For any community looking to move to a lower carbon, more sustainable lifestyle, reducing waste has an obvious appeal. While recycling and composting offer a great way to deal with much of the rubbish that used to end up in landfill, the question remains as to what to do with other unwanted items which are simply too good to throw away. Charity shops are one solution – but there may not always be a convenient one locally; online auction sites offer another, but they’re not for everyone. For a growing number of communities, the swap shop has increasingly become the answer. The idea is simplicity itself, allowing household items, from the commonplace to the more unusual, to be passed on to new owners.
Setting Up Shop
If your community has suitable premises, one of the most straight-forward ways to start is simply to run the whole thing like a sort of local charity shop – except that no money is involved. This approach has a lot of advantages. For one thing, it means that donors can move their unwanted items on very quickly – getting the space back in their homes without undue delay, which can often be a very important consideration. It also means that prospective new owners can browse the swap shop and inspect items at their leisure, without having to make an appointment to visit another person’s home to see what they’re after – which probably feels better for both sides of the arrangement.
However it does mean that someone has to be responsible for receiving items and staffing the shop at given times for anyone looking to make a swap, so despite the benefits, this may not be the most appropriate way of doing things for every community.
An alternative for a community which simply doesn’t have the space to spare to accommodate an actual physical shop, is to set the whole thing up online, either by linking into one of the established national swappers sites, or by setting up your own. Again, it’s another very simple idea – advertise what you’ve got to give away and then wait for eager hopeful owners to get in touch. On the plus side, this way of doing things means that the area served can be much larger, since donors don’t have to transport their items to a central point and for a community intent on saving energy, this can be an important consideration. However, it does mean that anyone interested in the swap is going to have to travel to the present owners home to inspect the item. Another negative for online swap shops is that they are restricted to members of the community with internet access – and even in our increasingly connected times, that can still miss out a sizeable portion of the community.
Making It Inclusive
One way round the problem of reaching the offline members of the community is to go back to good old-fashioned notices. Local shops, libraries, community halls and the like can usually be talked into giving the swap shop a bit of space in their windows or notice boards and this can often be the most effective way of reaching those people without an internet connection. It’s an important issue to consider, since community projects are always going to work best when everyone feels involved.
Inevitably, both real and virtual swap shops demand some time and effort to get them off the ground and a bit of ongoing work afterwards to keep them running smoothly, but it’s got to be worth it. The swap shop idea lets everybody win; giving your unwanted goods away means you can de-clutter your home without feeling guilty about the waste, while the recipient gets something to treasure, for free. As a way of helping the environment, reducing the community’s carbon footprint and helping to divert tonnes of waste from landfill each year, it’s hard to beat!