to work or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture), people are looking for more options in sharing the costs, connecting with their community, and contributing to environmental preservation. When it comes to owning a car, grocery shopping, or even your energy bill, the dollars can add up quickly. Here are some additional ways for you to get out of the typical consumer rut, cut your costs, and help out your community (and environment) in the process.

Urban Gardens and Homesteading

Not everyone can afford, or wants to pay, the up-front costs of a CSA. Maybe they don’t need enough produce to make it worth the cost or they want to be more involved, but there are a variety of reasons why it might not be the best option. So what do you do? In a world of Whole Foods and Trader Joes, it can be difficult to find quality foods for affordable costs.

Some people are swapping out the expensive grocery bill for local, community grown foods. You can trade in the costly “organic” price tag for something more tangible—home grown produce from your neighborhood garden.

Keeping chickens in the city and raising goats for milk may seem like fads, but they’re not. Urban homesteading is a growing movement and for good reason.

So far, Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) has helped over 145 urban community gardens come to fruition in the Denver area. Most community gardens are split into plots where members can claim a plot of garden to grow and care for their own produce. Shared areas (like walkways) are cared for by everyone. The vast majority of gardens are found in the low-to-moderate income areas of Denver. This includes schools, churches, community centers, and more. With an average plot fee of $35—with financial assistance available for qualifying participants—it’s a great way to work with your community and get quality produce at the same time.

DUG also offers youth education, providing schools with curriculums on gardening and nutrition, host gardening workshops and youth farmers markets, and more. Schools like Morey Middle School, in the heart of Denver, have public school-based community gardens open to the entire community. Students can not only help cultivate but learn from with topics like horticulture, geology, nutrition, and composting. The school community gardens aren’t limited to Denver central. Counties like Aurora, Adams, and Jefferson, to name a few, also work with DUG. Check with your local school to see if they have a garden or how you might be able to help them start one.

Denver Urban Homesteading goes beyond gardening and looks at the whole picture. They offer courses on beekeeping as well as information and connections for caring for chickens, ducks, and goats. Denver has become more open to food producing animals over the years so its residents are taking advantage. Fresh eggs and goat’s milk could be pricey at the grocery but if you have it in the backyard, and you don’t mind the work and care, it could be worth it. You could also participate in the markets they advertise and connect with local farms to provide you with beef, lamb, and a slew of other proteins to feed the family.

Education and community is key with all of these groups. They give people the ability to move forward and protect the environment, and eat well in the process. The days of farmers being the only ones with the freshest food are gone. Or rather, the farmers have shared their knowledge with the city dwellers so they can thrive on their own.

Solar Sharing 

When solar power came into the spotlight it was beyond expensive and only the wealthiest homeowners had access. Today, that belief is fading. Solar panels have become more cost efficient than they used to be, and now you have the option of being part of a community solar farm.

My Sun Share is a community solar sharing farm. That means there’s a central solar power system you can plug into and join in the savings. Clean Energy Collective also works to lower your energy bill with community solar farms/gardens. What may surprise some people is you don’t need to be a homeowner—you can be a renter too. No more worrying about getting the solar panels on your roof or what the cost of that might be. The best part is they work with Xcel Energy to give you a solar credit each month so you don’t need to try to figure it out on your own. Check out their websites for more information on how you can connect as availability is limited in some areas.