What if more of us spend less time earning conventional wages and more time exchanging some goods and services directly, or sharing things we don’t need all the time, bypassing money altogether? After all, it’s what everyone’s great grandparents used to do, and many communities all over the world still depend on it. Alternative economies can help supply your needs, strengthen the local economy, and give you a chance to get to know your neighbours and the skills they offer. Might it work for you?
A community currency programme, also known as barter currency, works by offering skills or products as an alternative to cash, redeemable in local shops and businesses, thus helping a local economy become self-sufficient. So if you’re a house painter, you might do a job for a certain number of points, and use them to get your bike fixed by your local mechanic, who uses them to buy food from a local farmer. There are many such systems in place around the world, some that operate on tokens, some on a system of credited points. Local currency is one of the methods used by the Transition Town movement to build resilience in local communities, reduce food and trade miles, and help people become more self-reliant in the face of dwindling oil supplies and climate change.
Why recycle when you can Freecycle? It’s easy. If you have something you no longer need – anything from a pair of jeans through a desk to a pile of leftover bricks from that building project – post it on your local Freecycle network’s website. Or if you need something, you can post a wanted notice, and hope someone has what you need. Freecycle sites across Europe, the USA and Australia are helping unwanted items everywhere find good homes.
Most of us don’t need full-time custody of drills, concrete mixers, saws and such. In 1979, the public library in Berkeley, California, decided it would be a good idea to loan tools as well as books. Today, there are at least 40 tool-lending libraries across the United States and a few in Canada and Australia.
Community Fruit, Christchurch
A New Zealand organization goes around picking unused fruit from people’s gardens, and re-distributing it by donat-ing to those in need. Saves waste, eases hunger. Problem solved! Isn’t it an adaptable idea?
Skip that impersonal, energy-intensive hotel and im-merse yourself in real life, wherever you go. Couch-surfing lets you offer your home free to travellers, and in turn you can search for a free place to stay when you travel. It boasts millions of members in more than 230 countries, changing the face of travel.
Do you have a book you’d love to share? Register it on BookCrossing.com, print out a label to identify and track it, and ‘release’ it anywhere in public – on a bus, in a restaurant or in the park – for someone to find. When the finder has finished reading it, he or she can let it go again. Participants can follow the fate of books on the website if finders report them. So far, more than 850,000 active BookCrossers have registered almost 7 million books travelling around 130 countries!