There seems rather more of a culture of sharing things in Switzerland than in Britain. I first noticed it when Sonja would regularly borrow friends’ cars for the day. In Britain you’d never dream of asking someone if you could borrow their car except in exceptional circumstances. What if you damaged it, or what if they needed it themself that day after all?
It’s certainly a greener approach: sharing cars means less cars on the road, and that can only be good.
But lots of other things are shared also. For example, it’s normal for Sonja to be borrowing and lending out anything from bicycles to party shoes and snow shoes. There’s even a shop in Zurich, Kleihd, that allows you to borrow clothes for a small fee, and of course commercial car sharing schemes are all over the streets too.
In Britain, 97% of households own a washing machine. In Switzerland, few people own one. Most people live in blocks of flats with one communal laundry room – which causes minor crisis each time you come back soaking wet from a muddy walk and it’s not your day for using the washing machine.
There’s even a book on the subject, Der Waschkuchenschlussel, by Hugo Loetscher, which is such a key text in Switzerland, pupils are required to read it at school. And you can read more about the shared laundry room phenomenon on the excellent Newly Swissed website.
There’s an increasing belief by those of a green persuasion that privately-owned washing machines should be heading for the scrap heap, so perhaps shared laundry rooms will increasingly come to Britain also. The average washing machine contains around 40kg of steel and when scrapped a proportion of the steel – 40% – 70% – is lost to landfill, a big cost in energy and emissions. A third of private domestic machines in Britain don’t last even five years, while the heavier-duty machines used in public launderettes and Swiss laundry rooms last far longer.