Free trade is taking on a whole new meaning in Toronto, with new community groups popping up like the ever-popular Bunz and the Toronto Tool Library. Trading and lending items without an exchange of dollars is growing in popularity in a city where everything costs money. Why are these groups coming out of the proverbial woodwork of online social forums such as Facebook and new trading apps? Why now?
Frankly, the millennial generation is pissed off. They are entering the job market after spending thousands on university degrees with no prospect of employment in sight. If you want to forward yourself in a career, you need to live in proximity to the few jobs there are. These locations typically have inflated rents and low availability. Either that, or you are living with your parents far past the ripe age of 18 and making an excruciatingly long commute downtown because there is no other option.
Enter Bunz. This trading group was originally launched by millennial Emily Bitze in 2013 when she couldn’t afford ingredients for pasta and appealed to her Facebook community, sparking the idea for the online forum. It began as a secret society of like-minded folk who would trade items without using money, commonly using TTC tokens and tall cans of beer as collateral. Quickly though, Bunz grew into a massive online community of people living in Toronto looking to save money by participating in trades. Bunz now has an online Facebook presence of 46,000 people and a private app was launched just last year.
Bunz is much more than a business. It is a cultural symbol of change. The online trading forum of people in search of (ISO) needed items in exchange for others represents the need to stop buying and start sharing. The consumerist approach to wealth is shrivelling up as people move away from the post-World-War-Two desire to own items. Instead, it is time to begin understanding the true source of power and wealth in any given city; shared community.
In a way, having no money brings the truest sense of wealth in the Bunz community. When you participate in a trade, you will often come out with a new item you needed and a friendship resulting from sharing goods. People often use the Bunz page to post about having a bad day, or if they have lost their keys. The result is the group banning together to help those people in need — and keys are found almost every time. That feeling of being cared for by complete strangers simply because you had the guts to reach out in a healthy way is worth more than 10 unaffordable coach bags.
Toronto is a bustling city centre and people are constantly moving into “the Big Smoke” with little more on them other than their bags and big city dreams. It can be quite lonely and expensive to move into Toronto when you don’t know anyone. Bunz provides a forum to make friends and obtain much needed-items for settling in. It gives new arrivals a sense of community and immediately rejects the notion that Toronto is “a big cold city”.
Lending libraries have popped up too, including the Toronto Tool Library and the Toronto Seed Library. You can borrow tools without having to purchase them and you can also participate in workshops. The Toronto Seed Library allows people to borrow seeds and return them after the season ends, which promotes local growing on a budget. Lending libraries are truly sustainable entities, helping balance the bank account and save the planet in one go.
So, what if we could take this movement and make Toronto the trade capital in North America? There have been whispers of the possibility of a mall completely dedicated to lending libraries and trade zones. It is a magnificent notion — to go to the mall and not drop hundreds on pointless items. Instead, you can walk out with exactly what you need in that moment.
Bunz and lending libraries are the beginning of a great movement into a hopeful future of consumerism. As a millennial, I’m proud to be a part of it. Are you?