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The Practice of Swapping

A swap is a community “marketplace” that doesn’t require the exchange of money, instead community members simply bring items that they don’t need any more to exchange for items that they could use from other participants. The more people involved, the more likely it is that everyone finds the things they’re looking for. RethinkWaste hosts swaps at annual events and local libraries to create opportunities for the community to come together, support changes in each other’s lives and our growing needs through the exchange of goods. Whether it be you’re celebrating another year of growth, embracing a new job, taking up a new activity or transitioning into a new home or school, we all experience times in our lives when we need to get rid of things or are in search of new things.

Lean on your community to lighten the load on your mind and your wallet; your neighbors might have just what you need or looking for. There’s no need for great stress or expense, so a swap is an easy way to get our gently used items a caring, new home.

The world is currently living in a  throw-away, single-use, fast-fashion society. The “out of sight, out of mind” mentality of previous centuries does not work anymore, as we have no more frontiers and increasing populations. What we dispose is even coming back to haunt us through different forms of pollution, be it microplastics, forever chemicals like PFAS, or greenhouse gases. If we care not to poison ourselves and our planet with our waste, we need to start rethinking our consumption habits and come together to rehome our things rather than tossing them and buying new ones.

Today’s society still pushes overconsumption by convincing consumers that we need to have the newest, the fastest, the shiniest, despite the environmental crisis our waste creates. Secondhand items are not sloppy seconds. It may take a little reframing of the mind to accept, so perhaps this analogy will help: secondhand items are like puppies at the shelter. Maybe they need some TLC, a wash, some grooming, but they still have so much potential to bring joy into your life. In the end, it’s all new to you and a certain pride comes with rescuing a thing too. Not everyone has the patience or the heart for rehabilitation, but perhaps you might find one of the following to be a motivator to exploring a swap:

  • Saving money
  • Building community
  • Living sustainably
  • Embracing a minimalistic lifestyle
  • Embracing a buy-nothing year
  • A love for fixing, tinkering, re-making, altering
  • Challenging outdated habits

Starting in 2023, RethinkWaste has hosted or collaborated with a library in our service area to hold swap events. Past themes have included:

  • Books, puzzles, and games
  • Clothing, shoes, and accessories
  • Items for children
  • Plants and pots

As one of the goals of the swaps is to reduce waste, the starting inventory for the events is sourced from staff, partners, and the community. Any shortcomings are filled through mindful thrift store purchases. Our final table displays draw in crowds of 100 to 200 people, some of them empty handed passersby. With plentiful stock we have the means to accommodate all our visitors and allow everyone to walk away with something new to them. The goal is to normalize the practice of swapping and reuse, so we see each event as an opportunity to engage with anyone curious enough to pop in. Hopefully, at the next one we’ll see familiar faces and a growing pool of patrons. Join us at an event this summer!

Pictured: All Things Kids Swap at the Downtown Redwood City Library
Pictured: Book, Puzzle, Game Swap at the Burlingame Library