Episode 133 - Reusing Goods Using Online Communities with Zwaggle.com
GreenTalk Radio host Sean Daily talks tips for parents in buying, exchanging, and reusing goods using web-based communities with blogger Carmen Staicer of Zwaggle.com.
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Sean Daily: Hi, and welcome to Green Talk, a podcast seriesfrom greenlivinideas.com. Green Talk helps listeners in their efforts to lead more eco-friendly lifestyles through interviews with top vendors, authors and experts from around the world.
We discuss the critical issues facing the global environment today, as well as the technologies, products and practices that you can employ to go greener in every area of your life.
Hey, everyone, welcome to Green Talk Radio. This is Sean Daily and we have an episode today that is on reusing goods using online communities. And, one of the first online communities to put this into effect is Zwaggle.com.
With me, from Zwaggle.com, is Carmen Staicer, she’s a blogger for Zwaggle.com and she also has her own personal blog called, and I love this name, momtothescreamingmasses.typepad.com.
And, well, first of all, Carmen, welcome to the program.
Carmen Staicer: Oh, thanks for having me.
Sean Daily: Well, thanks for being on. And so, I’d just like to hear, I want to hear about, you know, the writing that you do both for Zwaggle and also personally, but why don’t we start with maybe Zwaggle? The story there, how you got involved with them?
Carmen Staicer: Well, Zwaggle is a website that is devoted to helping people find new homes for their merchandise. And, being that I have six children, we have a lot of kid’s merchandise in our house and we sometimes need to find places to appropriate it. So, looking around online, trying to find a recycling area, I came across Zwaggle and it seemed like a perfect fit for us.
Sean Daily: Yeah, it’s really quite, I mean, I love the idea, you know, we’ve done this personally just with our friends and it seems to me when I saw, when I heard about this I was really excited because it’s like extending this to – really to the masses.
So, that you, literally, came upon it as a user of the site, is that – is that correct?
Carmen Staicer: Right, right.
Sean Daily: So, how did that then sort of transmute over into becoming a blogger and, you know, a more active community member and public spokesperson?
Carmen Staicer: Well, I’m a blogger by nature. I blog, I have for five years, about my life with my family. So, in trying to expand upon that, I was offered the job with Zwaggle and it’s awesome. I love it. I love to write about ways to connect with other people, pass on your merchandise.
You know, when you’re in your day-to-day life, you kind of interact with people who have kids the same ages as yours.
Sean Daily: Yeah.
Carmen Staicer: And, sometimes you don’t know somebody who could use a highchair.
Sean Daily: It’s so silly. We go out and buy everything new, when your friend may have had a child that’s just exiting the age that your child’s entering and it just makes so much sense.
Carmen Staicer: Right, exactly.
Sean Daily: So now, with – so with Zwaggle, just talking about the site itself for a while, I mean, it’s kind of funny because these things that are, quote/unquote, “new,” are really just, you know, in many cases, revisiting things that have been around for centuries or millennia, you know. In some cases, they just make sense. Is Zwaggle the first of its kind to really sort of put this together in an online format?
Carmen Staicer: Zwaggle took it to the next level where you’re not interacting just with people in your neighborhood who have the same ability to acquire the same level of merchandise, but you can interact with people all over the U.S. Maybe they have other stores that you don’t have. We don’t have IKEA in our neighborhood. The closest IKEA is 500 miles from me, but I can go on Zwaggle and I can find that really nifty IKEA booster seat that I’ve had my eye on for a year from somebody who has it.
Sean Daily: Yeah, that’s great. So maybe you could just run us through, you know, what it’s like to use the system and for somebody who hasn’t been on before. Is it simple to use? What’s the process?
Carmen Staicer: It’s very, very simple. You just go to Zwaggle.com and you register as a member. It’s free. It only takes a minute, literally, just one minute, and then you just list your things. When you first sign up, you are given 50 points, 50 points which we call “zoints,” on the site. And that is enough for you to make a couple of purchases right there.
But you can list the things that you don’t need anymore, the soccer cleats, the highchair, the baby bouncer, and share those with other Zwaggle members. Put a picture up, upload it to the site and you’re done.
Sean Daily: Sounds pretty easy. So, tell me some of the things that you personally have been able to swap, both put into the Zwaggle system and then take out some of the examples.
Carmen Staicer: Okay. I’ve put probably 40 DVDs in and swapped those out with other members. My kids watch a lot of DVDs, but they get tired of them relatively quickly. So I swap those in.
I have been able to get quite a few Christmas gifts. I kind of have to keep my voice mum on what they are, because my kids might hear me.
Sean Daily: Sure, understandable.
Carmen Staicer: But, I’ve gotten some really nice dolls. I’ve gotten some video games, some computer games. It just, it’s been really nice for me to go on there and buy the things I need.
Sean Daily: Now, when you say buy, you know, I understand there’s a point system, I mean, what – how much do items on this Zwaggle typically cost?
Carmen Staicer: Well, Zwaggle is free. There’s no money that exchanges. You purchase with your zoints and then when you sell something, you’re credited zoints. That means that anyone can join, regardless of what their income level is. The average item is about 18 to 20 points.
Sean Daily: So, I’m just curious. So, is it, is it, is it pretty even ratio in terms of the points you’re getting for putting items into the system, contributing items into the system versus what you’re pulling out? Or, is it like American Express, where it’s like I spent eight gazillion dollars and I get enough points to buy a toaster oven? You know?
Carmen Staicer: Right, right. No, it’s actually, it’s actually very, very fair. It, it – when you plug your item in, it will ask you for the original purchase price and the condition and then it will figure what – what zoints you should have If you don’t agree with that, you can always modify it.
Sean Daily: Okay.
Carmen Staicer: So you could sell something for 20 or for ten or for 40, based upon what you think it’s worth.
Sean Daily: Now, do you have any statistics about Zwaggle.com community, like how many members there are or anything you can share with our audience?
Carmen Staicer: Well, Zwaggle is available in all 50 states. I don’t think there’s a state that’s not covered right now. I know that there’s even members in Alaska and Hawaii, which is awesome. You can trade with people that are in your next block or you can trade with people on the opposite coast.
Sean Daily: And so how does the actual delivery occur? What are the logistics behind it?
Carmen Staicer: When you agree to purchase an item, you will indicate how you want us to do it. If the shipper is covering the payment for the mailing, that’s it. You can use the Zwaggle site FedEx, which is really, really easy. It just walks you straight through it. Or, if you don’t want to do the FedEx, you also can do postal.
Sean Daily: Now, this just makes so much sense to me from so many standpoints, you know, and I was just talking with Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, of Green Options – he’s also known as Sustain-a-Blogger – we were just talking about how these things that are green, you know, also make economic sense. And in the current economic times, which are trying for many, it just makes so much sense, you know, to do these things for all goods. But, you know, not just for things like DVDs but, especially, I think, for things that the kids grow out of everything. I mean, you know, need a highchair for, you know, how much time? Although, you with six kids, have gotten a lot of use out of your highchairs, I image.
Carmen Staicer: Yes, we have a couple of things that we’re not trading out of yet, but most things, you know, soccer cleats, they wear them for one season.
Sean Daily: Yeah.
Carmen Staicer: And, what are you going to do with them? You’re going to keep them in your house. No, you can trade them out and maybe next season that child doesn’t want to play soccer, but wants to take gymnastics and you can use those points to purchase the things you need for the next sport or the next instrument.
Sean Daily: And, we’ve seen this with things like, you know, ski swaps for years. But, it’s like, why is it relegated to that? It just makes so much sense, it should be for everything. And, you know, we see things like Play It Again Sports come out, but that’s a commercial venture, which is ,there’s nothing wrong with that, but, you know that’s – it’s sort of just this idea – I’ve been waiting for years for somebody to do this in a larger scale. So, again, I’m very excited to see this.
And for you again, who are listening in, this is Zwaggle.com, is the name of the website that we’re talking about today.
And I have a lot more questions for you, Carmen, but we’re going to be taking a quick break and then we will be right back.
And we are talking with Carmen Staicer. She’s a blogger for Zwaggle.com. They’re an online community to help parents swap gently used goods.
And we’ll be right back on Green Talk Radio after these messages.
Sean Daily: Hey, everybody, we’re back on Green Talk Radio. This is Sean Daily.
I have with me today, Carmen Staicer. We’re talking – and she is a blogger for Zwaggle.com – and we’re talking on the topic of reusing goods using online communities.
And Zwaggle.com, we talked to Carmen a little bit before the break about how it works, you know, the system, the scope and so forth. You know, is this only going to work if you’re in or near a major city?
Carmen Staicer: No, absolutely not. If you have a computer or access to a computer, you are on Zwaggle.
Sean Daily: And so, what kind of success do people, say in rural or suburban areas, typically, have with trying to hook up with other folks that have goods either on the buying or selling end.
Carmen Staicer. It’s very hard in the rural communities because you don’t, you don’t have a neighbor…
Carmen Staicer: …or close by, you know, if you need a booster seat, you can’t go across the street to your neighbor that had a child and say, “can I borrow your booster seat?” And it may be difficult to get to the store, but you can go online and you can find someone in a big city that has listed a booster seat and they can pop it in the mail and send it right to you.
Sean Daily: So, what has been the response, I mean, you know, nationwide? Both, I mean in terms of the press response and – but also the public and the community response to this? Are people really getting into it? Is it taking off?
Carmen Staicer: It has really blossomed. It’s a gratifying thing to see. People want to find a place to put their items, not just – not in a landfill, not to just send them somewhere, but to put them in the hands of the people who need them and the people who want them.
Sean Daily: Yeah. And it’s, you know, it’s just fascinating to me that this has taken so long, quite frankly, to come about. And I guess one of the ways that we’ll know if this is really taking off is really like competitors is really what confirms the space oddly enough. And is Zwaggle.com starting to see anybody coming to the space, similar websites or community sites?
Carmen Staicer: I’ve seen a couple. Yeah, I’ve seen a couple. I don’t want to give them any extra press.
Sean Daily: Yeah, I know. I understand. I’m just curious because, again, that’s sort of what confirms, you know, whether or not a concept is taking off and, certainly, this is one we hope to see take off because it makes so much sense, again, on all levels.
So, can you explain, I know there’s a charity component of Zwaggle. Can you explain how that works?
Carmen Staicer: Right. Giving back to the community is really important. So we allow the members who maybe have extra zoints that they’re not going to use, to donate them to a local or national partner.
We have partners, we have 20 Head Start chapters that we’re partnered with. If you want, you can donate your zoints and take a tax deduction, which is a really great thing to remember for tax season.
Sean Daily: Yup, absolutely.
So now, I’m curious, Carmen, tell me a little bit about on the personal side, “Mom to the Screaming Masses,” you’ve been doing this quite a while, so you’re one of the sort of the long-term green bloggers, and I’d love to hear about the story. Whatever you’d be willing to share about how that started and the kinds of things that you’ve covered in your community on that site.
Carmen Staicer: I have six kids and I’ve been blogging since I had my fourth child, kind of as a way to get out of my own, my own shell. I blog an awful lot about my life with my kids. We deal with some pretty major ranging things.
I have preschoolers up to high-schoolers. And one thing that I recently blogged about, which got a lot of really positive feedback, was the fact that we switched from reusable water bottles to SIGG bottles, because I have kids that play soccer, kids that play football and cross country. Now we would go to a lot of those and now we use just the SIGG bottles, which has been a really, really positive benefit for us.
Sean Daily: Not to interrupt, but I just was going to say, it’s funny you said that, because I just ran and bought SIGG bottles. I should say rebought. SIGG bottles are great until the kids lose them like my kids just did and I had to go buy...
Hey, but this time, instead of the pirate water bottle, which was good when he was four, now he’s got the dragon water bottle, so, oh well. Yes, they are very cool.
Carmen Staicer: We bought all solid colors so they’re all very boring. Nobody wants them, but they all have a solid bottle. Actually, I bought a dozen of them; I figure two per kid, they can lose one and still have one.
Sean Daily: Yeah, yeah. I’ve often wanted to go off and just buy, you know, SIGG bottles for the entire school, you know, because it just you see these kids with those – the ones that are leeching all kinds of awful things and, you know, it’s just…
Carmen Staicer: Right, right.
Sean Daily: …I hate seeing that in anybody’s child because, you know, I’ve had enough interviews now to know what actually goes in the endocrine disruptors. And, it’s just very, very scary, you know, when you see that and you know that that’s happening.
Carmen Staicer: Oh, it really is. It’s awful.
Sean Daily: So what else, other than that, what are you up to? Do you have a – what are you doing in terms of monthly unique visitors?
Carmen Staicer: I try to stay away from that because I tend to get bogged down in how many people are coming and who’s new and who’s not and I really just want to be able to write.
I mainly blog to let other people know that, you know, hey, parenting is really hard for everyone and these are things that have worked me and these are things that have not worked for me. And, by the way, you know, we struggle with the same issues as you. Just to kind of give another person a feeling of I’m not in this alone.
Sean Daily: Yeah, that’s great. I see, I mean, the comments are amazing. I’m looking at your site right now. I mean, you’ve got, you know, recent articles, there’s 65 comments. I mean that’s pretty unheard of. I mean, even Digg articles are hard put to get 30 or 40 comments, so that’s pretty impressive.
Have you really – has this site and writing on this site really helped you connect with people that you might not have otherwise met?
Carmen Staicer: It really has. I’ve made some tremendous friends. I have great friendships all over the United States, people I would have never known. But, I’m so, so blessed to know now.
Sean Daily: Yeah, well that’s wonderful. That’s a great, very inspiring story. And we all wish you much continued success with both the Zwaggle.com site as well as the Mom to the Screaming Masses blog as well. Yeah…
Carmen Staicer: Thank you.
Sean Daily: And so, my guest, again today, has been Carmen Staicer. She is a blogger, mother of six and she writes for the Zwaggle.com site as well as for her own site, which is MomtotheScreamingMasses.typepad.com.
And, again, really appreciate you being on the program today and sharing all this information with our listeners.
Carmen Staicer: Great. Thanks for having me. It was so much fun.
Sean Daily: Thanks as always to everyone listening in today. Remember, for more free, on-demand podcasts, articles, videos and other information related to living a greener lifestyle, visit our website at www.greenlivingideas,com.
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