EDITION: February - April 2013

A sustainable market

By Lua Gómez Moya
The present world crisis is the source of the instability of the economic system, but it is also a source of change and opportunity. When we take stock of the positive aspects that are already present in the social realm, we find that there is a reconciliation with ancient market models: simple and practical, based on the law of offer and demand, sustainable and ecologically-minded markets that use no currency.

Barter was the first form of commerce amongst people and it implied exchanging products: whatever one had and did not need was traded for whatever another had in excess. This simple system of exchange to satisfy needs was maintained for a long time, until people started to want to assign an exact value to each product and in this way history gave birth to the coin and the commercial system we now know.

Lack of employment limits our purchasing power but increases our creativity, sharpens our survival instincts and opens up a whole world of possibilities before us. Therefore, we are taking up this means of alternative commerce that is extending little by little all over the world in its different variations.

“I’ll trade you a kilo of tomatoes for a kilo of potatoes” a farmer would have said to another in the past. Today, this is happening once more – it is more and more frequent to find people who grow their own food and who trade products with each other using this simple verbal agreement.

Exchange is a strategy at domestic level, and is also a tool for large companies. The idea emerged in the US in the 80’s, when some large businesses like Gillette, Texaco, Time Warner or Philip Morris started to use barter as a business formula, exchanging publicity or production surplus, thus completing transactions that were worth millions without any money changing hands. Nowadays this form of negotiation can be and in fact is a solution for many.

Another alternative: Time Banking, born to allow deposits of skills and services, in which the current account is measured in people’s time. The system is simple: users share their skills and experience through a platform, offering them to others in exchange for their time. Afterwards, that time, in the form of credits, is exchanged in turn for an activity or service that the person needs from the offer available. In Spain there are various Time Banking networks already, and there is even one in the Balearics, created with the aim of promoting solidarity. Co-financed by the European Social Fund and promoted by the Balearic Association for Quality of Life. We can find more information at:
And through the “Casal de Dones” of Ibiza:
Tel./Fax: 971 318 821
[email protected]
[email protected]

Internet allows easy and free contact between individuals and businesses who wish to exchange products or services. On websites like:
we will find platforms with over 4,000 users who participate in second-hand markets which allow products that people don’t need to be re-used by others.

There are even more options in this expanding market of opportunities towards progress. Exchange in the real estate realm, “your house for mine”.

The difficulty in selling a property nowadays may lead us to reinventing ourselves also in this sense. Property exchanges or house swaps allow us to sell a property and buy another at the same time, avoiding two purchasing/selling processes and speeding up procedures both in terms of time and money.

Let’s imagine that a few years ago we bought a house under certain circumstances and now for personal reasons we can no longer pay the morgage. Swapping this house, after having it valued, for another more modest one will solve our problem through an alternative route that is growing both in terms of public interest and in the offer of properties up for exchange.

We may need to move to another city and have to put our house up for sale in order to buy a similar one in our new destination. Why not investigate if anyone is in the same situation as us, but in the opposite direction? We can then use our property as a currency to obtain one that is most suited to our present needs.
There are many possibilities when it comes to property exchange through sites such as:
www.sepermuta.es, www.loquo.com, www.idealista.com or  
www.teapetecemicasa.com, in which
homes take down the “for sale” sign and instead put up one that reads “for exchange”.

For those who have no intention of selling their property, but who love to feel at home when travelling, there are holiday home exchanges. In this case, the house exchange is carried out for the time span agreed by both parties. It is an interesting alternative for travellers who want to have a travel experience that is closer to a resident’s, as it allows them to integrate into the place, not only seeing its touristic side. They can then relate to the environment like yet another neighbour, entering into direct contact with the surroundings. As some who have tried this option say, “it is more of a real trip”.  

A family who lives in Madrid and wants to visit New York may not be able to afford the flights and accommodation that easily. But it is very likely that someone in New York is wanting to visit Madrid and both parties can thus avoid the cost a hotel entails, receiving the added bonus of feeling part of the place they are visiting. The stories of people who are hooked to this kind of holiday accommodation are very positive. Some people have even built strong friendships through this kind of exchange, since it is an act of cooperation and trust. The idea is originally anglosaxon and in Spain we are now discovering its benefits. You can find more information here:

Barter is back, showing us that not everything depends on money. It is a way of life that brings us closer to others, opens us up to new experiences and helps us be more open to change. Because life is a constant exchange. •