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Civic Impact

Alternative Gift Shop provides the Danforth with a new way to Christmas shop容r, swap

Swappers pose with their new goodies during the IRBE's 2014 gift fair

Imagine walking into a store to do your Christmas shopping, but instead of putting down cash, or your credit card, at the checkout, you could “pay” with items you already own. That’s the idea behind the Alternative Gift Shop, where people can trade their household items and time. This year, the event grew from a one-day fair to a four-day market.

“People assume that everything is scarce and there’s not enough to go around, but we are living in abundance,” says Ryan Dyment, Executive Director of the Institute for a Resource-Based Economy. “But actually, the thing that there’s not enough of is money. We can share our abundance in other ways, and have a different kind of economy.” With the help of community organizer Stephanie Nakitsas and Gay Stephenson of Woodgreen, the fair found a pop-up home in the storefront above the Toronto Tool Library’s Danforth location, one of the IRBE’s main projects. From December 17 to 20, people brought in new or lightly used items and trade them for the same number of goods.

“People love potlucks, and clothing swaps,” says Dyment. Previous scores have included board games, lamps, flowerpots, even an iPod. People will be on-site at the swap to help ensure that items are in good condition. “It’s young people, families with kids,” says Dyment, adding that “lots of toys” are usually up for swapping.

Dyment also encouraged people to donate time, such as an hour of snow-shovelling, in exchange for goods. “f people don’t have items they want to get rid of, they can offer an hour of something—ukulele lessons, cooking lessons, whatever,” he says.

Last year’s one-day swap saw nearly 300 people through the doors, and this year’s expanded event included a launch party on December 17, with beer donated by local brewery Left Field. While Dyment sees the Alternative Gift Shop as a way to both reinvigorate community, as well as save money, there’s also the thrill of the hunt. “Going to a swap meet can be like going to a goldmine. People get very excited about finding hidden gems. It’s sharing with your community and seeing the abundance we have.”
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