December 12, 2013
People prefer to share goods, instead of buying themSunday, September 22, 2013
Bring what you want, take what you want
These are early trends in Argentina, but they are expanding, based on Web 2.0 platforms. Users share a concern for the environment and a rejection of consumerism. But they also have a desire to strengthen a sense of community and trust.
“We need much less than we consume. The basis of our street markets is detachment, the need to free ourselves from the concept of private ownership,” said Ariel Rodríguez, the creator of La Gra-tiferia (The Free Market) which operates under the slogan: “Bring what you want (or nothing), take what you want (or nothing).”
Launched in 2010, the first market was in Rodríguez’s home, in the Buenos Aires district of Liniers. Rodríguez offered friends and neighbors books, CDs, clothes, furniture and other goods that he had accumulated and didn’t need. He offered food and beverages as well.
In time, people began to follow his lead. He recalls that the 13th market “went out on the street and exploded” with dissemination on social networks. “This breaks with traditional mindsets,” Rodríguez said. Visitors are initially incredulous, in doubt about whether or not they can really take things without leaving something else in exchange.
People can come to a gratiferia with the stuff they wish to get rid of, and they do not have to worry about whether someone will take it. The idea is that someone will be interested in extending items’ useful life, instead of buying goods.
“It’s a reorganization of material objects that also generates an interesting kind of socialization, by creating a sense of community,” Rodríguez said.
Gratiferias have spread to cities in some of the provinces, as well as to Chile, Mexico and other countries, he said.
This free give-and-take, according to Rodríguez, did not arise during a situation of crisis, like the bartering systems that were so popular during the 2001-2002 economic and social meltdown. “This is an attempt to respond to a much longer crisis in our relationship with material goods,” he said.
The practice has caught on in other areas. At the University of Buenos Aires engineering department, a group of students is offering lecture notes and study materials at a free fair this month.
“The idea is in the spirit of the gratiferias, and it should be a wider movement involving other departments, but for the moment we are trying to establish it in engineering,” Santiago Trejo, one of the students organizing the fair, said.
These are original forms of “collaborative consumption”, an expression coined in the United States to describe mechanisms for sharing or exchanging electrical appliances, books, clothes, shoes, instruments, furniture, bicycles and even cars.
In 2011, Time magazine named collaborative consumption one of the 10 ideas capable of changing the world.