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Bartering for the environment

When we think of bartering, it is easy to think of it as an ancient practice replaced by modern currencies. Mesopotamian tribes are thought to have started the first bartering systems in around 6000 BCE to trade food, weapons, and spices. In ancient Rome, services were bartered for salt. Bartering is thousands of years old and precedes the use of money; however, it is still relevant and used today with many online sites available for anyone who has something to trade. But where does bartering fit in a modern society? And what makes it beneficial?

What is bartering?

Bartering is a direct exchange of goods and services, without a money intermediary. It is a great way to participate in a sustainable and circular economy, and encourages the use of second-hand clothing, jewelry, and other items by creating a trading community, as opposed to being centred around a currency. Although it often does, bartering doesn’t have to involve goods. Services such as trade work, cooking and cleaning, and even skill teaching can also be exchanged via bartering. For example, you could mow your neighbour’s lawn in exchange for some clothing or trade some old dishes for local artwork.

How is it different from buying second hand?

While bartering can often involve second-hand products, bartering is primarily unique because it is an economy and trading system that doesn’t use a currency. When buying second-hand goods, we still use money to pay for them. Bartering is a separate practice that creates community-oriented trading economies.

Why is it beneficial?

Bartering encourages the use and exchange of second-hand goods. By fostering a system in which items we no longer need are exchanged for ones that we do, bartering helps keep goods that are still usable out of the landfill. It gives us the opportunity to make trades for a second-hand item we are in need of. Bartering also comes in handy when it comes to items we may only need to use every once in a while, such as a tool or maybe some outdoor gear. This allows us to save money, and provides a way to get rid of an item we may not want to hold on to after using it for the specific activity we needed it for.

One of the best parts about bartering is that both parties involved benefit from the exchange as they both receive items that they want as part of a trade they both agree is fair. In addition, people without money to spend can also take part in the bartering economy by offering items to trade or services to provide. This makes bartering a socially sustainable practice as well as an environmentally sustainable practice, as it is something that all community members can take part in.

Bartering can also serve to strengthen communities by creating connections with others you can rely on. When many of our daily economic interactions involve trading with neighbours or with other people we know instead of buying from big box retailers, a much more personal fulfillment and sense of community can ensue. Bartering is also a great way to save money for goods or services that cannot be traded for in our modern economies, once again creating more equitable societies by making it easier for everyone to meet their needs.

In addition to being socially and environmentally sustainable, bartering offers opportunities for unique and exciting finds! With vintage clothing from many eras coming back into style, bartering can be a great way to find new, old clothes. This is a sustainable way to keep up with ever changing fashion trends and collect new finds for your wardrobe or your home decor.

Bartering online

A great way to start bartering is by using online bartering sites. Online bartering sites are often built around specific interests or communities, which can be a great way to enter the bartering world if you are in search of a specific item or have certain goods you would like to trade. This is also an easy way to incorporate bartering into your day-to-day life. Instead of purchasing something new online, check out an online bartering site first to see if anyone is willing to trade for an item you need! 

Sites to check out


PaperBackSwap is a book trading website. In addition to the classic paperback book, this site is also set up for exchange of hard copies, audio books, and textbooks. While you will have to pay postage or shipping to send a book to your trade partner, your book will be sent to you for free, bypassing inflated shipping costs of other retail sites. Currently there are over 1,100,000 books to trade for! To make a trade on PaperBackSwap, you simply list books that you would like to swap with others on the site, wait for a member to request a book, and then choose from available books to add to your collection. There are also multiple discussion forums on the site, giving you the opportunity to connect with other members! PaperBackSwap can be used internationally, although shipping costs may vary.

Shared Earth

Shared Earth is an American land sharing organization. This differs from other bartering sites, because instead of exchanging a good or a service land use is being exchanged for some of the produce grown on it. For example, if you have a large yard, you could offer a corner of it to a neighbour to grow vegetables, and throughout the season they will offer you a portion of their yield. Shared Earth requests your location upon registration, to make it easy to find a neighbour in your area to collaborate with.


Simbi is a service exchange website available in many countries across the globe. Services can be exchanged directly with other members, or you can opt for simbi credit that can be used later on if someone interested in your service does not offer something you are in need of. Either way, Simbi makes it possible to arrange a service exchange without the need for money. Members can start conversations with and propose exchanges to other members. Simbi is location based, making it a great way to start bartering within your community.


Kijiji is a buy and sell site available in Germany, France, Italy, Canada, China, Taiwan, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, and Japan, where you can view or post listings for others to view within your community. While some Kijiji users prefer to exchange money for the items they are selling, there are opportunities to barter with other users. Kijiji also allows you to post “looking for” listings where you can specify what you are in search of, and what you are able to trade for it.

Local Facebook Marketplace Buy and Sell groups can present bartering opportunities as well. It is not a bartering platform by default, but community members are sometimes open to trading items instead of accepting payment.  It is also possible to post items or services you are in search of to see if community members can help out.

Craigslist is a one stop website for local news, discussion forums, buy and sell, and trading within your community. All sites are location specific, making it easy to find people in your community who are looking to barter. Goods and services are both exchanged on craigslist. Like Kijiji, Craigslist allows you to post services or items you are offering, view others posts to find what you are looking for, and make posts outlining what you are in search of.

However, Craigslist seems to have issues with inappropriate posts and activities, so it is not my preferred forum.

Remember to be smart about your personal safety whenever interacting with someone that you do not know and have only met online. Craigslist recommends only meeting in a public place, telling a friend or family member where you are going or consider having them accompany you and be especially careful with high value items, and always trust your instincts.

How can I start?

Like anything else, when trying bartering for the first time it is easier to start small! Next time you are looking for some décor for your home or a new piece of clothing, check out an online bartering site or visit your local Buy and Sell group or Kijiji page before you buy new! The same goes for getting rid of items you no longer have use for. Offer them to community members, or post them online instead of putting them in the trash.

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