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Westchester (Los Angeles)  


Sharing in our Neighborhood(s)

There are many ways of sharing finances within communities, including time banks, LETS systems, barter, and other creative sharing arrangements. Some of these are ways to meet our needs cash-free.  Others are ways to reduce costs, or to access things we might not be able to get alone.

Community-based finances are part of our journey into the future.  As the economy contracts, traditional cash is becoming harder to come by.  And as we leave the era of cheap, plentiful energy, we will have less ability to transport ourselves and our goods around the planet.  Our economies will become much more localized.  Putting community-based sharing arrangements into place now strengthens our local resources and prepares us for the future.


-- Mahatma Gandhi



Simple Sharing Ideas

  • Carpooling:  already exists in LA.  See Carpoolworld or eRideShare or CraigsList
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): 
  • Consumer goods:  sharing networks already exist in LA. 
    • FreeCycle "Los Angeles" includes Palms & Culver City.  "Redondo Beach," "Torrance," "Santa Monica," and more have their own groups.
    • CraigsList or Recycler
    • The "Westchester system":  Monday mornings are trash day.  On Sunday evenings, neighbors often put used items out at the curb next to their trash cans for others to take for free.
  • Garden Sharing: 
    • GrowFriend, pairing vegetable gardeners with landowners.  see Real Estate, below
    • Free Green Exchange posts free garden materials like mulch, lumber, rock, concrete.  Note: many seem to have "small delivery fee"
  • Harvest sharing: 
    • extra zucchinis or tomatoes aren't a problem!  Exchange them with friends and neighbors on Thursday afternoons in Westchester, with the excess going to needy local families via LAX Food Pantry.  See Harvest Westchester
  • Home improvement skill share:  this idea is now coming to life through the Ballona LETS
  • The Resilience Library of Sustainability books:  Many of the books we showcase at ECM meetings and garden classes are now available for public borrowing.  You can check them out at no cost, and bring them back at a future event. A list of titles will be online soon.
  • Pet Care Share:  this idea is now coming to life through the Ballona LETS
  • Seed Swap: 
    • The Environmental Change-Makers have held several seed swaps (about 2 per year, spring and autumn).  See calendar for details.
  • Skill sharing: this idea is now coming to life through the Ballona LETS
  • Tool sharing: this idea is now coming to life through the Ballona LETS
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Group purchasing

The Environmental Change-Makers have already started some group purchasing, and the Sept 2009 event was opportunity to explore this further.

  • Group purchase of rainwater harvesting barrels
  • Group purchase of bare root fruit trees
  • Heirloom Seed Buying Club
    • A group who are selecting heirloom vegetable varieties to buy together and split the packets.  Join them when they meet at the Seed Swap event, Sunday Oct 4.  See calendar for details.
  • Group purchase of bulk natural foods:
    • Azure Standard delivers twice monthly in the Playa Vista area.  Contact Peter if you would like further details.
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LETSystem ("Local Economic Trading System")

Local currencies

  • Local currencies (also called complimentary currencies) are usually implemented to cultivate the local economy. They usually involve paper currency which you spend the same way you might spend US$. Organizers persuade local businesses to accept the currency for all or a part of their transactions. Local currency is usually purchased (using the national currency) from a central location.
  • Westchester already has somewhat of an "alternative currency" in the LMU OneCard (Flexi option).  Although this particular system is restricted to LMU students, faculty, and staff, its existence means that 40+ of our local vendors are already accustomed to the idea of an alternative currency!  The LMU OneCard is dissimilar to local currencies in that it isn't exchanged between community members in ongoing circulation.
  • Green Business Networking and Green Economy Think Tank are working to create a local currency for the West LA/Santa Monica area.  They held a Salon to discuss this in September 2009.  John T from our ECM group attended the session and plans to stay connected with the organizers.
  • Our comparison of Barter, Time Banks, local currencies, and LETS systems
  • Los Angeles Times article on Local Currencies

Time Banks

Hybrid and unique systems

  • These systems combine elements of Time Banking and Local Currencies
    • Ithaca Hours is similar to time banking but it uses paper markers for physical exchange.  Transition Los Angeles and the Environmental Change-Makers own the Ithaca Hours video packet, if your group is interested in viewing it.
    • Mendo Food Futures has created paper markers for physical exchange which are backed by a local supply of grain.
    • Portland PDX Time Dollar Network
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Real Estate Sharing

note:  Real Estate Transactions should involve a written legal document.

  • Garden sharing:  pairing vegetable gardeners with landowners. 
  • Shared backyards: taking down the fences between lots
    • a good resource is Dan Chiras and Dave Wann's book Superbia
  • Community Gardens: 
    • The Environmental Change-Makers have been actively supporting the creation of several new Community Gardens in the area. To join the team that is creating new community gardens, follow the meeting schedule posted here.
    • At charitable-style gardens, like the Community Garden at Holy Nativity, vegetables are raised by volunteers communally with the produce going to needly local families via a distribution charity.  New gardens which will follow the charitable-style model include the Westchester UMC on Emerson, and the Congregational church on Manchester.
    • At traditional plot-style community gardens, gardeners are assigned a specific plot where they grow vegetables for their own use.  New gardens which will follow the traditional plot-style garden include the garden at Westchester/Loyola Village library.
    • At school gardens, classes of children raise vegetables for education and for their own use.  The Learning Garden at Venice High School is an outstanding example which has become a model for school gardens nationwide; their public events are often posted here. The garden at Orville Wright Middle School is being rejeuvenated too.
  • Intentional Communities, aka Cooperative Housing: 
    • a good resource is Diana Leaf Christian's book Creating a Life Together.
    • Local examples include LA EcoVillage
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How to set this up in your local neighborhood

  • In September 2009 the Environmental Change-Makers held a "Neighborhood Sharing" event to explore ways we could share finances in our local community. This was followed in March 2010 by a session about Growing a Resilient Local Economy (resources from the March session are in right sidebar of this page).
  • How we set up the Ballona LETSystem
  • Many of our ideas came from The Sharing Solution by Janelle Orsi and Emily Doskow (Nolo 2009)
  • Many of these resources are already set up (ex: Craig's List, Freecycle, GrowFriend) and it is simply a matter of distributing them within your neighborhood.  But in order to do this, you have to

Further Reading

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As you reorient your career, or as you consider alternative directions for your small business, we want you to succeed.

In March 2010 the Environmental Change-Makers held an event about "Growing our Local Economy."  In this event, we offered straight talk about the state of the economy and where it is likely to head in the next few years.

In this sidebar, we list the resources for the March 2010 session, beginning with the underlying understanding of where the economy is headed and WHY.

  • "Barking up the Wrong Tree" -- a (brutally) consise, one-page synopsis written by Jerry Mander of the International Forum on Globalization. Page 9 of this pdf
    • "The scale of denial is breathtaking." --Jerry Mander
  • "What if the Economy Doesn't Recover?" by Richard Heinberg.  An excellent article explaining why we are looking at Life Beyond Growth
    • "Understandably, everyone wants it to get “back to normal.” But here’s a disturbing thought: What if that is not possible? What if the goalposts have been moved, the rules rewritten, the game changed?"
  • "Prosperity without Growth?  The Transition to a Sustainable Economy" by Tim Jackson, Sustainable Development Commission (UK) Executive Summary & Report (pdf) and book
    • "The clearest message from the financial crisis of 2008 is that our current model of economic success is fundamentally flawed.  For the advanced economies of the Western world, prosperity without growth is no longer a utopian dream, it is a financial and ecological necessity."
  • "Making sense of the financial crisis in the era of Peak Oil," audio of talk by Stoneleigh.  full access info here.
    • "Those 'green shoots of recovery'? ... Those would be gangrene!"
  • The Bridge at the End of the World, by James Gustave Speth, Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Sutides at Yale University and environmental advisor to two U.S. presidents
    • develop alternatives to existing policies, [and] keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.
  • The Genuine Progress Indicator Executive Summary (pdf), full report (pdf)
    • a more holistic measure of the nation’s welfare that takes into account the costs of environmental degradation, inequality, insecurity, and social breakdown
  • The Steady State Economy
  • Transition to a World Without Oil (TED talk video 16:40)

In the decade ahead our local community will need:

  • Local businesses, which sell or utilize locally-sourced materials that demand far less transportation.
  • Businesses which are independent of national and international financial markets.
  • Core industries which provide the basic needs of living: food, water, shelter, basic clothing and tools.
  • Skilled craftsmen, home businesses, and barter-based services
  • Community banks, time banks, and sophisticated bartering networks

In the post-petroleum future, we will need industries which provide for our basic needs ... locally.

In recent decades, with cheap, plentiful oil, we have become accustomed to outsourcing our basic needs: raw materials harvested on one continent, shipped to another for manufacture, with the finished goods shipped to a third continent for sale and use, with the waste shipped offshore yet again.

We accept this as “normal,” but as transportation becomes more and more expensive, we’ll quickly come to see how ridiculous it is.

Meanwhile, during the past 50 or so years we have forgotten how to provide basic needs within our local communities. Skills our grandparents took for granted we no longer know how to do.

With the emphasis on a “service economy,” many of us in Southern California are working at things which are luxury industries – the very things consumers phase out of their budgets as finances get tighter.

Many “green jobs” aren’t exempt, because they still are built upon the same basic fallacies: outsourcing and globalization, providing luxury services, excessive volume expectations, and the presumption that our economy will only grow, grow, grow.

A resilient local economy, in our opinion, is one in which people can continue to get what they need for everyday living, despite outside shocks to the system (shocks such as sudden oil price spikes or climate-change-induced drought). Our government isn't going to build it for us.  Big corporate interests aren't going to build it for us.  The way to build a resilient local economy is through small-scale, local citizen action ... like the positive actions listed in the remainder of this page.


Realize that "jobs" as we know them today -- paychecks from large corporate employers -- are a very recent phenomenon in human history.  According to our understanding of the future economy (see above), this form of earning a living is not too likely to continue.  "Jobs" in the future are far more likely to look like local businesses, home businesses, or barter businesses. 

These businesses are more likely to be providing some of the basic, core services that local community members need, such as food, water, basic shelter, basic clothing, low-input forms of health care, and human services such as psychological and spiritual help in coping with this vastly altered course of events.

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