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How to Plan a Swap Meet

Swap meets are more than just large-scale, multi-family yard sales or flea markets. While drawing friends and neighbors together for shopping and socializing, they also send a great green message. What better way to implement the three R's -Reduce your carbon footprint by Recycling and Reusing your stuff. And to make your swap meet even greener, you can donate all of the profits - or a designated percentage - to a great green cause.

Despite the name, most swap meets are not just exchanges of goods - usually money changes hands. There are basically two ways to earn the money for your green cause. You can charge the vendors who bring their own goods an entry fee (and possibly a percentage of sales). Or you can get everybody in the neighborhood to donate quality items, get your volunteers to organize and price them in advance, and sell them on the day of the event - with all the profits going to your green cause.

Green Hands USA can help you organize a swap meet in your neighborhood that can build community, help the environment, and even bolster the local economy! There are 7 EASY steps to putting together a Swap Meet. And we at Green Hands USA are going to help you through the process - so yours is a success!

Simple Steps to Launch Your Swap Meet

Step 1. Set the date and time

You can make your swap meet a one-time occasion. Or, even better, you can turn it into a regularly scheduled event, which is great if you want your swap meet to gain momentum and recognition within your community. Pick a date that is convenient and easy to remember - like the first Saturday of the month -- so people can build it into their monthly calendar. Most swap meets start in the morning and run through the afternoon.

Step 2. Pick a spot

The best places to look into are school playgrounds or gyms (in case it rains), large parking lots, and local parks. Make sure you get permission to use whatever location you've selected well in advance. Establishing a good relationship with the owner/manager of your location is very important, especially if you want your swap meet to be a recurring event. If the location you've selected is a public place, you may need a permit. Check with your local government (here's a handy local government tracker).

Step 3. Recruit vendors and volunteers

You're going to need merchandise to sell, volunteers to help you organize it all - and buyers. We're going to help you through each stage.

Find Volunteers

Green Hands USA can also help you find the volunteers and buyers you need to make the Swap Meet a success. We have an easy-to-use system to help you.

  • Fill in the details about your Swap Meet on the submit event form

  • Once approved, your event will be featured on the Green Hands USA web site for all to see - and sign up for!

  • Once you post your event, Green Hands will email the details of your event to everyone who has signed up on the GH site asking to hear about events near them -- so they can lend their hands to make your project a success.

  • Don't forget to email all your friends and family too - and remind them to sign up for your event at GH, too --so they'll get the email updates you send out through the streamlined GH system.

Get Merchandise and Vendors

Now you need merchandise to sell.

  • Ask local businesses, especially those that deal in thrift/vintage/recycled goods, if they'd be interested in reserving a table at the meet.

  • Ask residents who often have garage, yard or sidewalk sales, if they want to be a vendor or would like to donate goods.

  • Talk to local restaurants, delis and eateries about setting up stands to peddle their culinary wares -- shopping makes people hungry!

  • Remind vendors to bring their own tables to display their merchandise.

  • If you don't use vendors, but decide to have individuals in the local community donate goods for sale, you'll need lots of help to manage the merchandise from volunteers.

Step 4. Invite Green Organizations to Join In

Sure, swap meets are inherently green in that they encourage the three R's of green living - reduce, reuse and recycle. But why not take the green element to the next level? Invite local, green-oriented community organizations, (that promote recycling, nature preservation, etc.) to reserve a spot at your swap meet to spread the good, green word.

As your swap meet grows in popularity over time, these green organizations may help you publicize the event and find local sponsorship.


Step 5. Get Publicity to find Buyers - Here Are the Tools You'll Need

Ultimately, the success of your swap meet depends on how well you get the word out. Here, too, Green Hands USA will help you. In addition to publicizing the event on the web site, we'll give you additional tools: press releases, fliers, email attachments.

  • PRESS RELEASE: Just customize the Press Release template and send it to local newspapers, magazines, radio stations, web sites.

  • FLIERS: Customize the template flier and post them all over your neighborhood: in local businesses, supermarkets and delis as well as on the bulletin boards of schools, parks, religious institutions and groups like the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the YMCA, etc. Make sure to put on the flier that kids under 18 must be accompanied by an adult.

  • EMAIL ATTACHMENT: To make the flier even greener - saving paper, ink and a piece of the planet -just fill out the flier template with your details and send it as an email attachment to people and organizations you want to reach.

Step 6: Get Supplies

Here's what you'll need:

  • Sign-up Sheet and a clipboard -- -- This is important in case of emergencies. And it is also useful so everyone can be notified about future swap meets - make sure you ask for names, addresses AND especially email addresses.

  • Folding tables and blankets -- If you are using vendors, then you can ask them to bring their own. But if you are asking individuals to donate goods for sale, you'll need to ask your volunteers to bring tables to display the merchandise - and blankets to lay out larger items.

  • Price stickers -- Again, if you are not using vendors, your volunteers will have to set the prices of the goods and attach small price labels on the merchandise.

Step 7: You're Almost Done-- Checklist for the Day of the Event

Here's a brief checklist of what you'll need to do on the day of your swap meet:

  • Sign-up: Have a sign-up sheet at the entrance(s) - with names and email addresses - so everyone can be notified about future events.

  • Map: At the entrance, also display a big map of the locations of all the vendors, booths, and tables that are participating.

  • Garbage and recycling: Set up garbage receptacles throughout the area (opt for recycled garbage bags, if possible!).

  • Water: Supply cool water and recyclable cups, especially if your event is scheduled in hot weather.

  • First-aid: Keep a first-aid kit on hand.

  • Bathrooms: Post signs for the locations of bathrooms - so people can take a break - and come back and shop.

  • Set Prices: If you are not using vendors, your volunteers will have to display the goods on tables and blankets, set the prices of the goods and attach small price labels on the merchandise - be prepared to bargain..

  • Have fun! Celebrate with your volunteers afterwards.

 You did it! We hope you recycled more items from your closets and attics than you were tempted to bring home. If not, you're ready to make a donation to the next swap meet. Start organizing -- we'll help you!



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