Do you sometimes wonder how you can be more “green” and reduce waste? Are you a sucker for a box of gently used books on a stoop labeled “Free! Please take!” In the market for a pair of rain boots for your toddler, or did you just clean out your closets, the toy bin, and other neglected corners or your home? Listen up! It’s Stop ‘N’ Swap season, and one of these free, fun, reuse events is likely happening near you in the coming months. Read on to learn how to give a little, get a little — or both!

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photo: GrowNYC

Stop ‘N’ What?
Stop ‘N’ Swap is a Zero Waste program of the non-profit GrowNYC, funded by the NYC Department of Sanitation. Since 2007, the initiative has organized pop-up community reuse events where residents are invited to bring items they no longer want and come to take things they do. The events are free and you don’t have to bring something in order to take something — although it’s extremely satisfying to arrive with a perfectly good bag of clothes, books, etc. and leave without it, while also knowing the items will likely find a home with someone who really wants them.

The people of Stop ‘N’ Swap do the things most people dread about cleaning and clearing out stuff: they sort the items on arrival, and at the end of the day remove all leftovers and donate or recycle them.

The goal of the program is to encourage reuse, build community and divert good, reusable stuff that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Another benefit of the events is that they also simultaneously reduce the waste that comes from the production, packaging and transportation needed to get new things.

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photo: GrowNYC

When & Where
Since in inception of Stop ‘N’ Swap, the program has hosted 137 events, and in response to increased demand, GrowNYC plans to host one swap in each of the city’s 59 community districts every year. You can find out when and where upcoming swaps will take place at www.grownyc.org/swap; organizers are currently planning swaps for May, June and beyond, with 3 to 4 swaps per month taking place throughout the five boroughs.

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photo: GrowNYC

Why Wait?
If the idea of a Stop ‘N’ Swap makes you giddy and you’d like to help make one happen, GrowNYC wants to hear from you and help make it happen. Organizers look for a large, indoor, and ideally handicapped-accessible space that can hold at least 100 people at any one time, plus room for about 15-20 tables for sorting and setting items out. They provide staff, volunteers, and all the materials needed. (All they really need from a host is someone to let us in the space, though of course any level of involvement is appreciated.)

GrowNYC also encourages residents to organize their own community swaps, and recommends starting off small with a book or clothing swap, and then scaling up from there. If you have questions about hosting your own mini swap, they”re happy to be a resources with answers and suggestions.

Have you attended a GrowNYC Stop ‘N’ Swap? If so, tell us about your experience in the comments!

—Mimi O’Connor