Bartering services now available to cash-strapped green businesses

Bartering’s been around nearly as long as human beings themselves; in recent years, the concept has gained new attention with the advent of services like Freecycle, Bookcrossing, and Swapstyle. It’s a pretty green model, as people are usually swapping used goods… and, of course, it’s cheap.

If you’re a business owner looking to swap services, however, things get a bit more complex: any time there’s an exchange of value, the IRS wants to make sure it’s getting its cut (and, yeah, that’s true for person-to-person bartering, too, but they’re probably not going to track down book exchanges). The folks at Green America (formerly Co-op America) realized that bartering could be really beneficial to its cash-strapped business members… but also recognized the tax issues at work. Their new Green America Exchange attempts to make sure that members and the IRS are happy by using a dollar-tied alternative currency system.

So, how do bartering services at the Exchange work?

  • If you’ve got a service to offer, you receive compensation in the form of exchange dollars rather than cash.
  • If you need a service, you can pay for it with your accumulated exchange dollars, or even take out a line of credit to get started.
  • Come next year, the Exchange will send out the proper tax forms to you, with each exchange dollar valued at one US dollar.

The Exchange maintains itself through small transaction fees. And membership is limited: your business must already be a member of Green America’s Green Business Network. This way, Exchange users know they’re doing business with other sustainable businesses: joining the network requires demonstrating that your company has genuine “deep social and environmental commitments.”

For the small and medium-sized businesses that belong to Green America, the Exchange could prove a real godsend in these tough economic times… and could provide incentive for other small companies to head down a more sustainable path in order to participate.

The Exchange is really new — it just launched last week, with a strong Bay Area focus — but our friends at Triplepundit think it could serve “as a powerful conduit for the growing green economy.” If you’ve tried it out, let us know about your experience… and if you’re looking for personal bartering opportunities, check out EcoSalon’s list.


Image: Nineteenth-century print of a man bartering for his newspaper subscription with farm produce. Source: Wikimedia Commons