The following is an excerpt from the essay anthology Share or Die: Voices of the Get Lost Generation in the Age of Crisis , edited by Malcolm Harris & Neal Gorenflo, available from New Society Publishers .
When our parents graduated from college, the bachelor’s degree was a coveted badge of honor. It gave applicants instant cred (and usually a larger paycheck) no matter what the job. Now, having a bachelor’s degree does nothing to make an applicant stand out from the masses. And if you’re applying for a job well below your skill level because you’re desperate for a paycheck , that B.S. degree will probably get your carefully crafted resume tossed in the trash.
American youth are slowly realizing that the old system is broken, and no longer holds the answer to all their dreams and desires. We’re discovering that stable, satisfying careers can be found outside the offices and factories around which our parents and grandparents built their lives. We’re acknowledging that the pursuit of bigger, better, and faster things have plunged our country into a time of despair and difficulty. We're convinced that business as usual isn’t an option any longer--but what's the alternative?
Together, we’re learning that instead of waiting for politicians and corporations to fix the system, it’s possible to create a better one of our own, right under their noses. A new way of living, in which access is valued over ownership , experience is valued over material possessions, and "mine" becomes “ours” so everyone's needs are met without waste.
If these ideas get your blood pumping, there’s good news: young people all over the world are already making them a reality. It’s called collaborative consumption , (or the sharing economy ) and it’s changing the way we work, play, and interact with each other. It’s fueled by the instant connection and communication of the internet, yet it’s manifesting itself in interesting ways offline  too.
If you’re ready to connect with people who can help you save money, pursue your passions, and reduce waste, here's a quick-start guide to your sharing experience:
1. Remove all items from the box and assess
Sit down with yourself (or some friends) and talk about what you’ve got, what you need, and what you could live without. Take stock of what you’d be willing to share , rent, or give away. Write down all the things you really need to be productive/happy/connected. Then, cross out all the things that you want just to have them, and highlight all the things that involve a valuable experience. Now you have a list you can tackle through sharing.
2. Connect to the power source
The collaborative consumption movement  empowers people to thrive despite economic climate. Instead of looking to the government or corporations to tell us what we want or create a solution for our problems, we take action to meet our own needs in a creative fashion. This is our power source. Start looking for ways to share at school, on community billboards, by asking friends, or use the resources below (US-based unless noted otherwise):
Entrepreneurship / Work
Land / Gardening
Media (Books, Movies, Games, Music)
Redistribution Sites (where unneeded stuff finds a loving home)
Renting and sharing of general goods where you live
If you don't see the sharing solution you need, check out our huge list of how to share guides on Shareable . Or add resources you know about in comments.
3. Press the power button
Once you discover local opportunities for sharing and collaborating, it’s time to add the power: you. Get involved. Create a profile on sharing/renting/bartering site and actually list some stuff you could trade. Contact the moderator of a local offline sharing group  and offer up your goods or services. Collaborative consumption requires a venture into a social world, even if it's only online; you need to get out there.
4. Sync with other devices and enjoy
Ideas like eBay, Netflix, and GameFly are pretty well-known examples of sharing, but it's important to remember that options exist offline as well. Sure, the internet makes it safe for us to share with strangers, but that doesn't mean you should forget about the satisfaction of sharing face-to-face. Coworking  brings collaboration into your professional life; a local food co-op  brings sharing into your pantry, and skill-sharing communities  bring comraderie to your weekend hobbies.
Don't be afraid to let sharing/bartering/collaborating go viral in other areas of your life as well. You'll discover, as Rachel Botsman does in What's Mine is Yours , that "over time, these experiences create a deep shift in consumer mindset. Consumption is no longer an asymmetrical activity of endless acquisition but a dynamic push and pull of giving and collaborating in order to get what you want. Along the way, the acts of collaboration and giving become an end in itself."
Image by C!... , courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.