2009 List: Buy This Way 2009 List: Buy This Way
Issue 014

2009 List: Buy This Way

by Kathryn O'Shea-Evans

December 30, 2008

Eight ways people are shirking good old-fashioned capitalism.

1 Getting Free Stuff Online  Through Freecycle, more than 6 million people have come together with a single purpose-to give and get free stuff. There are 3,500 groups in 70 countries, from Botswana to Qatar, exchanging all manner of things-a loveseat or a turntable or a jar of hot sauce.www.freecycle.org2 Creating Local Currency  When chains started pulling away business from neighborhood stores, the residents of Southern Berkshire, Massachusetts, created BerkShares-discounted currency you can spend at more than 300 spots in the area (Wal-Mart not included).www.berkshares.org3 Shopping at Free Markets  At monthly Really Really Free Markets all over the world, everything is up for grabs (no cash, cards, or bartering allowed). Shoppers bring items they no longer want or need, and go home happy with free stuff that cost them nothing.www.reallyreallyfree.org4 Investing in Farm Shares  Passing up the fluorescent lights and wax-covered apples of chain groceries, locavores are increasingly buying straight from farmers. Proof that people are biting? There are more than 2,000 community supported agriculture groups now; there were 50 in 1990.
5 Sharing Books  Almost 1 million BookCrossing members worldwide register lists of the books they're no longer reading, leave the books in public spaces for others to find, then log on to the website to track their whereabouts. They call it "read and release."www.bookcrossing.com6 Buying Directly Online  It's hard to imagine, but there was a time before the bar code, when people actually bought things directly from each other. Thanks to sites like Etsy, which has more than 100,000 online shops, the habit is resurging. Sellers hawk everything from original art and hand-poured cement sinks to earrings made from vintage milk-bottle caps.www.etsy.com 7 Buying One, Giving One  You need new shoes. So does a street kid in South Africa, where scampering around barefoot can lead to much worse than stubbed toes. Toms Shoes has you both covered: For every pair you buy, another is donated. So far, 60,000 pairs have been given away in South Africa and Argentina.www.tomsshoes.com
8 Having Sleepovers with Strangers Banking on the notion that every stranger is a friend you haven't met yet, Alaskan Casey Fenton created CouchSurfing, a networking website that connects people with free places to crash. Since 2003, more than 730,000 people have had positive surf experiences internationally.www.couchsurfing.com
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2009 List: Buy This Way