Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Conscious Shopper Challenge: Join a Swap Network

The next few weeks of The Conscious Shopper Challenge will focus on developing an attitude of non-consumption. Here's the next challenge in this series:


Image by xlordashx

I'm not sure if "swap network" is a widely used term or if I made it up, so let me explain a little bit...

A swap network is a way to trade stuff, time, and skills with others rather than using money. It can be as simple as unloading some free stuff on Freecycle, or it can be more of a bartering system where you swap one thing to get something else in return. For example, a friend of mine gives my oldest piano lessons, and in exchange, I teach a little preschool class for her son and my youngest.

A swap network can also be a way to borrow or lend things rather than just give stuff away. Say you're a poor college student with a tiny lawn and no lawnmower, and your neighbors are starting to give you the cold shoulder because your lawn has turned into a jungle. (True story, by the way.) Wouldn't it be great to have a network of friends with lawnmowers who would loan you one for a weekend? Or friends with tools? Or a Wii? (Everybody needs a friend with RockBand.)

Ideally, you would swap with people you know, building a sense of community and friendship. You could create a Swap Network with your neighbors, perhaps through your homeowner's association, utilizing your association's newsletter or website for posting needs and wants. You would get to know your neighbors, and the stuff wouldn't have to travel far.

Now that you know what a swap network is, here's how to complete this challenge:


  • Join Freecycle. This is the simplest type of swap network and a great way to get or give away stuff for free.


  • Look for other types of swap networks in your community. Some cities have tool lending libraries so you don't have to buy tools you may use only a few times. Sometimes neighborhoods or apartment complexes will have systems in place for swapping books, CDs, and toys. Take advantage of these programs because if people don't use them, they go away.
  • Join online swap networks. Examples include Paperback Swap, Swap Mamas, and Swapacd.


  • Host a clothing swap. Do you ever feel like you've been wearing the same clothes for years but don't want to get rid of them because they're still in good condition? Spice up your wardrobe by inviting over some friends for a clothes swap. This is also a great way to trade children's clothing.
  • Improve your bartering skills. Who needs money! Figure out what skills you have that you could use to trade for things you want. Are you a good cook? Can you sew? Do you play piano? At the very least, you can always babysit.
  • Organize an official swap network. Get a group of friends together, set up a website or other system for posting needs and wants, and trade away. Sample ads could include:

I have a huge pile of baby boy stuff that my kids have outgrown, including an infant carseat, an Exersaucer, a bunch of clothes, and some toys. If you would like any of these things, let me know!


I am going to a fancy wedding this weekend. Anyone have a dress I could borrow?


I would like to learn to knit. Who knows how and would be willing to share their skills? Could we start a knitting group?


Would someone be interested in teaching me to sew in exchange for cooking classes?

Do you have a swap network? What do you barter or swap?


Kathryn Grace said...

Excellent suggestions! We are members of FreeCycle in our household, and it is amazing the things you see advertised there, everything from dryer lint to dishwashers.

Bartering has been around for eons, but one thing you should know if you are bartering goods and services, the tax man wants his share. Yep, Uncle Sam demands a cut of the exchange, and he wants it in cold, hard cash.

Tool, book, and CD lending libraries are a wonderful opportunity to get to know your neighbors. You would think it goes without saying, but it doesn't: Be a good neighbor and return the items in clean, good condition. No one wants to have to sharpen a lawn mower after their neighbor mowed the four foot high back forty. Likewise, the canning supplies. It's no fun having to clean the dried on fruit bits someone else missed before returning the jelly kettle.

That may feel a bit like a rant, and I apologize if it does.

Great set of ideas. I look forward to a post where you share some of your experiences in setting up a neighborhood exchange, or joining a local barter group.

concretenprimroses said...

Nice idea. I'll have to think if I can adapt it to my women's almost weekly sometimes craft group. I'll bring it up next time we meet and report back!
(I'm already a Craig's list member - I've given away a lot but gotten nothing, which is ok, but not as much fun as finding things I might need too. Our local list is mostly wanters. Consequently anything that the thrift store will take i tend to just bring there.)

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

There's another new one out there I heard about on NPR =, I believe. All about lending out things like tools, mixers, etc.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@Kathryn - Thanks for the tip about taxes and bartering. I spent some time on the IRS website to try and figure out their exact rules - of course it was completely confusing, but I think it applies more to businesses than individuals. For example, since my friend makes money from piano lessons and I make money from teaching a preschool class, both of us would need to pay taxes on what we bartered because we should treat our bartering as income. On the other hand, if two friends get together and informally agree to swap babysitting, they wouldn't have to pay taxes on that. But I'm not a tax accountant, so no one take my word on any of this!

erin said...

Global Barter Corporation is the largest business and corporate bartering company in the world. With over 24,000 active members worldwide, and offices around the globe, GBC is the bartering system of choice. With more than 50 years of combined barter experience, GBC brokers and principals have not only created one the world’s most expansive trade exchanges, our brokers have cultivated the knowledge to understand and respect your purchasing guidelines, means of distribution and windows of opportunity.

Meg Franz said...

you can try peaceloveswap for swapping baby/kid/maternity clothing and gear swap - and if there isn't a swap in your community - we can help you start one : )


Blog Widget by LinkWithin