Smarter Living: Stuff
Swap Till You Drop
Smarter Living Rates The Top Online Swap Marketplaces
Photo: Elvert Barnes/Flickr
Swapping and sharing goods is the answer to your problems, and, in case you didn’t know, it’s officially hip. More and more people are taking advantage of the many options—both old and new—for trading of goods locally. It’s a new era of collaborative consumption, according to Rachel Botsman; author of What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.
Classified ads and bulletin boards (think Craigslist) have long been used for posting items you'd rather not hassle with selling and want to pass on quickly. But a number of new resources have sprung up on the web to assist those with particular needs, including students, young parents, drivers, and book lovers. Here are a few that the Smarter Living team has rated on a scale of 1 to 5 leaves (5 being the best) based on ease of use, range of goods, availability across the U.S., reliability, and options for leaving feedback:
Provides an excellent range of goods across the U.S. as well as a reliable and easy service that allows feedback.
Boasting to be the world’s largest swapping marketplace, Swap.com is a website that enables you to list what you have and swap for the things you want across many categories including: music, movies, games, books, and more. To date, people have made 1.9 million swaps, saving $11.9 million and 10.7 million pounds of carbon, using Swap.com. Swap also has a free iPhone App, a Swap events planner and a “Swap4Schools” program that allows schools to swap educational products amongst themselves. It’s easy to sign up via Facebook.
Provides an excellent range of vehicles across the U.S. as well as a reliable and easy service that allows feedback.
Their motto: “Car rental is so last century”. Zipcar is a car sharing program that leaves car rental and car ownership in the dust. It gives you wheels when you want them, allowing you to pay as you go (literally). 180 miles are included in every reservation to allow drivers a lot of flexibility. Members report $500 in savings each month by avoiding the costs associated with owning or renting a car. It’s easy to sign up online, get your own zipcard, reserve a car, and borrow it for one-time trips.
Provides an excellent range of paperback books across the U.S. as well as a reliable and easy service that allows feedback.
A new user begins by posting a list of books he or she is willing to swap and receives credit to request two books. The site notifies you when a reader has requested a book from your list. For each book you send out, you receive an additional credit from the site allowing you to get another book through their system of more than 5,066,300 books. Unlike Zwaggle, books are all considered to have the same value, which is sensible for paperbacks.
Provides an excellent range of goods across the U.S. as well as a reliable service that allows feedback, though is not always easy to access and use.
Freecyle is organized into community groups of which there are currently 4,866 worldwide with almost 7 million members. It’s a bit more disjointed than Kashless.org, with different community groups having different accounts at Yahoo Groups, which you must join to use (and, to be honest, Yahoo Groups is a bit out of date as a social networking tool). Note: For items in high demand, such as guitars, a search will bring up many “wanted” listings. So remember to use Freecycle’s specific terminology and search for “offer: guitar.”
Provides an excellent range of goods across the U.S. with a service that allows feedback, though is not always reliable or easy to use with some out-of-date postings and others with insufficient product information.
Founded in early 1995 and the poster child of the swapping and bartering era, Craigslist is a large online message board for local classifieds and forums that are community moderated and largely free. You can find just about anything listed from jobs, housing and goods to romance, local activities and advice. Craigslist has more than 20 billion page views per month and has been translated in to several languages including: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. You aren’t required to register to view posts or contact posters about products, though you do need to register to upload your own listings.
Provides an impressive range of childrens’ products across the U.S. (though limited options within each product category) as well as a reliable and easy service that allows feedback.
Dedicated to connecting parents looking to trade “lightly used” childrens’ items, Zwaggle gives “Zoints” for passing on goods and referring new members. Product categories range from arts and crafts to video games; with baby gear, bedding, books, feeding and footwear all well stocked. Members upload lists of items they have to pass on and can create wish lists for those they are seeking, using up zoints for each item obtained. Intriguingly, the member who uploads the goods determines the zoints per item (the site offers a valuation tool to help), but the person who receives the item must approve it before zoints are actually transferred.
Provides a decent range of goods in parts of the U.S. with a service that allows feedback, but does not have a reliable online platform, hindering access and use.
Recently launched, NeighborGoods helps people find local products and services based on online reviews. NeighborGoods has online auctions (like eBay) that help people efficiently borrow or sell second-hand products and services in a local market. The borrowing option is what makes this website particularly unique. People can register their products for public use—like a blender or lawnmower—and anyone can contact them to borrow the product for a period of time, free of charge. To get started, register on the site for free in order to view the available products in your area.
Beyond the web:
Baby gear and adult clothes swaps
Revive some of the good habits from the days when you had roommates: Arrange for your friends who have children or are expecting them to get together and bring baby clothes, mattresses, bottles, etc. that are no longer needed. Expectant parents will benefit and can repay the favor immediately by bringing adult clothes they no longer want (or that no longer fit). Holding swaps once every three months or so gives an opportunity to trade clothes for the season ahead as well as provide for infants as they get older and new parents become more familiar with the demands ahead.
If you want to take sharing a few steps further, get together with freegans, who are dedicated to implementing a cashless economy based on the barter of goods and reduced consumption. Although most well known for their embrace of dumpster diving, freegans embrace a wide range of practices including things as mainstream as ridesharing, community gardens, bike programs and foraging. For example, in New York and many other cities you can outfit your apartment with furniture left on the street or the lobby of your building. Learn more at freegan.info.
- Swap : 5 leaves
- Zipcar : 5 leaves
- Paperbackswap: 5 leaves
- Freecycle : 4 leaves
- Craigslist : 3.5 leaves
- Zwaggle : 3.5 leaves
- NeighborGoods: 3 leaves
- A basic scale of 1 to 5 leaves (5 being the best) based on:
- Ease of use
- Range of goods
- Availability across the U.S.
- Options for leaving feedback
last revised 5/11/2011