Swapping in style

For the third year in a row, the Barter and Trade event will take place in Kingsey Falls as part of Québec Waste Reduction Week.

Do you think swapping is a thing of the past? Does the word “swapping” conjure up images of people trading pottery for beaver pelts? Well, guess what? Swapping is much more than that, and it’s still very much alive in 2013!

Maybe you need a text translated, or a tool box for just one day. Perhaps you’d like to revamp your wardrobe. Anything is possible, as long as you have something to offer in exchange!

Barter and trade systems are all based on the same fundamental principles: the desire to consume in a responsible and ecological fashion, to create connections between people, and to promote solidarity and sharing. This form of trading allows those who enjoy doing business to shop to their heart’s content without going broke. As an introduction to this increasingly popular global phenomenon, the following will give you an idea of the types of items that can be swapped.

Exchanging goods

In France, Troc de presse encourages avid readers to transform their mailboxes into “sharing booths,” allowing neighbours to share magazines and newspapers. That way, participants can read and discover more without spending more.


In the United States, Swap Style gives its female members the chance to exchange items, with postage as the only cost. Members upload pictures of the items they want to exchange, and then browse through the hundreds of pages of clothing, shoes, jewellery, and other items advertised by members.

In the Montréal, Québec, area, the organization Troc-tes-Trucs organizes swapping events where people can meet at a set time and location to trade all kinds of items they no longer use. Swapping events are also, in a sense, a meeting place, which adds to the fun!

Bartering and trading services

The principle behind websites that facilitate the exchange of services is very similar. When you provide a service, you earn time credits, tokens or points (various accounting methods exist), that you can then exchange for a service offered by another member.

For example, after helping Mr. Smith with his shopping, Linda could ask Mike for some bookkeeping advice. Mike could then enjoy an acupuncture session offered by Allyson, who in turn could ask Jeff to help her move. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

La Banque d’Échange Communautaires de Services (BECS) or in English, the Community services exchange, provides a platform where members can advertise their service offers in a wide range of categories. Les Accorderies is another network operating in several cities in the province of Québec that facilitates the exchange of individual services and also organizes community events. The website E-180.com focuses on sharing knowledge, and encourages its members to meet in public places to discuss ideas. It’s an opportunity to learn about almost anything, for the price of a cup of coffee!

The French website Troximity offers carpooling in addition to the more common swapping categories. The number of points that passengers have saved up in the bank determines how far they can travel, and drivers earn points based on the distance they drive while carpooling.

Upcoming barter and trade events

Would you like to give it a try? Several swapping events open to the public are coming up as part of Québec Waste Reduction Week. It’s the perfect opportunity to find out more about swapping.

Do you plan on going to any of these events? Have you ever swapped any items?

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About the Author
Marie-Eve Chapdelaine

Marie-Eve Chapdelaine is a specialist in sustainable development and has worked at Cascades since 2006. She is particularly interested in building public awareness and changing attitudes regarding social and environmental issues. In her role at Cascades, Marie-Eve uses her expertise to inform, guide and support her colleagues in maintaining the company’s leadership position in sustainable development. She has earned an undergraduate degree in public communications from Université Laval and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in environment at Université de Sherbrooke. “I’ve always been interested in environmental causes, but also in social issues. Sustainable development allows me to pursue both interests at once. What better than to work at Cascades, a beacon in this area, and a company that is open to implementing all sorts of measures to improve performance and maintain its leadership position.” Because she believes every citizen needs to take responsibility for improving their living environment, Marie-Eve is also socially engaged, sitting on several community boards and committees.

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