Swap meet

Ever since eBay discovered the ravenous appetite of onliners to barter, other startups have taken that concept and tweaked it to fit their own niche. Some of are offering items for free and finding new lives for used goods.

Freecycle.org was one of the first. It’s modern-day dumpster-diving without the smell. The nonprofit message center for free stuff began in 2003 and claims to keep more than 400 tons of garbage out of landfills every day. The Reno-Sparks chapter currently has nearly 2,000 members, who swap everything from socks to soup bowls to sofas. The site’s rules require that everything posted is free.

One of the most recent sites is Swaptree.com. Easy to navigate—and easy to find things you forgot you wanted—Swaptree works much like the neighborhood used book or music store. Tell them what you’re willing to trade, and they’ll give you a list from among 8,000-plus books, CDs, DVDs or videogames—but mostly books—that you can get in return. The pickings aren’t all of the dime-shop variety (though some are); the better item you offer, the better your selection of choices. For example, say you’re through with your copy of Dave Eggers’ What is the What. In exchange, you can choose a book from writers such as Cormac McCarthy, Khaled Hosseini or Alice Sebold. The swap is free, except for postage, the label for which can be calculated and printed through the website, so there’s no need to go to the post office for weighing and stamps. And by sending these goods back into the consumer digestive tract, you’re essentially recycling.