Swapsity Spreads the Benefits of Swapping

Written by Denise Deby.

Photo courtesy of Swapsity (via Facebook)
Photo courtesy of Swapsity (via Facebook)

It’s not easy to be a green consumer. Even though environmentally-friendly products are becoming more widely available, many of the things we use in our daily lives are produced in unsustainable ways, and too often, when we’re done with them, they end up as garbage, or as clutter that causes us stress.

There’s another way to buy less stuff, produce less waste and save money while still getting things we need: swapping. Swapping is an ages-old tradition that’s gaining new ground as people realize they can exchange what they no longer want for things they can use.

There’s now an online community that’s making it easier for people to swap: Swapsity.

Swapsity allows you to exchange things like clothes or toys your kids have outgrown for bikes or a tool set, for example, or turn that fancy juicer you never use into a weekend cottage get-away. Past swappers have traded wine glasses for a bookcraft supplies for a DVD set, planter and notebook, and even kitchen renovations for a car.

As well as stuff, you can swap skills and services on Swapsity. If you’re a savvy gardener or know another language, you can share your knowledge with someone else, and in return get those guitar lessons or that e-bike you’ve been dreaming of. If you run a small business, you can trade goods or services, such as your excess organic produce for web consulting, or personal training for marketing advice.

Marta Nowinska created Swapsity about five years ago, leaving her Bay Street investment banking job to launch an online swapping service for Canadians. When I spoke to her by phone, she summarized the benefits of swapping:

  • Financial: “Swapping essentially saves you money. Instead of using your hard-earned cash, you’re trading your skills, your time, your clutter. …Considering that an average Canadian is $27,000 in debt,…it’s just financially smart to integrate barter into your budget.”
  • Environmental: “It’s green. You’re trading your pre-loved items, you’re extending the lifecycle of products, you’re keeping useful items in circulation and out of landfills.”
  • Social: “You’re sharing with people, you’re building new connections. A number of people report making new friends through swapping.”

You can browse or view available items on Swapsity’s website. To participate, you sign up on the site (it’s free), list the things you own that you’d like to trade, and add the things you’d like to find, and Swapsity will generate swap matches based on your location. You can send messages to others through the site, and after you’ve reached agreement, you exchange items (usually in person or by mail).

Swapsity has a feature you can use to keep track of what friends and other trusted swappers are swapping, and the site provides information and safety tips. You can find out more and get started at http://www.swapsity.ca/barter101.

Swapsity also organizes swap events. So far, these successful events have been focused in Toronto, but Marta tells me they are open to organizing more events in other cities, including Ottawa, if there’s enough interest and some volunteers to help out.

Giving away your used stuff is one way to recycle it, but what I like about swapping is that it places value on what you’re offering up, and what you have goes to someone who really wants it—you’re not just passing on your trash. Swapping is also a way for individuals to make small changes that can add up.

As Marta explains, Swapsity is building a swapping economy that will coexist with and complement the existing cash economy. “Our recommendation is swap for at least five per cent of your budget, to save money, to be eco-friendly, to build communities and more connected relationships. This is something where once we reach critical mass you will be able to tap into this amazing resource where you can get pretty much anything on barter.”

You can check Swapsity out at their websiteon Facebook and on TwitterSwapsity welcomes volunteers, so if you’d like to see more swapping happening in Ottawa online or through events, you can contact them at volunteers@swapsity.ca.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

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Living Green Expo in Ottawa April 27-28, 2013

Guest post written by Jill Sturdy, Coordinator, Living Green Expo.

Banner courtesy Living Green Expo
Image courtesy Living Green Expo

Join us for an exciting new event coming to Ottawa!

Discover Sustainable Healthy Living

Living Green Expo
April 27 & 28, 2013, 10am – 4pm
Ottawa Convention Centre
Downtown at 55 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa

Living Green Expo will provide an exciting opportunity for residents of the National Capital Region to discover sustainable healthy living through local companies offering products and services offering environmental stewardship and health and wellness.

Features over 125 exhibitors, thought-provoking presentations, an eco-fashion show, a children’s fun zone, and the announcement of the winners of the Home Sweet Home Student Challenge, a competition to design Rick Mercer’s green “granny flat”.

It’s easy to get to Ottawa Convention Centre, located in the heart of downtown–take a bus, bicycle, walk or drive (or even canoe down the canal!).

Admission is by donation and proceeds collected will be donated to Ecology Ottawa and Canadian Organic Growers (Ottawa–   St.Lawrence – Outaouais Chapter).

For more information visit www.livinggreenexpo.ca.

Living Green Expo is presented by the Ottawa Convention Centre, and has a number of generous sponsors that helped make the event possible including terra20, the City of Ottawa, Mediaplus, St. Joseph Communications, Ottawa Business Journal, Metro News and AVW-Telav. The event will also be Bullfrog powered, using 100% green electricity.

* * *

Green Living Ottawa also received a guest post on the Living Green Expo from Barbara Moore, a local green activist, a small sustainable business owner (EcoOttawa.com will be an exhibitor at the show) and a member of Ottawa Local Motives, which contributes to several sustainable events in Ottawa, including The Living Green Expo. Thanks, Barbara.

Earth Month April 2013 at terra20

Written by Denise Deby.

terra20 books photo by Denise Deby

Living green, for many of us, means trying to do the best we can as consumers, by reducing, reusing, recycling, and choosing environmentally-friendly goods and services over harmful ones, when options and information exist.

Bringing a wide range of sustainable products to the Ottawa market is the approach of eco-store terra20, which opened last year. Billed as North America’s largest eco-store, Ottawa-based terra20 sells an array of items, from household goods and cleaning products to office supplies, clothing and more. In one visit, you could pick up non-toxic shampoo, bamboo and organic cotton bed sheets, a backpack made of recycled soda bottles with a solar cell phone recharger, a copy of Adria Vasil’s Ecoholic, and fair-trade chocolate.

Terra20 posts the ingredients of the products it sells, and adds its own labels to let customers know what eco-principles it considers those products to be consistent with—for example, “organic,” “made in Canada” or “waste-reducing.” Few products do everything, but terra20’s overall message is upbeat: its name comes from the idea that “the year 20-something will be the year we achieve sustainability.”

Sustainability may be more of an ongoing process, but one interesting thing about terra20 is that—like smaller stores in Ottawa that sell environmentally-friendly products, but on a bigger scale—it’s working to build a community where people think about and share ideas about green living.

Terra20 is continuing to do that this month in a big way, through social media and in-store promotions. Its Earth Month celebration focuses on a new theme each week. Last week’s was cloth and alternative diapering.

This week’s topic is litterless lunches, and on Saturday, April 13 from noon-4 p.m. at the store, there’ll be presentations on products as well as a litterless lunch food prep demonstration (with samples) by the amazing Judi Varga-Toth of Credible Edibles.

The third week is about reducing waste, and includes an Earth Day celebration on Saturday April 20 from noon-4 p.m. Several companies will present products that use recycled materials or help you reuse your own, including EcoJot, which makes stationery from recycled paper, and local business naCoille which produces hand-crafted cutting boards and furniture from reclaimed wood. The afternoon will be hosted by the always-impressive Ian Capstick of MediaStyle.

Week 4 will be all about terra20’s ecobar, where customers can purchase household cleaning solutions in refillable bottles. Further details on all the Earth Month events are at http://www.terra20.com/community/events/.

Terra20 is located at 2685 Iris St. in the mall beside Ikea, on bus routes 96, 101 and 172 (or bike along Iris), and offers online browsing and shopping as well.

EcoEquitable: Recycling, Local Crafts and Employment

Written by Denise Deby.

Poster courtesy of EcoEquitable
Poster courtesy of EcoEquitable

EcoEquitable is an example of a small organization that accomplishes big things: it turns unwanted textiles into creative and useful products, sells recycled fabrics through its boutique, and provides employment and skills development to people who need temporary support.

EcoEquitable’s “Eco Fashion bags” are made from recycled, donated fabrics, vinyl, even flags. It also makes promotional bags to order, for example for conferences. EcoEquitable’s “Sowing for Jobs” program provides sewing training, financial literacy and work experience to unemployed and immigrant workers as a bridge to other employment. EcoEquitable also takes on contract sewing, does repairs and alterations (a good way to prolong the life of your clothes), and offers sewing training to groups and the public.

This Saturday, April 6, 2013, EcoEquitable is holding its first-ever Fill-A-Bag Fabric Sale. For $10 you can fill a bag with fabric that would normally be priced from $2-5 a metre. You’ll also find buttons, zippers and other notions. Bring your own shopping bag (and cash—the sale is cash-only), and stay for some Bridgehead coffee and baked treats. It’s at Heartwood House, 153 Chapel St. (use the side entrance at Chapel and Rideau), from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The sale will help EcoEquitable get ready to move to a new store-front location this spring.

For more information, check EcoEquitable’s website. EcoEquitable is supported by the United Way, the Community Foundation of Ottawa and the City of Ottawa.

Winter Bike Parade on January 27, 2013 in Ottawa

Written by Denise Deby.

Poster courtesy Citizens for Safe Cycling
Poster courtesy Citizens for Safe Cycling

It seems that more and more people in Ottawa are cycling year-round. That’s right, even through our cold, snowy winters. I haven’t been a big winter cyclist myself—it’s not the cold I mind as much as the possibility of slipping on icy streets. Still, it’s tempting to try when you see other people out there making it work.

To demonstrate that winter can be a safe time for enjoyable biking, Citizens for Safe Cycling is holding its 2nd Annual Family Winter Bike Parade on Sunday, January 27 at 11 a.m. It’s an all-ages, all-skill-levels event.

The ride begins at City Hall, at the Lisgar entrance. Participants will travel a short route through downtown, then return to City Hall for some hot beverages. Organizers say the route will depend on the weather, but the pace will be slow and the parade will stop periodically to allow people to catch up. You can check Citizens for Safe Cycling’s website for further details and updates.

Of course, appropriate dress (layers) and adequate gear are important, even though you may not need a lot of special equipment. The Envirocentre is offering some relevant suggestions on its website: http://www.biketoworkottawa.com/en/

The City of Ottawa also has information on cold-weather cycling: http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/transportation-and-parking/cold-or-wet-weather-cycling

For further inspiration, check out the thoughts of local cyclists who’ve tried winter biking. Lana Stewart, who blogs as Modal Mom, writes about her experiences with winter biking at http://modalmom.com/winter-biking-if-i-can-do-it-so-can-you/ and http://modalmom.com/lessons-learned-in-my-second-year-of-winter-biking-in-ottawa/.

Another avid Ottawa cyclist, Kathleen Wilker, blogs on all-weather family biking at http://momentummag.com/blogs/families-on-bikes.

Here are a couple of additional links on winter cycling:

http://www.womenscycling.ca/blog/tips-for-cycling-all-year/snow-biking/

http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/winter-biking-basics

Please share your own tips in the comments section below.

Spring Cleaning Events in Ottawa 2012

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

Get set for spring by recycling some unused stuff—while supporting some good causes:

Electronics recycling

Ontario Electronic Stewardship, an industry-based non-profit which provides collection sites for electronics waste, also partners with organizations to host waste-collection events. For example, you can contribute your e-waste to support Broadview Avenue Public School Parent Council or Osgoode Parent School Council on April 21, or the Girl Guides of Canada on April 28. See the website for details and locations.

Clothing recycling

Clean out your closet while supporting the Canadian Cancer Society and the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation: donate your “gently used” clothing and accessories to the Clean Your Closet for Cancer event on April 29. Donations are accepted up to April 21. Check the website or Facebook page for details.

Let us know of other recycling events you find out about!

Apartment613’s Support Local Month in Ottawa

Written by guest blogger Denise Deby, who writes on local and global social and environmental issues.

The people at Apartment613 have lots of good ideas, but this time they’ve outdone themselves. They’re making November “Support Local” month in Ottawa. And they’re talking not just local food but also local musicians, artists, restaurants and businesses.

They’ve set up a series of events throughout the month—a list too long to replicate here but do check out their website. Some examples:

You can also let Apartment613 know if you have ideas for other events (email editors [at] apt613 [dot] ca with “Support Local” in the subject line).