Swap – or Borrow – Til You Drop!

Swap – or Borrow – Til You Drop!

Swapping – the exchange of one thing for another – is one of those recently revived activities that’s just good all the way around. It’s friendly to the environment, as it reduces textile waste (which according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency occupies nearly 5% of all landfill space). It gives new life to what is old for someone else, provides an alternative to consumerism, saves you some hard earned crowns and if the exchange is held around an event, offers an opportunity to meet up with some like-minded folks. From clothes to books to bikes and other offerings, swapping is happening right here in Prague.

BOOKS

The Kup Book initiative
The Kup Book initiative



Approximately six times per year, Prague’s municipal library offers a Book Swap Day. Usually held around a specific theme, this past February’s Book Swap Day invited the exchange of books in different languages in honor of International Mother Language Day on the 21st of the month. Later in the year the library will hold a “XL” book exchange where you can bring any type of book. For each of the events, books must be in good shape and the ideal is to bring 5 in exchange for another 5.

Two very creative book-swapping initiatives were both initiated via O2’s ThinkBig project. Conceived in the summer of 2013, Knihobudka saw the transformation of 7 obsolete telephone booths into book-exchange kiosks, which have been placed in locations throughout the city including hospitals, public institutions, and bus and railway stations. The first, inaugurated in February of this year, is located at the hospital IKEM in Prague 4. All are invited to donate or take from these mini-public libraries.

Kup Book gives a second life to books from seniors from the organization Elpida. To distribute them, three art students created uniquely designed boxes that have been placed in cafes throughout Prague. You can read the books in the café or pay 20 crowns to take one home. All proceeds go back to Elpida. Vinohrady’s Bio Zahrada one of the designated cafes, held their own book exchange where they asked members of the public to bring their unwanted books. As with Kup Book, all proceeds went to Elpida.

Clothes

Raid someone else's closet
Raid someone else’s closet

Two upcoming clothes swapping events include the ongoing Bazarek, which has been held at the HUB co-working space since its inception in 2012, and The Clothing Exchange, which will hold their fourth swap at Muddum Art Space on May 11. Bazarek, the brainchild of Katerina Coops, asks that all attendees bring at least one item to exchange. You can take as much as you like. Remaining items are always donated to a charity. To be held on May 27, the upcoming Bazarek 7 will feature new sections for men and children. The upcoming Clothing Exchange invites all attendees to bring well-cared-for spring and summer clothes, as well as books and accessories. The event will include an “upcycling corner” for those who want to learn upcycling techniques including origami, decoupage, and rug knitting.

Swap of Clothes, a new retail space, offers the exchange, consignment or rental of branded apparel – or, in their own words (borrowing the established portmanteau): shwopping. In addition to offering some original Czech and international items, this savvy shwhop also offers “comfort service” where they will come to your home and sort through exchange- or consign-worthy goods for you. RE:PARÁDA is the Czech Republic’s first clothes-lending library. Though located in Brno, the owners will lend their retro frocks and other Czech-designed apparel – and
maternity clothes – via post.

Dedicated exclusively to women’s clothing and accessories, votocvohoz.cz invites the ladies to “swap, sell and donate clothes you are tired of” with the mission to help reduce waste and provide a more meaningful shopping experience. (This is the Czech arm of Vinted, founded in 2008).

Bikes

Borrow a pink bike!
Borrow a pink bike!

One of the coolest swapping ideas to hit the streets is the recently launched Rekolo. An alternative to the perhaps more complicated bike-sharing programs around the world, Rekolo simplifies the process by eliminating the stands and allowing riders to lock the bikes to the nearest bike rack or other secure device. Those in need of a two-wheel ride look for one of Rekolo’s pink bikes via text messaging. Along with telling you the nearest location of a bike, it will also give you the code to unlock the bike. Once you’re done your ride and are ready to pass it on to someone else, you text message the location where you’ve secured the bike. The program will run in Prague from April through November and plans to expand to other cities throughout the country. Homeport, a bike-sharing system available in Karlín has bikes at the Florenc metro and convenient locations throughout the neighborhood and includes electrobikes and cargo bikes.

Home Exchange

Swap your city flat for some country digs
Swap your city flat for some country digs

If you’re in need a holiday, but don’t have the funds for a hotel or other accommodation, why not swap your place for someone else’s? Check out Homeexchangeczech.cz, which includes a long list of Czech cottages that allow you to swap your flat for a week or so in the country. Popular international sites for posting home shares include Digsville and Love Home Swap.

So besides being donated to charities and other organizations, what happens to all the clothes and goods that aren’t swapped? Winner of the 2013 Social Impact Award, Forewear takes unswapped items and turns them into covers for notebooks, tablets, and mobile phones. Along with upcycling unwanted clothes from Bazarek and other clothes swaps, Forewear supports disadvantaged women in a local shelter workshop by providing them with work.

Goods & Services

Vymena Veci or Exchange Things offers the opportunity to exchange, sell, or rent a mix of goods (books, clothes, games, children’s clothes, electronics) as well as services. Also offering a mix, rerere.cz, which stands for the old adage, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, is an English-friendly site that allows you to post items you want to give away, items you are looking for, or items to swap. Give away an unwanted pet or land a plethora of odd items for free including exercise equipment, “theatrical tresses”, or a vintage fax machine. Car and language exchanges, babysitting and petsitting exhcanges are also available. Expats.cz’s own classifieds server has a free and wanted page which regularly features swapping and give aways.

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It’s spring-cleaning time: What will you swap or give away this season?


Joann Plocková

Joann Plockova writes about design, architecture, culture and travel. Her work has been featured in a variety of publications including Azure magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Condé Nast Traveller and American Craft Magazine. Originally from the U.S., she's lived in Prague for close to a decade.

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