Go green by swapping tech toys and more

Recycling is all about finding value in something used that still has potential for other use.

Recycling is all about finding value in something used that still has potential for other use. That also describes bartering, or swapping, in a nutshell. Swap sites have popped up all over the Internet, allowing people to trade their lightly used gems for other people’s treasures without having to shell out money for anything other than shipping.

Swapping tech equipment is good for the environment and your bank account, but doing so — especially by mail — has inherent dangers.

Be wary before you send something valuable to a stranger in hopes of getting something in return. There is no guarantee that an individual on the other end of the deal has the promised item or will ship it to you.

If you can’t meet in person for a trade, try to trade with someone with an established history of high ratings and photos of the actual item (not images captured off the Internet). A no-name seller with no sales history and a stock photo is not going to get my dollars or trade without a face-to-face meeting in which I confirm the item is legit.

One of the most comprehensive bartering websites I’ve found is Swap.com (Market.Swap.com). The Boston-based enterprise has more than 500,000 members offering anything from electronics, clothing and accessories to baby supplies, even cars. Listing an item is free, but prospective traders must take the initiative in making a deal. The only thing the site does is co-ordinate contact so the trader doesn’t have to give out an email or phone number to strangers online. Once you find something you want, send the owner a message with your offer, typically something you’d like to trade. If you strike a deal, you pay only for shipping.

Swap.com also runs a site that makes deal-making easier, but it’s dedicated just to media: books, movies, video games and music (see Swap.com/home). List items you’d like to trade away and then create a wish list of the things you want. Swap’s algorithm matches multiple parties in three- or four part-trades. Again, listing and trading is free; you pay for shipping. There’s even an option to print shipping labels directly through the site with delivery confirmation.

I really love the site’s “Swap 4 Schools” section (Swap4Schools.swap.com), in which educators can register for media materials they want for their classroom and members can donate what they have on hand. Great for the environment and great for kids — does it get much better?

As a mom of young children, it’s time I admit to myself that I’m just not going to wear those leather pants again anytime soon. With Swapstyle.com, I can send them to a good home while I find clothes more in tune with my current lifestyle. You can, too. Post a photo of the item you’d like to “swap,” and other users will contact you through the site to arrange a “trade.” There’s no fee to post or swap. Shop for women’s and children’s clothes, shoes or accessories through the Swap Front and just pay postage. A rating system within the site indicates how trusted a member the other person is.

Some sites let you barter for services. U-exchange.com enables trades for anything from personal training to recreation vehicles; Favorpals.com offers services such as dental care for housecleaning.

These typically require that you have a distinctive skill to offer and find someone in your geographic area with whom to trade.

Andrea Eldridge is CEO of Nerds on Call, which offers on-site computer and home theater set-up and repair. Based in Redding, Calif., it has locations in five states. Contact Eldridge at www.callnerds.com/andrea

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