Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet


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FALL 2008

Get What You Need Without Money

HandshakeAt its heart, a green economy is a community of people meeting each others’ needs—and there are many creative ways to connect and prosper without using money.

Dana swap
Dana scores a find at the Green America clothing swap.

Consider the difference between having your neighbor fix your computer in exchange for your watching her children one afternoon, in contrast to dropping off your PC at a repair shop. There’s a personal connection in the former money-less scenario that’s lacking in the latter.

In fact, people who make the effort to use money less and barter or swap more often report that they discover a whole new sense of community.

Take Dana Christianson, who has a knack for obtaining clothes and other things she needs without money. Dana, who now works on Green America’s marketing team, has organized clothing swaps everywhere she’s been, starting in college. Swaps are one easy approach to money-less exchange; everyone brings used clothing, books, or toys that they no longer use and adds them to a pile. Then, attendees sort through the pile and take whatever appeals to them. Swaps are a great way to keep old items out of landfills, and they also build a sense of fun and friendship.

“I’ve always gotten a really euphoric feeling after these types of events,” says Dana. “A swap is self-sufficient. Everyone discovers, ‘I can do this, and I don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars.’ Some of my most complimented pieces of clothing have been someone else’s before.”

When she’s at a clothing swap, Dana doesn’t just accept the clothing as she finds it; she makes a point of bringing a sewing machine to swaps, to show people how simple it is to mend or alter clothes. The idea that “you can take something free and make it something personalized” is new to a lot of people, says Dana. “You can turn a regular shirt into a summer tank top, or make jeans into capri pants or shorts.”

Local Web networks like,, and can help you or your workplace give away and request free items from your neighbors.


Our resources for getting what you need without money:

Real Green helps you find money-less solutions to everyday challenges:

—Learn more about swapping and bartering here.
—Find creative ways to give away and receive secondhand books here.

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