The Three Blessings of the Swap Gods

Woman browsing dresses at clothing swap

In case you missed the very brief plug at the end of my last post, we’re having another clothing swap soon! If you’re on the fence about joining us, let Bethany convince you with her tales of three blessings from the clothing swap gods. – Julia

The Match Made In Heaven

“I’m wearing your pants!”

Amanda never fails to text me this statement and it never fails to make me smile. She picked up a pair of gray pants that I had brought to the first clothing swap. These pants were nice gray jeans, something that I really liked, but they just fit me strangely and I could never quite make them look right on me. I reluctantly brought them to the swap thinking that I would take them home after if no one took them.

Sisterhood of the traveling pants

Amanda modeling the sisterhood of the traveling pants

Fortunately, the swap gods had different plans in mind. Amanda snagged them quickly and went to try them on. She came out of the bathroom wearing this pair of pants that looked like they were made for her. These pants that I struggled to make work because I loved them so much looked exactly how I wanted them to when Amanda put them on, and it was wonderful! The only thing better than getting a match made in heaven is being able to provide one for someone else, so don’t hesitate to sacrifice those items on the cusp to the swap gods – they have a match in mind!

The Impulsive Grab

Towards the end of the swap, the items left on the table are often plain t-shirts or basic clothing that doesn’t have a lot of obvious pizzazz to it. A few times, I’ve impulsively picked up a plain shirt at the end thinking “well, it can’t hurt anything, if it doesn’t work I’ll just bring it to the next swap.” Somehow, those impulse grabs from the discards always end up being the items that I wear the most. One of them was a plain black t-shirt that is thin and long, and I wear it constantly. Another last minute grab was a tank top with a bold fern and red flower pattern on it – not something that I usually gravitate towards. However, it turned out to fit me perfectly and is an item that I’m really looking forward to wearing this summer. Trust the impulses that the swap gods send!

The Gift Of The Story

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I bought it at such and such a store”
– conversation ends –

“Where did you get that shirt? I really like it!”
“Oh, I got it at the Fair for All Clothing Swap!”
“What’s a clothing swap?”
– conversation flows, friendship is made, everything is lovely and wonderful –

Okay, maybe a bit exaggerated – but one of the biggest blessings bestowed by the swap gods is the story that your new favorite shirt has. There’s something special about having a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, and it’s really fun to tell people where you got your eco-friendly new duds.

I hope you enjoyed hearing about the three blessings of the swap gods, and that you’ll come experience them in person on Wednesday, March 15th, from 6 pm – 8 pm at New Day Craft. Click here for more info and to RSVP!

~ Bethany

Don’t Buy Stuff: The Reduction Approach to Ethical Shopping

Less is more quote on a card on a white table

Long time no see! As you can see from my recent posts, I’ve been hustling hard on the green events front. For a change of pace from sustainable party tips, here’s Bethany with the latest update on her year-long ethical shopping journey. — Julia

Well, I’m seven months into my experiment of a year of only purchasing clothing from ethical sources—certified fair trade shops, items that are made in the US, or thrift shops. The plan was to write a blog post a month about my journey, but that hasn’t happened because I’ve been stuck on what to write about. I’ve found that I’ve stopped purchasing clothing and don’t shop nearly as much as I used to (not that I was ever a big shopper, but it definitely dropped from 2-3 times a month to 1-2 times every few months).

Part of it is laziness. It’s time consuming to do the research and find certified fair trade shops that I feel good about buying from. Even when I find a company that looks good, I find myself questioning it—what if they’re just really good at looking like they’re ethical? What if this is just a way for them to charge me $60 for a top? How do I actually know if this company is what they say they are?

The other part is the expense. Most of the pricing that I’ve seen for fair trade clothing is 10-20% higher than the fast fashion items that I used to buy. I’m not saying that’s wrong—I definitely agree that one should pay more for ethically produced items—but I also just changed jobs and am watching my bank account closely.

Because of that, reduction has been my mantra. I’ve been reducing both the number of items in my closet and the number of items that I purchase. I’ve also been reducing the amount of meat that I eat. That may seem like an odd pairing to go with clothing, but I’ve found that wanting to be more responsible in one area of my life has lead me to examine other areas of my life as well. The meat industry has a lot of the same supply chain issues that the fashion industry has—pollution and environmental devastation as well as ethical issues that with factory farming and the way animals are treated. There’s also a parallel for me with how difficult it is to actually know—how do you know for sure where your clothing is coming from and that it has been produced in an ethical way? How do you know for sure that the cow that this steak came from was treated humanely or that the farmer that raised it doesn’t dump waste in such a way that it pollutes water sources?

It feels impossible to me to actually know for sure if the items I’m consuming are produced in a way that treats people and animals ethically and does as little environmental damage as possible. So I’m reducing and simply trying to consume less of items that I know usually have ethical and environmental issues in their production (like fast fashion and fast food).

It’s hard to write interesting things about ethical shopping when your approach is “don’t buy stuff.” But sometimes it’s as simple as that.

Get Ready for SpringSwap16

It’s time for the next Fair for All style swap! SpringSwap16 is your opportunity to clean out your closet and swap unwanted items for new-to-you fashion.

This will be our third clothing swap event, and I’m so excited to have built up a community of people who enjoy getting new clothes in this fun, personal and environmentally-friendly way.

SpringSwap16 promo graphic

SpringSwap16 Women’s Style Swap

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 • New Day Craft Mead & Cider

See full details & sign up >>

Some scenes from our last swap:

Women browsing tables of clothing

Woman peruses jewelry table

Rack of women's clothing

As always, the style swap is a free event. And like at our last swap, New Day’s famous Mead & Knead will be going on in the front room at the same time, where you can get a chair massage and a glass of mead or cider for just $10. (Be sure to arrive early if you want a massage; slots fill up fast.)

We hope to see you on May 4!

Making It Do: Cardigan Repair DIY with Lace Edging

On her quest to make ethical clothing choices this year, our contributor Bethany is back with some tips for giving new life to clothes you already own. Enjoy! — Julia

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

I love that saying. It comes out of the depression era, and I find myself saying it often (especially when I’m tempted to purchase something new that I don’t really need).

Cardigans are a staple of my work wardrobe. The office I work in has odd temperature regulation, and I’m pretty sure the elusive thermostat (no one knows where it is located) is set to “Antarctica.” Recently, I pulled out my favorite green cardigan and was shocked to find little holes where the collar is attached.

Hole in sweater

My first instinct, I’m sorry to report, was to throw it away and buy a new one. As I was considering it, that saying popped in my head, and I knew that I could definitely make this cardigan do if I put a little effort into it. I’m not very good at sewing, but I have a grasp on the basic “thread needle, stick in cloth, try not to make it look too horrible.” I quickly sewed up the little gaps, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result. You could see the repairs, partly due to me not having an exact color match for the thread, and in a few places it made a little bit of puckering in the fabric.

Poorly sewed-up hole

Sure, it would “never be noticed from a trotting horse” (another depression-era saying), but I don’t know many people who ride trotting horses through offices. I set the cardigan aside to think, and wore something else to work that day. I hit on a solution a few days later, and started working on it. A long time ago, my grandma taught me a fiber craft called tatting. It’s basically tying knots in string to make doilies, but you can use it to make edgings and lace as well.

Fancy tatted doily

Fancy tatted doily

So I found some green thread that matched my cardigan, and made an edging for it, and then sewed the edging onto the cardigan to hide those unsightly holes.

Section of tatted lace and tatting shuttle

The beginning of the piece. The light made it look brighter green than it actually is.

Tatted lace on edge of cardigan collar

Finished and attached to the collar

Bethany wearing cardigan

Cardigan in action!

By this point, you’re probably rolling your eyes and thinking “well, that’s great for you that you have this oddly specific skill that was passed down through generations and you sacrificed seven goats for the nimble fingers and coordination needed to make lace…but there’s no way I can do that.”

Never fret! Often you can find miscellaneous lengths of lace trim and rickrack at thrift stores that would do this exact same thing without the labor intensiveness. Go to the back of the store and look around where they display the sheets/tablecloths/fabric remnants. There are often bins of miscellaneous crafting materials that are perfect for little jobs like this.

You don’t have to be great at sewing, so don’t be intimidated by that. You may need to practice a little bit, but small repairs and refurbishments like this are pretty forgiving. Take a look at my stitches inside:

Poor stitches on inside of cardigan

I am not a master seamstress by any means. Just keep in mind that it’s better to err on the side of smaller stitches and using manageable lengths of thread (even though that means you’ll have to knot the thread and re-thread the needle more, it makes it more secure). Here’s a tutorial with a few basic stitches that I use a lot, particularly the whip stitch.

I found a lot of satisfaction in making this with my own hands. I found that this cardigan quickly became even more of a favorite because it now has a story. Instead of a cheap throwaway piece of fast fashion that only lasted one season, I was able to fix it and refurbish it into something that I’m excited to wear again.

If you’re interested in learning to tat, there are plenty of tutorials available online. This one is pretty clear and easy to follow. Video demonstrations like this are particularly helpful when first learning. I would also encourage you to think about what random skills you have that could be applied to hide a repair or freshen up a piece of clothing that you’re tired of. Do you make beaded jewelry? Maybe you could make a beaded collar. You could crochet pockets for a dress or maybe use a contrasting color of thread to sew up holes and make an interesting effect. How can you “make it do” with the pieces you already have in your wardrobe and extend their lives?

One Year without Shampoo: An Update

Watching the NFL playoffs last week, I suddenly remembered that division championship weekend marks my one-year anniversary of not using shampoo. It’s crazy to think about, but as I’ve already adoringly professed, it’s a change that has dramatically improved my life for the better.

Not long after I published my last post on this topic, I began noticing a higher rate of breakage from the ends of my hair. I had accepted (and actually enjoyed) a degree of dryness as part of the no-poo result, but this was starting to look like straight-up damage, and I worried that I would have to abandon my shampoo-free ways. However, before doing anything drastic like buying shampoo, I decided to try some adjustments to my hair-washing routine. I was incredibly pleased to discover that these minor changes resulted in my hair looking and feeling even better than before!

Bottle of vinegar, spray bottle, and baking soda

I still use the same trusty supplies, but in a different ratio. Still working through my first bottle of ACV from a year ago!

Here’s my updated routine, with the key changes noted:

  1. Fill a small travel shampoo bottle with one part baking soda and six parts water. This is a much lower concentration of baking soda than I was using previously, and I now only mix one wash’s worth of the solution at a time. I use all or almost all of this mixture for one wash.
  2. Combine 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup water in a small spray bottle. This is the same concentration I was using before, but now I spray my hair much more heavily each time. This quantity now lasts me about three washes instead of six. I theorize (with zero science knowledge to back me up) that the dryness and breakage I was experiencing was due to not using enough acid to balance out the effects of the baking soda.
  3. Wash wet hair and scalp with baking soda mixture. Do not wash ends of hair. Rinse well. Because I’m now using less baking soda, I spend a little more time scrubbing my scalp for extra manual cleaning action.
  4. Spray vinegar mixture onto hair until fully saturated, spraying the scalp thoroughly to balance out the baking soda and also spraying all the way to the ends of your hair. I let it sit for a minute or two to absorb. Rinse well.

With this new routine, my hair is now softer and shinier than before and breakage has decreased to a normal level. My hair is less voluminous because it’s less dry, but it still successfully holds a curl. For a while I had been back up to three washes per week, but with these changes I’m now back down to two.

There are several blog posts out there in which people describe their horror stories of going no-poo. I certainly can’t attest that this method works for all types of hair—I only know it works for mine. But if you give no-poo a try and start having a bad experience, I encourage you to experiment with your routine to find the method that works for you before giving up completely. Maybe your hair needs a lot of baking soda scrubbing action, or maybe your hair needs hardly any baking soda at all. If you feel like your hair is truly becoming damaged, definitely stop and assess the situation, but a few simple adjustments may be all you need to reset the balance.

Who is BlueIndy for?

BlueIndy carFor a couple of months I’ve been wanting to try the BlueIndy electric car sharing service in Indianapolis. There’s a station about half a mile from my apartment, and I was curious about the cars and what the overall user experience is like. I also wanted to address a lingering question I’ve had since the system appeared: Who is BlueIndy for?

As a car owner whose daily commute is outside the BlueIndy range, I figured I was not the primary target market. However, the BlueIndy website touts free, guaranteed parking as one of its benefits, so I wondered if would BlueIndy be convenient for occasional trips downtown. Every Indianapolis urbanite knows the frustration of arriving downtown to unexpectedly find the cheapest parking garages plastered with “$20 Event Parking” signs. Could BlueIndy be a way to avoid this unpleasant surprise?

With the warmer weather this past weekend, I thought Sunday would be a good day to try it out for a trip downtown for lunch, so I logged on to the BlueIndy website to start planning my excursion. My plan was to pick up a BlueIndy car from the SoBro station, drive downtown and deposit the car at one of the many downtown stations, eat lunch, then pick up another BlueIndy car and return to the SoBro station. I quickly learned that this plan would be inconvenient to the point of impossibility due to two major flaws in the BlueIndy system.

Two major flaws

According to the membership description pages on the BlueIndy website, all BlueIndy memberships (including one-day memberships) must begin at an Enrollment Kiosk.* This in itself seems reasonable, since you need to verify that you’re a licensed driver before using the cars. However, as of the date of this post, there are only three operational Enrollment Kiosks in the city out of dozens of stations, with only two more under construction. Standard BlueIndy stations run along the north-south corridor as far south as the University of Indianapolis and as far north as 63rd Street, with some popping out to the east and west near downtown. Despite this broad coverage area, two of the Enrollment Kiosks are located downtown within two blocks of each other, and the third is located at College & Broad Ripple Ave.

*In the more deeply-buried FAQ, the website says that monthly and yearly memberships can be purchased through the website or mobile app, but there was no clarification on whether the user would still need to visit an Enrollment Kiosk to obtain their membership card.

Map of BlueIndy vehicle stations

BlueIndy vehicle stations

Map of BlueIndy Enrollment Kiosks

BlueIndy Enrollment Kiosks

It would take me about an hour to walk to the Broad Ripple kiosk—technically doable, but hardly convenient. It would only take about 15 minutes to ride my bike there, though, which seems like a reasonable alternative except for the fact that there is no bike parking provided as part of any BlueIndy stations. There may be nearby bike parking or there may not; it is in no way guaranteed. This seems like a huge missed opportunity, as including bike parking as a fundamental part of each station would make the system accessible to a much broader geographic area.

Who is BlueIndy for?

Because of the Enrollment Kiosk requirement, it seems apparent that BlueIndy is not really intended for one-day use. The inconvenience of getting to an Enrollment Kiosk would far outweigh the guaranteed parking benefit in most cases.

BlueIndy banner promoting guaranteed parking

Guaranteed parking doesn’t outweigh the other inconveniences of a one-day membership.

The Enrollment Kiosk requirement also begs the question, is the system intended for people who don’t own cars? If it is, how are these users supposed to get to an Enrollment Kiosk to sign up? Yearly membership cards are sent out via snail mail according to the BlueIndy website, so once you have your card you could use any station for your first trip, but a yearly membership is a big commitment if you haven’t even had a chance to try out the system.

Despite these flaws (which I hope the city addresses soon), here are some groups that I think can actually benefit from BlueIndy as it exists today:

  • Partners or families who own only one car, particularly if one working adult can use BlueIndy for their commute
  • Non-car owners who have access to an Enrollment Kiosk
  • Tourists staying downtown could use one-day memberships to visit other “notable” neighborhoods like Irvington, Broad Ripple or Fountain Square
  • College students
  • Electric car owners can use BlueIndy stations to charge their own vehicles

Do I still think BlueIndy is a valid mode of green transportation? Yes. My favorite thing about BlueIndy, now that I realize I can’t practically use it myself, is the charging service it offers to electric car owners, as this could increase the adoption rate of all-electric vehicles in the city. Is it a perfect system? Far from it. Hopefully as the program matures it will find its niche and clarify its marketing to reach the people who can truly benefit.

How to Give a Charitable Donation as a Meaningful Holiday Gift

The article below was originally published by Alden Wicker on EcoCult, a guide to sustainable and eco-friendly living in NYC and beyond. I’m in the process of cobbling together my year-end giving plan, so I was stoked to come across Alden’s excellent tips for charity selection. Whether you’re looking for a charity that speaks to your own values or a donation to give as a gift, Alden’s tips from #GivingTuesday will help you cultivate a generous spirit throughout the season and the year. Enjoy! —Julia

Red glittery gift with gold bow

I started putting together a Christmas wish list gift guide for myself, and then I realized: nobody is going to buy me any of it.

My step-dad donates to charity on my behalf, which I enjoy. My mom gets her Christmas shopping done long before Black Friday – it’s a point of pride for her – so I’m too late for that. My sister always handcrafts something really special for me. My aunt does her shopping at cool museum gift shops in Arizona. The other part of my family who usually relies on my gift guide I don’t think we will see this year. And I will have a long discussion with my fiancé about how we want to thoughtfully gift each other this year. Maybe a nice dinner? So, the gift guide will be completely ignored. Which is just fine.

I decided to take this opportunity on #GivingTuesday to talk about donating to charity instead.

Donating to charity on someone’s behalf is awesome on so many levels. First, you are not giving your money to a large corporation, which in turn gives money to overprivileged CEOs and hedge funds managers. Your money is going to people and organizations who will put it to work not buying third homes, but fixing the food system, restoring wetlands, feeding hungry people, teaching work skills to the underprivileged, etc.

Second, giving to charity is inherently sustainable, even if it’s not a environmentally-focused charity, because it doesn’t involve resources to produce, package, and ship a gift. It just requires an infinitesimal bit of energy to digitally wire some money over. And then, it won’t end up in the landfill when the recipient tires of it.

Third, donating to charity can be one of the most thoughtful gifts out there … if you do it right. (Do not be like that one distant aunt who donated on my behalf to her fundamentalist church. That is weird and so self-serving.) By donating to the right charity on someone’s behalf, you’re saying, “I think your values are amazing and important, and I want to support you in that.” It demonstrates that you have taken the time to find out what they love, do, or believe in.

My biggest tip, and one that I’ve used successfully in the past, is to search on Charity Navigator. Not only does this website allow you to find organizations by keyword, title, or location (the advanced search is awesome) it tells you how efficiently and transparently each organization is using donations, helping you avoid exploitative or even fake charities.

Here’s some questions to ask to find just the right charity:

  • What organizations support their favorite pastime? For example, if they enjoy classical music, you could donate to the local symphony. If they like to garden, you could donate to Seed Savers Exchange. If they enjoy art, donate to a local museum. If they listen to the radio, donate to NPR. Or donate to the local library if they enjoy reading.
  • What organization has supported them in the past or supports them now? My grandmother is part of a wonderful church that is about so much more than Sunday service. The ministers are non-judgmental and welcoming of all races and sexual-orientation. When a member is going through a challenging time, they assign him or her a buddy, who will talk to and check up on him or her. She’s met many of her best friends through the church, one of whom moved in with her for a time when they were both widowed within a year of each other. Everyone knows my grandmother’s name. It’s her community. So donating to her church is a way for me to almost gift her directly, by ensuring they can continue their programs and support for members like her. This isn’t just religious – you could also donate to a research or clinical organization if your recipient is struggling with a health problem, for example.
  • Where do they volunteer? If they volunteer at an organization, not only does it make it an obvious choice where you should donate, they’ll see your money at work firsthand, making it all the more special.
  • What is their career? Some careers will afford obvious choices. If they are a teacher, Donors Choose, a charity that lets teachers ask for money to purchase certain items, is a great choice. If they work in fashion, Dress for Success might be meaningful. If they work in medicine, Doctors Without Borders does the trick. For me, I use the Environmental Working Group‘s research and Skin Deep database constantly for EcoCult, so I would appreciate someone donating to them for sure!

Continue reading on EcoCult >>

Waste Not, Want Not: Vegetable Stock from Kitchen Scraps

After reading Faye’s excellent post about making vegetable stock on her blog Sustaining Life, I was inspired to attempt it myself. And just in time too: I’ve made soup a couple of times this fall already and using plain water definitely leaves something to be desired.

I’ve never been a fan of purchasing stock from the store because it seems like a lot of packaging, either an unrecyclable carton or multiple cans. A couple of people have recommended bouillon cubes, and I agree those would probably be a good option. However, I like the idea of using the scraps of all the produce I’ve already bought. It’s like making something out of nothing!

As Faye advised, I stored my scraps in a plastic bag in the freezer. It took me about a month to collect enough to fill the bag. Here’s the collection I ended up with:

Vegetable scraps frozen in plastic bag

I reuse tortilla bags for everything.

I followed Faye’s recipe, first seasoning and roasting the scraps in the oven, them simmering them in water for a little over an hour.

Frozen vegetable scraps in a Pyrex baking pan

Some scraps I included were a pumpkin rind, a few apple cores, red and green pepper stems and membranes, onion ends, and rutabaga peelings.

Vegetable scraps in pot with water

Vegetables in pot after having been simmered

I could tell it was working because my apartment started to smell like delicious soup. After letting the stock cool, I removed the big vegetable chunks with tongs and then poured the remainder through a strainer.

The finished stock is a lovely golden brown and has an oh-so-slightly sweet flavor, probably due to the apple cores. My only puzzlement with the process is that I put in 8 or 9 cups of water and ended up with only 5 cups of stock. One culprit may be the fact that the lid to my stock pot has steam-release holes in it. The stock also came out a little more oily than I expected, which I’ll take as a lesson to lighten up on the olive oil during the roasting step. (I eyeballed it instead of measuring—a classic blunder. Come to think of it, I eyeballed the water amount too…)

Homemade vegetable stock in plastic container

The whole process was very easy and didn’t make a mess. Now I have tasty stock to use for making soup, rice, or anything else that could use a flavor boost instead of plain water, and I didn’t use anything other than scraps I would have thrown away. I definitely plan to continue collecting scraps for my next batch!

If you want to try it yourself, be sure to check out Faye’s post for the specific recipe and a helpful list of what veggies not to include in stock.

Have you ever made your own vegetable stock? How cool is it to make food out of [clean, edible] garbage??

How Facebook Could Revolutionize the Sharing Economy

Remember the scene in The Social Network where one of Mark Zuckerburg’s friends asks him if a girl in his art history class is single? You see the lightbulb go on over Zuckerburg’s head, and he runs back to his dorm room to add Relationship Status as a field in Facebook profiles.

Creating a way to broadcast that simple piece of information revolutionized dating in the digital age. With the rise of the sharing economy, Facebook has an opportunity to allow us to broadcast another piece of key information that is typically hidden under social norms: the items we want to obtain or get rid of.

Imagine a feature called Facebook Exchange. It’s as simple as a shopping list. Users enter items into two categories: Things I Want and Things I’m Offering.

Mockup of Facebook profile with Exchange link

Mockup of Facebook Exchange lists

While it would seem nosy to ask everyone you know what they have in their house that they want to get rid of, and it would seem greedy to constantly ask people to give you stuff, the reality is that we all have wants and needs that people we already know could happily fulfill. The missing link is an easy connection between the wanters and the providers.

With a growing cultural mindfulness about waste and excess, people are more willing to share what they have and more uncomfortable with simply throwing decent stuff away. While there are plenty of standalone platforms for reselling, secondhand shopping and free-cycling, there isn’t one that connects you to the people you already know, and those are the people with whom many of us would be most interested in conducting an exchange.

Exchange isn’t a full classified ad service. Facebook tried that once with Marketplace, which has now been transferred to an external provider called Oodle and is no longer available on the Facebook platform. Facebook’s error with Marketplace was in reinventing the wheel. Relationship Status didn’t need to be a dating service; once the information was out there, users acted on it in a variety of different ways without needing additional intervention from Facebook. Similarly, Exchange isn’t about executing transactions; it’s about creating the sense of serendipity that comes from connecting with existing friends in new ways.

Let’s say I’m looking for vacuum cleaner bags. (My needs are glamorous, I know.) This is a low-value item that would be pretty pointless for anyone to sell, but it’s also an item that would be silly to throw away if it’s in perfectly good condition. In this case, let’s say one of my friends’ moms has vacuum cleaner bags to give away. She puts them on her Things I’m Offering list, and because we’re friends and I have vacuum cleaner bags on my Things I Want list, Facebook sends me a notification: “Janet Smith just added ‘vacuum cleaner bags’ to her Things I’m Offering list. Send her a message to ask more about it.” Janet would also get a notification that “Julia Spangler has ‘vacuum cleaner bags’ on her Things I Want list. Send her a message to see if she wants what you’re offering.”

Mockup of Facebook Exchange notification

That’s as far as the feature would go. Any photos of the item and the details of the transaction would be handled through person-to-person communication. Users would be free to arrange their own preferred forms of payment, barter, or give stuff away for free. In a lot of cases it could also eliminate shipping, which is one of the biggest inconveniences of online shopping. In this example, my need isn’t urgent, so I’d just pick up the goods the next time I was in Janet’s neighborhood.

The goal of Exchange is to identify potential matches between list items, then let users hash out the details in a subsequent conversation. Facebook’s understanding of language is good enough that it would be able to match up list items that are close but may not be phrased the exact same way. The feature would also be a boon to Facebook’s advertising strategy, since users would literally be telling the platform what they’re interesting in acquiring.

Exchange is obviously a hypothetical feature at this point, but it illustrates a potential solution to the gap between wanters and providers of any given item. My previous blog post on this topic illustrates how challenging it can be to find the right recipient for your unwanted stuff. How much better would life be if we could easily find those people within our own networks?