Moneyless find wealth in online networks | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.02.2012
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Moneyless find wealth in online networks

In times of economic hardship, some people have chosen to give up money altogether. But not having money doesn’t necessarily mean living poorly.

Trash container in the street

One man's trash is another man's treasure

Pavlik had been working as a programmer in Berlin when he began to have doubts about the social benefits of the project his company was developing. After raising his concerns, he soon found himself unemployed and unable to find another job with an organization he felt was socially beneficial.

Pavlik ended up homeless, living in the park, which inspired him to think about an alternative way of living.

"Then I started realizing I don't need money; I feel disgusted by money," said Pavlik, who is originally from Poland and doesn't use a last name. "Then I realized there are lots of things I need, there are also lots of things I would like to have, to access or use - but it's never money. Money is just one of the ways of making it available, but if we find different possibilities we can arrange it differently."

Connecting community

Raphael Fellmer in Berlin lives without money and gets his food in supermarket rubbish bins

Raphael Fellmer in Berlin lives without money and gets his food in supermarket rubbish bins

Not only has Pavlik's lifestyle changed, but he has also become an active promoter of non-monetary methods of exchange. He has been developing a system to link up sharing websites such as Couchsurfing.com, Belocal and Freecycle.org, so that users can easily coordinate their transactions.

The programmer has also been designing a networking model that enables people to more easily trade work on each others' projects, or offer their skills in return for the use of a desk and computer.

"I'm now almost daily looking at how we can reorganize and use some of the information technologies to help us make what we need or want available but without the use of any currencies," he explained.

Pavlik is not alone in opting for a moneyless lifestyle. Raphael Fellmer and his girlfriend Nieves decided to give up money while traveling around the world and were inspired by how liberated they felt.

They now live on the outskirts of Potsdam with their four-month-old daughter. Their house was donated by a friend who respects their lifestyle.

Reducing waste

The family lives comfortably on organic food that is 'rescued' from supermarkets - a practice that is otherwise known as dumpster diving. Fellmer said dumpster diving doesn't tend to get him into trouble.

Euro coins

Money is just one of many ways to meet needs, says Pavlik

"I think when you do it with respect, and don't leave any litter around the dumpster, then the supermarket employees and the boss don't have any problem with it, they even also find it nice that somebody takes care of something they find kind of sad: that it is thrown away," Fellmer said.

His family has supported themselves with food they find in supermarket dumpsters, but say that when their baby starts eating solids they will turn to a more organized system of food reclamation, through services such as Food Not Bombs.

Trading without money

Both Fellmer and Pavlik say there is a growing trend towards sharing services via online platforms - which may increase as the eurozone financial crisis deepens.

According to Pavlik, around 8 million people already participate in the Freecycle network, where they can make things available they no longer have a use for, or request items they need. Another 3 million people share hospitality though the online Couchsurfing network.

Author: Daniel Bishton / cl
Editor: Kate Bowen

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