The value of a time bank
Yurts at Poncha Pass - Colorado Yurt Rentals and Sustainable Building Workshops - Photo of Chris in ground of Earthship

Written by Chris

November 19, 2019

This summer I stumbled across an interesting phenomenon while working on my ongoing effort at Poncha Pass. The idea has always been to build an education center revolving around sustainability, collaboration, and wellness. Earlier this summer, I realized the time to build and then teach would not be mutually exclusive and that the learning process did not only begin for me on day one, but could be extended to whomever had interest as well.

I found that while I could execute most steps by myself, there were a few that simply required another set of hands such as pouring foundations, and still others that required many sets of hands, such as weekend yurt raises. As the spring progressed I made a friend who has since become a close friend, among others that took a personal interest in the project. Initially he was excited to just help out. I was happy to have the company but in my urge to return the favor, we got to discussing a work stay effort. We started keeping track of hours and I was amazed at how some of the steps I had done before by myself on a previous deck for instance, would not only go twice as fast, but three or four times as fast. This is logical when we consider division of labor as a whole and tasks like construction that require holding things in place while screwing or nailing, etc.

The house with new siding going up

Being a carpenter, as the summer went on, he found himself with a contract to replace the entire siding of a house and quickly went down his own rabbit hole of an effort. He needed help and I was happy to change the idea into a time bank where I would spend days returning the favor of labor to help him out. He too found a marked increase in efficiency on those days and instead of paying other skilled day labors $20-$30 / hour, he was getting work for free. But yet, this work was not for free, it was hours he had spent on my project coming back to him, hence the time bank.

Drew clears the snow in front of a finished facade

There are numerous advantages here that revealed themselves from carrying out this work exchange. To begin with, if I am waiting for materials or paid work to show up in an increasingly gig economy, I can go help someone else on their effort and although there is no immediate monetary return, I am still banking an effort for a later date thereby making good use of my time. That time is also “paid” at a rate that is closer to a living wage instead of what one might find at a larger company that still regularly pays less than $15/hr. The time bank is your time for mine, equal in value and therefore if used to carry out the tasks necessary to live, yields a rate that is in essence a living wage, which in most areas of America is probably closer to the equivalent of $20/hr. This rate also happens to be tax free since no actual money is transferring hands. Additionally, the increased efficiency of work where “many hands make light work,” further leverages the effort and results. Thus, work equivalent to $20/hr can be leveraged into an effort equal to time and a half or double time.

Working 40ft off the ground was a new experience for me. Great to have a harness and solid scaffolding.

Finally, by participating in a time bank, I was able to learn about an entirely new trade of siding, building scaffolding, and learning various fine techniques of building. It also gave both my friend and myself an opportunity to connect through the common efforts instead of both toiling all summer on our own projects, which was by far more enjoyable.

In a world where corporations and politicians increasingly divide us by encouraging us to all act alone, to fear one another while convincing each of the need to live solo, we could all benefit greatly from the concept of the time bank. It does not have to be exclusive to construction either. Do we each need to purchase daycare, our own car, each a set of drills we rarely use, each struggle to meet all the needs without turning to our neighbors for help? What happens if we start exchanging our time and effort for our common good. Rotating babysitting weekend nights among young parents, exchanged home improvement projects, joint orchard builds. That is a future and vision worth working towards.

A finished project I was lucky to be a part of. 

Want to learn more about the time bank? It will be one of many classes held during spring and fall programs at Yurts At Poncha Pass, specifically designed to self-empower the individual. See you at the pass, Poncha Pass.

 

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