‘Reuse’ Wasn’t In My Childhood Vocabulary
But wastefulness certainly was. We took food with the utmost care – never to the point or purpose of deprivation, but for the sake of appreciation and self-awareness. The principle applied to clothing and sports equipment. My first tie came from one cousin; my first outgrown baseball glove went to another. There was an ebb and flow to possession, such that at the end of each year, I found many of my forlorn goods had discovered new purpose in homes around the community.
My arrival at Harvard three years ago marked a point of many surprises, among them the scope of campus extravagance. I remember reading an Onion headline in the fall of my sophomore year, which riffed on colleges’ “building new academic halls, installing wave pools and lazy rivers, offering free movie tickets, and more to attract top students to their campus.” Harvard had, to my knowledge, entertained only one of the Onion’s three strategies, but the article’s message – that profligacy abounds in American university life – fell on open ears.
An appreciation for reuse and adventure is what prompted a group of us to launch Tradr this summer out of the Harvard Innovation Lab. Tradr is a discovery-oriented social platform for buying, selling, and trading creative and used goods locally. As students, we lamented the degree to which waste was normalized. Rushing to classes, our peers routinely discard untouched food from their plates. When the school year ends, students overlook the significance of their tossing books, furniture, and lightly-used clothing. Wastefulness is recognized by few and, as a result, the physical and social consequences often go undetected.
Jessica Behrens, one of our co-founders, was a university student in Brazil when she undertook a challenge to give away one possession from among her collection every day for a year. She wished to ascertain for herself the consequences of a hyper consumerist lifestyle. During the course of her journey, Jessica met Zaki Djamal, a friend of mine and a Harvard student studying behavioral economics, and Zaki’s friend Eddy Lee, an entrepreneurial student who sold used music instruments. Tradr was born out of their meeting.
The application works to promote three goals: 1) reuse 2) personal discovery and 3) community building. While many feel comfortable buying and selling used goods, personal markets are limited and buying from and selling to strangers is less straightforward. Tradr connects users with others in their community through social media profiles and facilitates users’ discovery of a personally curated bevy of goods.
Tradr facilitates adventure through an organic browsing experience. Just as someone might peruse a neighborhood garage sale or thrift shop to discover local treasures, so to Tradr users have the opportunity to actively swipe through their neighborhood’s “treasure trove” of used and creative goods. Swipe left to continue, right to learn more and negotiate. Selling is easy too – no yard sale signs or advertising. Users simply snap a picture, write a description, and Tradr’s algorithm filters their items to relevant users.
Encouraged by More Than 7000 Users, Trading and Browsing
Within a few short months, more than 7,000 users have begun trading and browsing a local marketplace of thousands of cheap, beautiful products. We are continuously working to improve the user experience and promote local trade. From finding quirky items to purchase for ourselves (I recently found an English city bicycle) to speaking with enthusiastic users, the process has been tremendously gratifying thus far. We are very excited to see what’s to come.
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