Borrowing a Cup of Sugar From a Neighbor Benefits Everyone

©. Sarah Lazarovic & YES! (used with permission)

It fosters connection and community, boosts happiness... and results in delicious baked goods.

We know that borrowing things is good from an environmental standpoint, as it uses fewer resources to complete the same tasks. In the words of Toronto's Sharing Depot co-founder Lawrence Alvarez, “The Earth cannot afford for all of us to own it all.”

But borrowing is also good for your soul, especially when you ask a neighbor for something. It creates an easy opener for conversation, an opportunity for connection, a chance for someone to demonstrate generosity – and you get a task done more easily.

Toronto artist Sarah Lazarovic is trying to get more people to borrow cups of sugar, both literal and metaphorical. Expanding on her well-known 'Buyerarchy of Needs' illustration from a few years ago, Lazarovic created a full-length graphic article for Yes! magazine in March that explores the concept of borrowing a cup of sugar, and how we could all benefit from reintroducing this simple act into our lives.

Borrowing, in fact, has little to do with saving money. It's more about creating a culture of sharing, of investing in the people who live around us, which in turn creates a safer and more cohesive community. It increase the amount of social capital, or our level of connection to others. Lazarovic writes,

"The more people you feel comfortable asking to borrow sugar, the more likely you are to get the things you want and need out of life. In these increasingly unequal times, what many people lack is social capital."
Lazarovic on borrowing

© Sarah Lazarovic & YES! (used with permission)

I've experienced this in my own life. I grew up on a small lake in rural Ontario, surrounded by seasonal neighbors who, over the years, enriched my life in more ways than I can count. We got many a cup of sugar (and eggs and butter) from our closest neighbor, who received a flow of baked goods in return.

But it didn't stop there. Books, clothes, musical instruments, boats, bicycles, summer jobs, weekends in the city, even my career as a writer can all be traced back to connections made with those neighbors. Only now can I fully appreciate how my parents' friendliness, openness, and willingness to loan and borrow freely helped build up that social capital, putting us kids at an advantage.

It shouldn't feel like a chore because these mini connections make us happier. Humans are social creatures, whether we want to admit it or not, and science shows that even small talk boosts our moods. So, the next time you're craving cookies warm from the oven and are short on sugar, ask a neighbour instead of racing to the store. Then share the cookies with your new friend! It's a win-win situation.