The most popular items in Berlin’s first “borrowing shop” are the electric drills. At least one of the local people who have registered with Leila – a little shop on Fehrbelliner Strasse, north-east of the city centre – seems to be continually fixing shelves or hanging pictures.
But it’s not worth buying that person their own tools, said founder Nikolai Wolfert. “The average electric drill is used for 13 minutes in its entire lifetime – how does it make sense to buy something like that? It’s much more efficient to share it.”
Wolfert, 31, came up with the idea for Leila after the Green party failed to win the 2011 Berlin elections and he started looking for ways of doing politics at a more local level. Four hundred residents have signed up to the project, which he says is less a charity shop than a “library of things”.
Members can borrow anything from board games to wine glasses, fog machines to hiking rucksacks, juicers to unicycles. All they need to do to become members is drop off an item of their own. “This is not just about doing charity out of magnanimity – the shop makes sense because it’s more efficient,” Wolfert said. “We think in a decentralised way – that’s how the big supermarket chains think too.”