Feature Story/Profile

Halifax locals use barter system, turn useless clutter into valued needs

By Jen Schwetje

Oct. 18, 2017

Trade a frying pan for a party dress, swap an office chair for a bread maker or offer up some homemade soup for a couple of used books. The Bunz Trading Zone Halifax Facebook group gives Haligonians a place to unload clutter in exchange for things they need.

Founded in 2015 as a copy of the original Bunz group in Toronto, today the Halifax chapter has almost 18,000 members today. The premise of Bunz is simple: no cash at all. Post your items to offer along with a list of things you are looking for. Check out what others post and see if you have anything they want. Members say it creates a sense of community and gives a second life to items that may have ended up in the garbage.

Olivia (not her real name) started using Bunz this summer after her roommate moved out leaving several items behind. “I was also unemployed, so I had a lot of time on my hands and not much money, so I thought, sure, I’ll check out this trading thing, and I had a lot of success with it,” says Olivia.

An active member since July, Olivia scored many successful trades, including the floral dress she was wearing at the time of the interview. Her favourite and most surprising trade was when she received a blender in exchange for an assortment of items that were left at her house after parties: a wedding centrepiece with butterflies and branches, a coffee thermos missing its seal and a slightly-used toque. “I feel like I came out better in the deal, but I think they were quite happy as well,” Olivia says.

Not every Bunz exchange is a trade of tangible items. Earlier that morning Olivia had helped a fellow Bunz member with some yard work. A lady had posted in the group that her back was “not in good condition” after pruning her roses all day and she needed somebody to bag up the clippings for her. Gloves and bags were provided and in exchange, she offered a homemade apple pie. Olivia jumped at the opportunity. “When I first came from Australia I was basically trading my labour for food and lodging so that kind of appealed to me, this non-monetary economy. And, I’m a really big fan of pie.”

Olivia describes Bunz as “retail therapy” and “an adventure” and encourages everyone to give it a try. “Take a look. It might not be for you. It might be the most fun thing you’ve ever done, as far as consuming goods goes. And I think it’s very suited to the Halifax culture of picking things up from the side of the road, putting things out on the street.”

Her advice for first-timers: “Keep a stash of bus tickets. People always want bus tickets.”

You can find the Bunz Trading Zone Halifax group at Facebook.com.

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