SWAP, Donate your Stuff and Get Involved!

The Office of Sustainability is happy to feature an article about SWAP (Sharing With A Purpose), the only nonprofit student business at Washington University. Sylvie Skene, Director of Education and Eva Blumenfeld, Director of Marketing tell us the story of SWAP, its purpose and operations. Learn about the different ways you can get involved with this sustainable, unique and fun student-run organization.

Originally founded in 2008 by four students interested in increasing campus sustainability, SWAP has since expanded to adding a storefront, the Trading Post, now located next to Bears Bikes on the row of student businesses on the South Forty.

The Trading Post, a free thrift store

The Trading Post is like a thrift store, except every item in the storefront is free. Students may donate items to us during storefront hours (from 4-6pm every weekday) or anytime by placing the items in the large black bins we keep outside the store. The donations are then organized and placed in our storefront for others to take. We accept just about anything except food, alcohol and cosmetics. The mission of the storefront follows SWAP’s goal of reducing the unnecessary consumption of “stuff,” while attempting to keep that “stuff” within the WashU community. Rather than letting your unused items lay under your bed in your dorm all year, donate them and let them be used by another student so they don’t have to go out and buy that same item at Target!

The Sale on the Swamp, a flea market for freshman

SWAP is a nonprofit, but in order to keep a revenue to maintain the storefront, we administrate a sale at the beginning of each year. At the end of the school year, the students on the South Forty move out of the dorms and leave items they don’t want to store over the summer that they would otherwise throw away in the lobbies of their dorms. SWAP then spends about four days driving around the Forty in golf carts collecting the items, bringing them to our storage unit, cleaning and organizing them to store over the summer. We then come back to school early to get ready for the sale, selling the items on the Swamp basketball court during freshmen move-in. Our most popular items we sell include refrigerators, mirrors, plastic bins, laundry hampers, microwaves, lamps, small appliances and many other random items. All of these may be bought new at Target for over triple the price we sell them for, or may be bought from us for a cheaper price and produce less waste. While we make a profit off of these larger items, clothing and smaller items are still given away in the Trading Post for free. The sale is mainly targeted to freshmen that need to buy all of their college dorm furniture, but our customers range from freshmen to seniors to Washington University Staff members. From this sale, we bring in the money we need to maintain our nonprofit, while saving thousands pounds of waste from going into landfill.

At this year’s sale we sold almost everything in the first day, and held limited hours the second day. This included about 3,500 items sold to over 2,000 customers, saving more than 7,000 pounds from landfill. Overall it was an extremely successful year and the new students and parents were exuberant to learn about our cause.

Work with SWAP

Currently there are five owners and one intern at SWAP. We are looking for new interns this year so if you are interested we would love to meet you! There are positions available for a wide range of interests including business, art and design, sustainability, finance, and event coordination. We are constantly evolving and creating new positions as well.

Email swapstl@gmail.com your name and a brief description of why you want to become involved and we can set up a time to meet.