This post was sponsored by Bunz, all thoughts my own.

Long before modern day capitalism had its grip on our world, there was bartering.

Bartering is an old method that was used for centuries by early civilisations, where you trade services or goods with someone else without using money. The history of bartering dates back as far as 6000 BC in Mesopotamia, with goods and services such as weaponry, food and tea all being traded. The barter system continually grew and flourished globally, being adopted by the Phoenicians, then the Babylonians, and expanding during the Middle Ages as people increasingly travelled and traded in cities across the world. The more people travelled, the more new goods and services entered the barter system market, which people previously didn’t have access to or the money to afford. Bartering created a way for these items to become more accessible to more people.

Through its long and evolving history bartering is a method that has always sat alongside economic models of the day, growing more organised as economic systems developed over time, and meeting the needs of those who didn’t want to use money, or didn’t have the means to.

Many cultures today still use bartering systems and now, thanks to the wonderful app Bunz, bartering is returning to the western world too.

The beauty of Bunz

Bunz began in 2013, when founder Emily Bitze set up a Facebook group for trading things with her friends in Toronto. The idea was to create value for unwanted things by trading them with each other, while also allowing those without much cash to be able to access things they might need using methods that could actually work for them. The group rapidly grew into what it is today: a trading app with over 360,000 users that aims to regain control of the way people consume. Bunz’s design encourages its users to contribute to a more sustainable future by promoting the circular economy, conscious choices, and a people-focused way of living and supporting each other.

It’s incredibly simple to use, working in the same way as if you were swapping with a friend. Someone posts an item they want to trade, or offers up a service, and they can trade with another Bunz user. Users also have the chance to earn BTZ when they trade, a new kind of digital currency that can be accepted by participating local cafes, breweries and retailers, adding extra real-world rewards to the trading system.

More importantly, Bunz hasn’t forgotten its roots as a community building tool. While the app is a practical way to Marie Kondo your life consciously or find something you need secondhand (so far Bunz has given new life to 2.3 million items!), it’s also a way for people to meet each other. Many people talk about the friends they have made through Bunz, how it helped them find community when travelling or moving cities, or the unique experiences it gave them the chance to participate in. My personal favourite is this man who used Bunz to take a bath in a new house every day for a month; the stories of the connections he made actually made me tear up a little.

What a Bunz profile looks like

Community, connection and circularity are Bunz’s foundations, and we’re all invited to build a new kind of future, together.

The benefits of bartering

When it comes to building these new futures, it’s clear that the barter system is foundational to creating the conscious world we’d like to see:

It’s cheaper

One of the most significant benefits of bartering is the fact that you don’t need money, which is perfect for a world of growing income inequality and changing workforces that make it harder to earn money in the first place. Instead of feeling trapped within economic systems that work for the elite few, trading allows us to take back agency, and create new systems to co-exist and work together in spite of economics that are often stacked against us.

Flexibility, connection & community

Bartering also provides a lot more flexibility. While users could trade similar products, for example a book you’ve read for one you want to read or a kettle for a cafetiere, you can also trade entirely different items. It depends on what each party values, meaning that there’s plenty of opportunities to find a transaction that works for you and provides something meaningful to everyone involved.

This is especially useful when it comes to trading skills and services, it fosters community and connection as we utilise our talents and abilities to help each other, instead of relying on money and linear services alone.

At the start of one of my favourite books, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, there’s a perfect example of bartering at work in a community, as a doctor reflects on a day’s work:

…’the doctor has been kind enough to cure you.’ She took Iannis’ hand in both of her own and kissed it, and shortly afterwards he found himself walking home with a fat pullet under each arm, a shiny dark aubergine stuffed into each pocket of his jacket…

It had been a good day for payments; he had also earned two very large and fine crayfish, a pot of whitebait, a basil plant, and an offer of sexual intercourse (to be redeemed at his convenience). He had resolved that he would not be taking up that particular offer

At the heart of bartering is a return to human connection. Money is impersonal and conceptual, an intangible idea that the most wealthy can begin to obsessively hoard. Bartering is an exchange between human beings, an invitation to collaborate on a situation together, finding a solution that mutually benefits everyone and lends itself to creative problem solving and joyful discovery (like the chance to take a bath in a new house every day and make friends along the way).

It’s holistic and healthier, as you engage with real people who you may have otherwise never spoken to. It gets us talking to each other, and working together to help each other.

Browsing on Bunz is designed to be incredibly easy

Barter as a form of protest

“Trade and borrowing is a form of protest, in a way. I don’t want to give these [corporations] my money, and why should I? I think their business practices are a form of insanity, I would rather get what I need from the things that are already in circulation.”

…barter and the sharing economy has “really brought back the notion of the village. Where humans once did things for each other for free because that’s just what you did as a community, our culture has gone and monetized everything. When you do that, you are effectively removing the very situations that generate community in the first place.”

(source)

To barter is to take back control, to remove your investment from industries and practices that are inherently built on the exploitation of people and the natural world. To barter is to invest your time and your possessions into other people and not the pockets of billionaires. To barter is to save things from landfill by extending the life cycle of items which already exist in the world, while also avoiding producing new unnecessary items.

To barter is to offer up yourself in service in others, and to receive something in kind. In a broken world that emphasises isolation, cutthroat competition and only looking out for yourself, to barter is to actively choose community instead. Choosing to look after each other, to find ways to work together, is an inherently radical act in a society that only wants us to keep consuming.

It’s easy to feel hopeless in the world we’re in, but something like Bunz, and its popularity, is a reminder that there are other options. And not just that, there are thousands of people who prefer these options. It’s a reminder that we aren’t alone, and there are ways that we can work together to create a more sustainable, more caring world for tomorrow.

To download Bunz & start a community in your area by inviting your friends to join too, click here