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Before currency we exchanged through reciprocity and redistribution – or as economist Adam Smith referred to it, higgling, haggling, swapping, and dickering – all for the sake of utilizing a good or service to its fullest. Here on the East Coast, people have been flipping through Uncle Henry’s classifieds to buy, barter, and trade for “most anything under the sun” since the 1970s. Transfer stations’ free tables, art collections, and bookstores are so popular that time at the dump is, fortunately, limited.
One could argue the modern day Zero Waste movement is a revival of the sharing market that reigned before a World War II marketed consumerism.  Virtual platforms like trading applications and bartering sites are beginning to outperform the 1950’s motivation to acquire new stuff. The 5 platforms that we feature in the coming weeks of our Campus Changemakers blog are just a few of many useful outlets for students looking to engage in community reuse. Check them out to get higgling, haggling, and dickering in a society that refuses to feed the fill!


First on the docket is Yerdle, an online trading application that allows you to acquire the stuff you need at a price that fits your student budget: Free. Created through a partnership with past Sierra Club president Adam Werbach, former Wal-Mart Sustainability Officer Andy Ruben, and Zip-Car’s co-founder Carl Tashian, Yerdle sets out to reduce the things we buy by 25% to foster a less expensive, more convenient, and ultimately, more sustainable lifestyle.

Yerdle started off with the help of Patagonia’s Internal Venture fund, a part of the clothing company’s Responsible Economy Campaign; Patagonia also trialed the application by posting items on Yerdle that had been returned to them by past customers. Today, Yerdle continues to focus on local exchange of goods, a principle that contributes to the minimal cost of using the app. Users only pay for shipping and packaging when they buy an item on Yerdle, which is affordable in itself due to the app’s focus on local exchange. Virtual Yerdle Reuse Dollars cover the rest – you even get 25 just for signing up! Once you have paid the whopping $2 to register an account, the process to start trading is straightforward and convenient:

1)    Look around your place and see what you’re not using

2)    Post a picture online of what you’re giving away and at what price (all in Yerdle Reuse Dollars!)

3)    Send it off to your buyer and receive credit to your Yerdle account


To emphasize their commitment to reuse, Yerdle recently launched an “Unshopping Challenge”. For 30 days, any new item you acquire is something that is being reused (unless it is a nonrenewable item like food or fuel). The “challenge” promotes participation in reuse that extends beyond material items. Founder Adam Werbach describes the transactions of Yerdle’s 50,000 users as involving “…more than just the goods themselves”.

“I’ve heard of people decorating and personalizing the boxes that items are shipped in, and even writing letters to share their positive experience with the revived concept of reuse”.

Whether it involves a personalized letter or is just the exchange of virtual currency, transactions so seamless are enabling Yerdle to redefine the word “mine” in a consumerist culture that is moving away from waste.