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Let me make a confession. I vastly prefer to get my goods and services from people I know or can forge at least a slight social connection with. When I can eliminate the monetary aspect of a transaction, so much the better.

Wikipedia states that the United States has over 276 time banks. That's a very rough estimate, since not all are actively functioning and others, including TroyShares, don't have a listing in the time bank community directory.

Maybe I'm just seeking the warm feelings that come with relationship in business dealings, or perhaps I'm fleeing the alienation inherent to big box store consumer-dom or navigating some giant bureaucracy. In any case, this predilection makes me a good candidate for barter, mutual aid and the gift economy. And you may be, too.

Having the "bank" functions alleviates the need for person A and person B to reciprocate directly when one of them provides the other with a service. Say your car needs a tune-up. Through TroyShares you identify someone with mechanical know-how who is able to do the job in two hours. The week before you provided four hours of childcare for a family that belongs to TroyShares, so you have more hours banked (recorded) than you need for the tune-up. Accounting is simple since all services have equivalent value, based on the labor time involved.

I have long enjoyed trading with friends and others and am especially jazzed about bartering veggies and vegetable plant starts that I grow for grass-fed beef, raspberries and even acupuncture. I also trade hunting rights on my land for venison, firewood and bush hogging. And Freecycle (google it and join your local group) remains my go-to place for divesting myself of surplus stuff and occasionally scoring freebies to fill a need or a whim. While abstract talk about building a local economy tends to make my eyes glaze over, I love discovering the seeds of alternative economies being planted all around us. One of these seeds is TroyShares, an allvolunteer mutual aid project with the catchy slogan "thinking outside the bucks." AN END-RUN AROUND THE ALL-MIGHTY DOLLAR According to its website, TroyShares is fun and helps people accomplish three goals: getting to know each other, sharing our gifts (time and talents), and saving money. It does this through a barter system called time banking. A time bank facilitates the exchange of time (that is, of labor or services by the hour. In effect it makes time an alternative currency, in place of money.

I first heard about TroyShares from Abby Lublin, a fellow participant in a workshop on resilience and living on less at the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) conference in Saratoga Springs in January. Abby, who is the founder of Collard City Growers, said that TroyShares members had installed an appliance for her, moved a piano into her home and given her essential plumbing advice. In turn, she assisted other members with rides and pet care. No money changed hands. Considering the tasks she mentioned, it strikes me that the tangible benefits of TroyShares go beyond monetary savings in another way. It can be troublesome finding someone willing and able - and trustworthy -- to do small jobs, especially of the kind that people have traditionally relied on family or neighbors to help with. Yet today many of us live far from extended family and in neighborhoods without cohesion. And it's no longer unusual to live alone or have a partner whose skills do not complement our own.

Pictured Left: Shanna Goldman and Troy Shares rally the community to help neighbors flooded by the Hudson during Hurricane Irene. This was truly an emergent network that formed the day of the flood and weeks afterwards. Many came together to make it work. In the photo are: Shanna Goldman, Barry Goldman, future mayor Lou Rosamilia, Pastor (and future councilwoman) Nina Nichols, Troy Shares member Marie Gavazzi, councilman Ken Zalewski and 4 others... many more worked hard those weeks. Text ecolocalmag to 72727 for updates, events and special offers


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