Cash Not Accepted: Renewing the Global Community with Trade

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giving bread

Have you ever traded a photograph for a sandwich? A freshly baked loaf of bread for repairs on your bike? Strange questions, perhaps... but these questions are part of the reality of today's global community.

People today are becoming more aware of the global community -- oddly enough, it's a joint realization powered both by fast-paced telecommunications and social media and by the increased realization of the need to protect the Earth that unites us. Whatever the reason, it seems that evidence of a true feeling of community is becoming more apparent, be it in towns, cities, or across the globe. Community is no longer just a word -- it's an ideology. And a new form of economy -- one that delves into a much more historic way of doing things -- is coming to light. Trade, barter and exchange are becoming acceptable ways to acquire goods once again, and the movement is growing with every new project and participant, bringing each party closer to the global community as a whole.

Trading Food: From Your Daily Bread to Your Daily Kombucha

Kids trade Halloween candy and my Babybel cheese for your sunflower seeds at lunch. So why shouldn't adults do the same? Food trade does remain nearly natural in some communities, for example at block parties and when new neighbors move to town, but some people are taking that natural inclination to trade food up a notch.

In Pensacola, Florida, Vicki White offers a kombucha exchange to her local community. Inspired by having tried 2 dried scobys, both of which didn't work, once Vicki mastered homemade kombucha herself, she decided to start a kombucha exchange to help others in her community get started. "Every time you make a new batch, you get a new scoby -- you just have to sacrifice one cup of kombucha per scoby you give away," she explains. "It was a natural service to offer on our Chapter's (of the Weston A. Price Foundation) website."

Because the exchange is fairly small, Vicki says that it doesn't actually require that much extra work on her part. "I keep one scoby ready to give away in the fridge at all times, and I always have a batch brewing anyway," she says.

The interesting thing about her exchange is that her first intention wasn't to offer an exchange at all, but rather to give away free scobys. The exchange that followed came about organically. "Many people are generous, often giving me a jar in exchange," she says. "Once, someone picking up their scoby brought me a beautiful hand-blown glass ornament they made – with a stand! It’s beautiful."

Vicki has also added both sourdough and kefir exchange contacts to the site, maintained by people who make their own sourdough and kefir at home. Wendy Aliff is the sourdough point person. "It wasn't really a conscious, thought out, prepared decision," Wendy says of her move to share her sourdough on the site. "Most of the folks who eat /drink fermented food always have some to share and it multiplies so quickly that we always have extra."

The Bread Exchange is one project that does this on a larger scale. The Berlin-based project has been in the works for over five years.

Founder Malin Elmlid started baking her own bread when she couldn't source quality loaves in her new hometown, and she quickly started trading it. After years of training, Malin has realized that aside from creating an exchange of goods, she "had started a network of people that, just like myself, value quality and authenticity." It was no longer just about the bread.

Trading Flowers: You Can't Put a Price on Nature

Of course, food is not the only thing that people exchange and trade. Grown and Gathered decided that instead of selling the flowers they grow, they would rather exchange them.

"It seems impossible to equate the amount of time and effort, art and love involved in growing them," they explain on their website.

Instead of assigning monetary value to the flowers they grow, the small team decided that they only exchange their flowers for something -- anything -- other than money. "Ideally, we would like to trade for things that will help us remove the need to use money day to day," they say. They even offer suggestions on their site for those who might not be inspired with ideas: jam, homebrews, handicrafts... all are welcome, as is anything that one would usually have to buy, thus diminishing the team's need to spend money on their livelihood.

"We are in the 10th month of the project and it's been amazing," says Lentil. "We learn something from every trade and every person. We have exchanged surfing lessons, tickets to gigs, amazing coffee, our illustration and printing from our seasonal vegetable chart was all traded, handmade milking still… The list goes on. Everyone has something they can trade."

Small exchanges can be carried out weekly with the team, based in Talbik, Australia; larger exchanges for events can be organized as well. Just imagine how wonderful it might be to carry out an exchange for your wedding flowers!

Trading Talents: Offering the Best of Ourselves

Speaking of weddings, the Pixel Trade is a project offering exchanges of a skill -- you might guess which one from the title of the project. Shantanu Starick decided to use his skill as a photographer, trading photographs for food and lodging, with one goal: travel the world.

"I saw it as a worldly skill," he says. "Nearly every industry uses photography now of some sorts. So one day I decided I wanted to work on a project that would allow me to travel by using photography as 'payment' that is how The Pixel Trade concept was born."

The concept itself involves a trader offering to host and feed Shantanu for a few days in exchange for photographs of the trader's skill -- paintings for an online portfolio, hand-made furniture -- or even an event, including, yes, weddings! "From helicopter companies to fashion designers, cookbooks and local markets in Spain, they're all unbelievably interesting to me," he says of just a handful of the trades he's managed to complete over the nearly three years the project has been in existence.

Once the project took off, Shantanu soon realized it was going to become a full-time gig. "Since the start of the project 32 months ago I've been on 145 flights to different cities, countries and continents," he says. And during all this time, trade of his skill against the welcome of strangers has become his livelihood.

"During the project I haven't used money for anything," he says. "It is a full time job until the project is complete."

Individuals are taking to bartering quite well, from projects like these to clothing exchanges and even simple recipe or craft trades amongst friends or local communities. But it seems to be a system that's working on a larger scale too. Is the barter economy the new way to exchange?

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Image: mylu via Shutterstock

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