Nightly News   |  January 15, 2012

In down economy, sharing takes off

Sharing, swapping and renting – from homes to garden rakes to children’s toys -- are increasing popular with American consumers. NBC’s Craig Melvin reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now to a sign of the times and this tough economy. though we're beginning to see some flickers of life in the job market , millions of americans still can't find a job and that's leading some of them to come up with creative ways to get by. we get the story from nbc's craig melvin.

>> reporter: eileen and mike beard made $20,000 last year, sharing their d.c. area home with strangers.

>> makes a big difference for us.

>> reporter: especially now. six days after christmas, mike lost his job, the beards have a mortgage and a blendedamily with ten children.

>> now we have all these rooms and this house that is valued at less than we paid for it, so this is a good way to --

>> make the house pay for itself.

>> reporter: they use a website called airbnb which connects travelers with people who open their homes. the san francisco startup has become a symbol of a growing trend called collaborative consumption.

>> they use digital technology to help people share stuff in the real world . and one of the key concepts is that access trumps ownership.

>> reporter: companies like airbnb and zipcar are joined by a slew of personal online communities . you can share, swap and rent everything from name brand clothes to bikes to children's toys. perhaps it is not surprising that in a down economy many like the beards have found sharing as a way to make some extra money. but for others, it's about something else. re-establishing a sense of community .

>> this is perfect.

>> reporter: in los angeles , chris needed a rake for weekend landscaping work and found jewelry on

>> the first time i borrowed something, now we have similar groups of friends and we hang out.

>> reporter: nicky helped launch the site less than two years ago and now has more than 20,000 users.

>> we learned we weren't really building a marketplace. what we were building was a tool for neighbors to help each other and build relationships.

>> reporter: back at the beards, guest emily gets a bargain and all the comforts of home.

>> it is important to me to think frugally but also at the same time i enjoy meeting new people.

>> reporter: collectively building a new economy with a timeless concept, sharing. craig melvin, nbc news, silver spring , maryland.