Remember the 20th century when we were in a consumption frenzy? Terms like swap and share weren’t even on our radar. The economic downturn combined with our fundamental need to connect with others has started a swap and share movement that has been defined as Collaborative Consumption. Businesses are now using the efficiency of the internet and mobile technology to connect people with goods and services through peer-to-peer swap and share sites. The success of share sites such as eBay and etsy proves that, yes, people can be trustworthy and those that aren’t are exposed. If you’re a member of Netflix then you share movies with people across North America and you can even share movie ratings with friends. After seeing the progress of bike share programs in Europe, major cities in the United States are now developing their own bike share programs. Washington D.C. recently launched Capital Bike Share. In a way we are on the verge of returning to the simplistic ideals of community that prevailed in our history. Our colonial ancestors built a community by pooling resources. Now we can do it on a much larger scale.
This video was made by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, authors of the book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, in which they explore how companies and organizations are redefining the ways in which goods and services are exchanged, giving consumers more options and more power over how they spend their money. They explain how the movement to swap and share is reaching every facet of consumerism from travel to finance to agriculture. You can read more about collaborative consumption on their website.
Another groundbreaking book on this topic is titled The Mesh: Why the Future of Business is Sharing in which author Lisa Gansky explains how Mesh companies use mobile web and social media to provide people with the goods and services they need at the moment they need them. By encouraging people to build relationships through the sharing of resources, businesses and communities alike can grow in new and more efficient ways. Visit Gansky’s website here, which includes and extensive directory of Mesh companies.
If you’re ready to save some money, get rid of some stuff, and take control of your spending and consuming habits, then get in on the swap and share action. These sites are growing at an exponential rate with many to choose from. Here are 7 swap and share sites that we think are swaptastic.
If you haven’t yet got your Groupon, you need to. With Groupon you share group discounts with others. Groupon calls it collective buying power. Groupon offers incredible discounts, typically 50-90% off, on all kinds of goods and services including local restaurants and attractions. There are new deals available everyday for businesses in the city in which you live. You can check the site every day or have the daily deals e-mailed to you. When you see a Groupon you want to use you click on it. There needs to be a minimum number of people interested for the deal to activate. But hurry because there is a time limit- usually 2-3 days. Businesses love it because it guarantees a certain amount of customers. People love it because they get incredible savings. You can print your Groupon or have it show up on your mobile device if you’re out and about. You can share Groupon on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to spread the word about the great savings.
Get your Groupon here.
The idea behind Freecycle can be summed up in their mission statement: “Our mission is to build a worldwide gifting movement that reduces waste, saves precious resources & eases the burden on our landfills while enabling our members to benefit from the strength of a larger community.” The beauty of Freecycle is in its’ simplicity. Started by Deron Beal in 2003 as a grassroots operation to provide recycling to local business in Tucson, Freecycle now has thousands of groups all over the world. You just join your local chapter which is moderated by a local volunteer through a Yahoo group. If you have something you need taken off your hands, you post it. See something you need? Contact the person who listed it. No money is exchanged. And no swaps. To keep the crazies away, Freecycle has a 2 strikes and you’re out policy. Though there are no strings attached to taking something, the concept is to share and share alike, so don’t use Freecycle to constantly take and never give. Besides, how much easier can it get to rid yourself of that old couch or giant screen TV than to just have somebody come pick it up?
Find your local Freecycle here.
Browsing a used book store used to be a favorite Saturday afternoon pastime. Part of the charm was imagining who owned the books before you. With online book swaps you can have that charm again and even communicate with the person who owned the book before you. BookMooch is a free book swap site based upon a points system. You gain points by adding books you no longer want to your inventory. You gain more points when you ship the book to a fellow moocher. You can then use your points to get books you want. What’s great about the system is that you don’t have to be matched up with someone to make a swap. BookMooch also supports charities such as libraries and childrens’ organizations. You can help out your favorite charity on BookMooch by contributing your points so they can get books. The only cost is you pay for the shipping of the books you send out. This is typically inexpensive if you ship by USPS media mail. You can also use recycled brown paper grocery bags to wrap your books. The BookMooch site has tips for shipping that save money and materials.
Mooch some books here.
On Swap you can swap books, music, movies, and video games. By listing the items you have along with the items you want, Swap.com then hooks you up with the right people. Many times the swap you’re involved with is a 3-way swap. There is a small fee involved based upon 2 swap fee levels: low value and high value. High value items cost one dollar and include video games for the most recent platforms such as Wii and PS3 and multi-disc movie and music sets. Everything else is a low value item and costs 50 cents. You also pay for shipping. A rating and feedback system helps keep people honest. Swap offers what they call Safe Swap. If after 27 days you still don’t have your item and your swap partner can’t provide proof of shipment, Swap will purchase the item for you and charge your swap partner’s account. The site also offers an online community where you can meet other Swap members, attend swap events, or organize your own swap meet.
Read more about Swap.com here.
Would you like to get a box of clothes for your kids for 5 bucks? A clothes swap site, thredUP has been designed to accommodate the hectic lives of parents all while saving money at the same time. The cost is 5 dollars plus shipping to receive a box of clothes. In order to receive a box, you must prepare a box. Put together a box of your child’s outgrown, gently used clothing based on size and gender, then list the contents on the site. The recipient pays the shipping. You can even have the post office drop off the box for you, print out the mailing label on the site, then have the post office pick it up for you. You don’t even have to take pictures, which is a plus when you’re giving something away- like thredUP says, it’s really time consuming for busy parents. However, this can be a downside if you’re the recipient of the swap. But thredUP’s golden rule is to only give what you yourself would be willing to receive- no stains, tears, or holes. And if you receive damaged items, you can report it and a staff member will contact you. Once you receive the box you review your swap partner online using stars based on the quality of the items. For an extra 5 bucks a month you can become a Pro member which will give you added perks such as first dibs on boxes and chances to win brand new clothes from sponsored retail stores. thredUP also swaps toys, costumes, and sports and formal wear.
You can thredUP here.
Zipcar is heralded as the car for people who don’t want one. A car share site, Zipcar is currently located in over 50 cities across North America and the UK and can be found at over 100 colleges and universities. Zipcar is a great solution for college students, businesses who want to save money on rental costs, or others who only need a car once in a while. After you fill out the online application and are approved, you’ll receive your Zipcard and can reserve your car for a couple hours or an entire day. With over 30 models to choose from, you can pick the car you want depending on the availability in your city. Use the Zipcard to unlock your car and return it to the same spot when you’re done. The membership fee varies depending on your city and the type of plan you choose. Gas is included in the membership- though you do need to fill it up when it gets down to a 1/4 tank.
Learn more about Zipcar here.
CabCorner has really- ahem- cornered the market on cab sharing. Using the mobile web, CabCorner connects commuters going in the same direction to share a cab ride in order to share the cost, ease congestion, and reduce the carbon footprint. Currently operating in major cities across the globe, CabCorner uses sponsored retailers and transportation hubs as “Hot Spots” or meet-up sites, such as Starbucks or department stores. These retailers then offer discounts to CabCorner users. This also provides safety as you are never picked up or dropped off at your home or destination- usually a block or two away. You enter in your pick-up and destination addresses and time you need the ride to create or find an existing route. Each portion of the fare is estimated ahead of time to minimize disagreements. You can cancel your ride at any time without penalty if something doesn’t seem right. CabCorner has other important safety tips on its’ web site. People share train and bus rides everyday. This is just another way to share public transportation. And you may even spark a friendship.
Share a cab ride here.
Swapstyle– A free clothing swap site for fashionistas, Swapstyle has been going strong for 7 years.
Couchsurfing– Members share hospitality, connecting travelers with locals in 230 countries.
Kickstarter– Connects artists of various mediums who need funding for their projects with donors who wish to support them.
NeighborGoods– Share your stuff- lend and borrow items with people in your area, such as tools, electronics, lawn supplies, and sporting equipment.
SmartyPig– A free online savings program to save for a specific goal, SmartyPig partners with retailers to give you cash rewards and a competitive interest rate.