What is the Gift Economy?

Mid-September saw the National Trust for Jersey hosting an open weekend of their properties as part of the UK’s celebration of architecture, history and culture.  Jersey in Transition supported the initiative up at Morel Farm by providing a cream tea and cake stall, and a Giving Table.  These two stalls were a part of what is known as the gift economy – an idea that is central to the Transition group and how it operates.  This isn’t about giving goods or services in order to get something back, more a pay-it-forward notion that by contributing to your community without expecting anything back relationships are strengthened, connections are made and all members of the community benefit. 

The Giving Table in particular highlights just how the gift economy works.  One girl was amazed, shocked and for a while found it incomprehensible to discover a fully working laptop sitting on the Giving Table that she could just have.  A boy was insistent that he pay money for a set miniatures that he collects until he realised that he could just take them and enjoy them.  A lady picked up several items, justifying each one she took to pass onto charities and people she knew who were in need of them when she did not have to do so.  The Giving Table expects nothing back, just to provide people with things they want or need.  As the old adage goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.  There are some rules to the Giving Table. All items are donated.  All items must be in full working order, and still have a use.  Nor can the Table accept an enormous amount of items.  It is after all a table, and storage for items not taken at one Giving event is extremely limited.  Having said that, nothing is excluded from a Giving Table.  The Giving event at Morel Farm saw a selection of books, games (board and PC), instruments, radios, fresh produce and clothing to name but a few.

The Giving Table also has environmental benefits.  Rather than simply throwing out unwanted items to landfill and creating a waste disposal problem, or recycling the items which is an energy intensive process (but preferable to landfills), items can simply be reused in their current state or ‘upcycled’ into a new, more usable product.  In this way, the Giving Table helps to reduce air and water pollution, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

To join in or just find out more, you can find Jersey in Transition on Facebook, sign up for the monthly newsletters jit[at]mistweb[dot]net.

Even better, pop along to the next Green Drinks – No agenda, no hassle. Just a chance for eco-minded friends to get together for a monthly natter over a few drinks.  The next Green Drinks will be at the Town House, St Helier on Thursday 18th October 2012.  They may not save the whale, the world, or the waterfront this month, but they'll probably give it another good try.


This article originally appeared in "The Jersey Life" Magazine (print only) as part of a mini-series on Jersey in Transition

Image: Morel Farm, Jersey. Credit: Man vyi/Wikipedia (Public Domain Licence)