In an effort to encourage Toronto residents to consume collaboratively, Swapsity recently hosted a Music Movie Eco-Swap as part of the Live Green Toronto Festival. Six tents were filled with more than 3,300 different items with some 2,350 of them finding new homes by the end of the event and the remaining bounty donated to Goodwill. If all of those swapped goods had been purchased new, the sum paid out would have topped $18,000. On this day, nary a dollar was spent.
Marta Nowinska, Swapsity's Founder, emphasizes that the key is in the planning: “Putting together and running a large community event with hundreds or thousands of attendees takes weeks of thorough planning, collaboration with organizations that share your values, and a large, enthusiastic team. In our case, we were working closely together with the Toronto Environment Office and Goodwill. However, everyone can initiate similar events on a smaller scale by hosting a swap party in their home or neighbourhood.”
To entice people into participating, Swapsity cited five benefits of doing so:
Recycle and Reuse: Be a friend to the environment and recycle your way to a new media library.
Refresh Your Library for Free: Update your collection without spending your hard-earned money — no cash or credit card required!
De-clutter: De-clutter your space and free yourself of items you never use.
Share: Enjoy seeing someone else take delight in what you no longer need, and otherwise might have tossed to the curb!
Community Spirit: Be part of a phenomenal community eco-swap challenge. Join your fellow Torontonians in saving 10,000 items from the landfills.
Though Swapsity didn't quite make their goal of 10,000 items, the event was a resounding success in the eyes of all who swapped. One participant proclaimed it to be "a brilliant and fun idea that helps the planet and the wallets" while another enthused that the Eco-Swap was "a wonderful event and would love to see this happen again!"
A media swap is a little bit different from a food or clothing swap, in that a lot of the guesswork is eliminated because swappers don't need to taste or try on the goods — what you see is what you get. The Swapsity event included DVDs, CDs, vinyl records, and Blu-Rays, each type stationed in a different Swap Zone tent and, as well as they could be, divided up by genre. Nowinska explains, “For our event, participants were invited to bring a stack of movies and music items they had grown tired of. Swappers needed to contribute at least one media item to take part. Whether it was a gift we didn’t really dig or an impulse purchase we regretted, everyone dug up their unwanted media discs. What might not interest one swapper could be the perfect item for another person. Tapping into the power of community and collaboration, we aimed to build a huge media library that would offer something for everyone.”
To keep the trading simple, Swapsity implemented a token-based, one-for-one policy that allowed swappers to “take home as many items as they brought.” For each item donated, people received one token valid for any other single item. As everything was valued equally, someone aiming to clear out their CD stash and beef up their vinyl collection could make even trades. Alternately, the folks looking to cut back on their clutter could also opt not to use all their tokens or gift them to someone else. At other one-for-one swap events they host, Swapsity sets limits on the value (such as under $25) and number (up to three) of items that participants can bring and, thereby, take.
Swapsity offers six key steps to staging a successful media swap:
1. Pick a theme for the swap event and invite like-minded people. When sending an invitation, be sure to explain to all invitees how the swap will work and what to expect. (E.g., To participate, people must contribute at least one item.)
2. When your guests arrive, count how many items they’ve contributed. For every item they bring, issue them a token. Use buttons or sticks as tokens. If a guest brought five items, they could trade them for five ‘new’ items. Tokens are valid for the day of the event only and cannot be carried over to a future event.
3. Once they have dropped off their pre-loved items, invite everyone to mingle and enjoy some light refreshments. After all, you can't swap on an empty stomach!
4. Categorize the contributed items on tables. Reserve the right to not accept any items that you feel are unsuitable.
5. To ensure fairness, pick names out of a hat so, one-by-one, each person can take the time to make a selection. Allow each participant to grab one item on their first round. Once everyone has picked an item, go on to round two, once again drawing names from a hat. The last few rounds could be a 'free for all' — which means that everyone would have the liberty to take what they like at the same time.
6. Any leftovers could be donated to a charity of your choice.
Swap meets are a long-loved tradition and an easy way for people to join the collaborative consumption movement without even realizing it. Sure, a plethora of conscious, community-minded consumers is the goal, but every single trade, barter, and share along the way counts, too. Swapsity made 2,352 of them in one fell swoop. By hosting a media swap of your own, you can get members of your community moving toward a shareable future, as well.
All photos of the Music Movie Eco-Swap used with permission from Swapsity.