Collaborative Consumption: 6 Major Advantages of Local Trading Groups

Two hands shaking against cityscape - Collaborative consumption

One of the earliest lessons we learn in childhood is to share. We’re told to share because it’s the kind thing to do, and sometimes there’s only one of a particular toy (an example of having limited resources).

Yet somehow along the way, in our increasingly stuff-obsessed world, we get away from sharing and began to focus on ownership. The difference between “to have” and “to have not” becomes increasingly important.

Collaborative Consumption Gains Popularity

However, there has been a recent surge in the sharing economy (also known as collaborative consumption), in the form of Uber, Lyft, Carshare, Airbnb, local tool libraries and more. The sharing economy allows for folks to share resources, particularly when individual ownership doesn’t make much sense. It conserves resources and is often a more cost-effective system than that of traditional ownership.

Consider the fact that public libraries and gyms are more common examples of the sharing economy—you may pay a membership fee to use services and equipment, but that’s often less expensive (or perhaps more practical, in terms of available space in your home) than owning gym equipment or an entire library of your own.

My Own Facebook Group

One particular piece of the sharing economy that I’ve had a lot of success with is my local trading group. Mine happens to primarily take the form of a Facebook group, but there are a number of other platforms where people trade, including Bunz, Kijiji, The Freecycle Network and Craigslist.

As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure! This certainly rings true in trading groups. All manner of things can be posted for trading. Clothing, kitchen wares, furniture, toys, plants, home décor items, cleaning products, toiletries, tchotchkes, leftover renovation materials and more fill my group’s Facebook feed of posts.

The type of people drawn to local trading groups is quite diverse, but there tends to be a common trait of generosity. While some folks prioritize finding an equal trade value for the item they’re trading, others are satisfied with knowing the item is going to a good home and don’t expect much.

It makes it easier to let go of stuff when you know that it’ll be enjoyed and well-used by someone else. Personally, I think you also earn a little bit of good karma by agreeing to a bit of an uneven trade when someone is in need, and I believe that kindness will come back to you when you’re in need. This has certainly proven true in my own experience, and is one of the most beautiful parts of participating in a trading group.

So How Does It All Work?

The concept is simple: Post a photo of something you no longer need or want and include some suggestions of items that you’re looking for in exchange (such as grocery items, shoes, a warm coat, etc.). Folks in the group can then comment on your post or message you with offers if they’re interested.

If you need something, you can also post “ISO” (In Search Of) with a description of the item that you’re looking for. If you have items that you can offer to trade, then you’re welcome to list them, but this part is optional if you’re open to requests. Someone in the group may be happy to oblige in exchange for some coffee beans or canned goods.

From there, you arrange to meet up at a time and location that’s mutually convenient. Larger items can be listed as “pick up only,” or if you have the flexibility of convenient transportation, you can offer to deliver within a certain distance.

Some of the trades I’ve made most recently:

Group of modern chairs around small table - Collaborative consumption
One of my favorite trades was clear tote boxes for this set of modern chairs
  • Clear tote bins for a set of beautiful modern kitchen chairs
  • Gently used winter boots for a sewing machine
  • A set of wine glasses for pantry items
  • Miscellaneous office supplies for nothing!
  • A used (but clean) mattress and metal bed frame for a loaf of fresh bread and a jar of homemade salsa
  • A bin of computer cables and parts for computer repair services
  • Bags of various fabric for a jar of peanut butter

It’s acceptable to re-trade items when you’re done using them or no longer need them. But it’s important to be transparent about the fact that each item is a re-trade, and that you’re seeking an object of similar value to the original traded item, as opposed to trading it for something more valuable (for instance, if you traded pasta for a coffee maker and no longer need the coffee maker, you could say you’d like to trade it for pasta or a similar grocery item).

The trading or rehoming of live animals is strictly prohibited in my trading group, and seems to be discouraged or disallowed in most other trading platforms as well.

6 Advantages of Using This Platform

There are so many reasons why I appreciate this platform for obtaining goods. Here are just six of the most significant ones:

  • It’s a wonderful form of reusing and repurposing resources, and thereby decreasing (even slightly) rampant consumerism.
  • It prevents some items from being sent to a landfill.
  • It’s cost-effective—no money changes hands in these groups, as a strict rule (although gift cards and coupons may be permitted, depending on your group’s preferences).
  • It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to provide an item to someone who needs it, but perhaps doesn’t have the money to buy it.
  • It’s equally wonderful to be able to find an item when you’re in need, but don’t have the money to buy the item.
  • It’s also a unique way to meet people and connect with your community!

Interested in Finding Your Own Group?

The easiest way to find your own group would be to search for the name of your city (or the nearest large city), along with “trading group” or “Bunz” on Facebook.

Bunz also has a website and an app through which you can search for posts in your area. Kijiji and Craigslist have “Trade” sections, too, although my personal experiences with these haven’t been quite as pleasant as those involving the local Facebook groups or the Bunz network.

Additionally, you can search The Freecycle Network for people looking to repurpose and rehome their stuff.

Happy trading!!!

To read more about sharing resources with others in your community, check out 7 Tips For Starting A Shared Composting Area With Neighbours»

image 1: Pixabay

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