The sharing economy is a model that encourages the sharing of goods and resources within a group of people, allowing materials to be more fully and effectively utilized. This approach reduces the need for individuals to purchase new materials and avoids the associated unnecessary waste from production and disposal.
A sharing economy reduces environmental impact, can create jobs, increases access to goods, and builds a greater sense of community for all involved. Its flexible and adaptive and well suited to transient populations, like students! For researchers and departments, it offers ways to better utilize university resources, extending budgets, reducing storage demands, and cutting down on waste costs.
It goes without saying, but sharing works best when participants treat common goods as if they are their own, returning them back to the community clean and in good repair. With a shift of mindset, participants in the sharing economy can invest in higher quality items, knowing that they will last through many uses.
Sharing economy systems can create equity, providing access to tools and resources that may otherwise be out of reach. It lowers barriers of entry and can increase experimentation and exploration of new things. It builds trust.
Before You Buy, Share!
At WashU, you have access to more equipment and resources than you may know. While these programs are operated across the university, we have cataloged them here for your convenience. In addition, we have also included other services and platforms that can be utilized in the broader community, like the public library (perhaps the oldest and most established example of a communal use of material goods!)
NOTE: Some programs below are only available to specific user types (for example, students or specific departments), which is typically noted within the listing. Because COVID continues to impact operations, we encourage you to follow the links to verify if the service is currently available.
- WashU’s student-owned moving business, University Trucking, offers year-round rentals on numerous types of dorm appliances: mini-fridges, microwaves, and desk chairs.
- Visit Rheaply, WashU’s online platform for giving away or selling (and receiving) university surplus property, including a wide variety of appliances. The platform can also be used by students for posting items that are free or for sale.
- When possible, utilize shared appliances in common spaces, like kitchenettes in office spaces and floor kitchens in the residential halls. Shared appliances are encouraged over personal appliances such as minifridges.
- There is also an option to purchase an inexpensive, used dorm appliance from SWAP, a student-owned non-profit organization that offers an annual back-to-school sale for first year students. If you donate it back at the end of the school year, it still keeps new appliances out of the equation and recirculates through the WashU community!
- CS40 Student Director of Services rents out a wide variety of games and equipment, including athletic equipment and board games for residents of the South 40 and student groups hosting events on the South 40. Remember to submit a CS40 Rental Request Form at least 5 days prior to the date needed!
- The Sumers Athletic Complex on the Danforth Campus offers recreational equipment loans. Members may check out basketballs, tennis balls and rackets, weight belts, and much more by leaving their ID with the help desk. This is a great alternative to purchasing equipment for anyone with an active membership, plus the Athletic Complex offers common spaces to play with others!
- Bears Bikes is a student-run business on the South 40 which offers year-long rentals of single-speed, mountain, and hybrid bikes. Bears Bikes also doubles as a fully operating repair shop for any bike maintenance needs! Additional services include holiday season and summer storage for individually-owned bikes, and discounted bike helmets.
- Visit our Resources for Bikers page to make biking on and around campus easier. WashU also has five “bike fix-it stations” located around the Danforth Campus, with one more at West Campus and two more on the School of Medicine Campus. These stations include a bike stand and an array of tools necessary to perform basic bike repairs and maintenance.
- As a WashU student or staff, you have access to all books, magazines, and E-books held by the University Libraries. To request books or materials not held by the University Libraries, check out the Interlibrary Loan (ILL or ILLiad) system. Note: this link will not work for Med or Law School users.
- Both the St. Louis Public Library and the St. Louis County Library also offer amazing services to all their residents at no cost.
- WashU’s Outing Club offers weekly gear rentals once a week to all students, including but not limited to tents, sleeping bags, pots, stoves, and etc. Check out items during gear hours and return them during the next session. Gear hours are determined by the executive board and change every semester, so make sure to check on Facebook to be up to date.
- Ride Sharing: WashU Rides allows users to form a carpool group for both one-time trips, such as a ride to the airport during holidays, as well as daily commutes. By submitting information on your regular commute, you can find other riders with similar schedules along your route. Driver and rider options are both available. There is also an option to find event-specific carpool matches, making it much easier for event attendees to find alternative transportation options!
- Car Sharing: Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace where guests can book cars through local hosts, much like an Airbnb for cars. Whether you require a truck on moving day or a luxury car for a weekend getaway, Turo provides the option!
- The Trading Post, located on the South 40, is SWAP‘s very own free-cycle thrift store. Donate unwanted clothes here and shop for free for new ones!
- Swapping clothes with friends is also a fun and free option for refreshing and adding new options to your closet. It is especially easy for roommates or students living on-campus, but if you don’t know anyone to swap with, there are many online platforms specifically designed for clothes-swapping.
- All WashU residential dorms have shared kitchen spaces completed with sinks, ovens, and stoves. Most residential halls also have refrigerators and microwaves on every floor at the very minimum, offering easy access for cooking and food storage. Some kitchens also have basic equipment like measuring cups and baking pans, so check before you buy!
- The GreenWare Program is a free reusable dishware loan program managed by the Office of Sustainability aimed to help WashU reduce its waste production. Anyone (WashU students, staff and faculty) is eligible to check out dishware which includes plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. Rentals also include composting bins for food scrap collection at events. Requests are submitted online, picked up at the Office of Sustainability, and then returned to the office to be cleaned.
- The Trading Post, located on the South 40, is SWAP‘s very own free-cycle thrift store. Shop and donate any essentials and accessories to personalize your living space!
- The Swamp Sale is SWAP’s annual fall move-in sale, which sells gently-used dorm supplies at drastically-low prices. Items range from storage bins and shower caddies to minifridges and microwaves. Everything comes from donations collected and stored by SWAP during the spring semester move-out season, keeping thousands pounds of useful items outside of landfill every year.
- The Circularity Center opened in June 2022 to house the Share Our Stuff program which collects and sells materials that students leave behind during spring move out.
- Looking for a quick way to get around without a motor vehicle? A variety of electric scooter companies operate within the St. Louis region and are easily accessible, offering a cheap and easy alternative to getting around the area! If moving around the Danforth campus, be aware of the E-Scooter and Motorized Device Policy.
- Olin Library offers a variety of rental options including but not limited to laptops, cameras, DVDs, chargers, calculators, projectors, presentation remotes and etc. Feel free to check the inventory online or ask at the help desk on the ground floor of Olin Library. The duration of the rental may differ depending on the item, but most rentals can be renewed simply by visiting the library. [Program currently suspended]
Many WashU spaces are able to provide AV equipment and tables. If you find yourself needing equipment and supplies beyond what is provided, try these resources before buying or renting from an outside vendor:
- CS40 Student Director of Services rents out speakers and folding tables for both residents of the South 40 and student groups hosting events on the South 40. Remember to submit a CS40 Rental Request Form at least 5 days prior to the date needed!
- WashU employees and students can rent projectors, cameras, laptops, presentation remotes (and more) through the Olin Library. [Program currently suspended].
- Borrow reusable dishes from the GreenWare Program, a free reusable dishware loan program managed by the Office of Sustainability.
Check with a WashU event planner for vendor recommendations for tents, tables, chairs, A/V equipment, linens, etc.
- The Spartan Light Metal Products Makerspace is located in Jubel Hall (Danforth Campus) and offers membership to students, faculty, and staff. The makerspace offers a variety of hand tools as well as high-tech drills and printers. Sessions require an appointment and a membership.
- Among the large offer of digital content available through the St. Louis Public Library, Hoopla is an online streaming platform that offers eBooks, eAudiobooks, movies, television shows, and music albums to stream or download onto your device.
- WashU’s Office Supply Exchange is facilitated by Mail Services, which serves as a centralized process for donating and receiving office supplies. This circulation program is open to employees on all WashU campuses with access to internal mail circulation routes. The Exchange utilizes WashU Reuse to post inventory and fulfill requests.
- The SWAP free-cycle store, The Trading Post, is located on the South 40. They often have school supplies available for free!
- Students: Washington University offers printing services across its campuses with a University ID card, so printing is easy no matter where you are! Here is a list of available printers on Danforth Campus.
- Employees: Utilize departmental multi-function printers for quick and efficient printing. Larger print jobs can be done on campus through FedEx. Personal printers take up space, require more ink and specialize cartridges, uses electricity and creates waste which can all be avoided by consolidated into fewer shared machines.
- Student Technology Services (STS) offers free 3D printing for WUSTL students at their South 40 storefront location. Print jobs for academic projects take priority, but STS will also print anything for fun on a first-come-first-served basis. You must provide a file for printing. You may make your own or explore files readily available and downloadable online.
- WATERDROPd is a water delivery service known for stocking student’s dorms with water coolers, but they also offer single-day water cooler rentals for events and catering. Check out their website to learn more about single-day rentals and the services offered.
- WashU ReUse is WashU’s online platform for giving away, selling, and receiving university surplus property. It can also be used for posting items that are free or for sale, or for rentals and loans. For example, you can set up time slots for a laser cutter, 3D printer, or lab equipment, giving individuals and offices/labs access to expensive machinery without having to buy and maintain it themselves.
- SWAP is a student-owned non-profit organization whose mission is to facilitate the open exchange of physical materials as well as knowledge-based resources among members of the WashU community. Students can come into the Trading Post storefront located on the South 40 and freely take from or donate items to the shop!
- At the beginning of each school year, SWAP hosts the Swamp Sale which sells gently-used dorm items at affordable prices. Items range from storage bins and school supplies to mini-fridges and microwaves!
- Turo is a peer-to-peer car-sharing marketplace where guests can book cars through local hosts, much like an Airbnb for cars. Whether you require a truck on moving day or a luxury car for a weekend getaway, Turo provides the option.
- The Free and For Sale group on Facebook offers a great, and often cheap, alternative for all your household needs ranging from furniture to kitchen supplies to electronics. The page also contains posts for apartments available for rent for those in need of housing.
- WashU Rides allows users to form a carpool group for both one-time trips, such as a ride to the airport during holidays, as well as daily commutes. By submitting information on your regular commute, you can find other riders with similar schedules along your route. Driver and rider options are both available. There is also an option to find event-specific carpool matches, making it much easier for event attendees to find alternative transportation options!