Earth Day Brings a Swap Meet

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A new UW Tacoma tradition may have started this Earth Day as students, faculty and staff launched a community-driven goods exchange rooted in an age-old tradition: the swap meet.

The array of items at UW Tacoma's first annual Earth Day Swap Meet included clothing, books, household items and toys.Some were looking to get rid of a book. Others a raincoat or a blender. UW Tacoma hosted a swap meet on Earth Day, April 22nd to give everyday items new life.

UW Tacoma Senior Lecturer Evelyn Shankus came up with the idea after she saw a small stack of office supplies in the hallway of the Dougan building. Staff at the Milgard School of  Business were cleaning out their supply closet, and cast-offs were available for anyone who wanted them. Rushing down to her class, Shankus announced that there were free items on the third floor and students could take the first 10 minutes of class to pick out what they needed. “I was shocked when about half of the class stayed behind,” said Shankus. “I asked them ‘did you not hear me say FREE stuff upstairs?’ Many of the students commented that they had too much stuff, or needed to work on actually getting rid of a few things.”

That experience got Shankus thinking. “Maybe we should have a swap meet in our class; then, maybe the whole business program should have a swap meet; but why stop there – let’s get the whole campus involved,” she said.

The swap meet was open to clothes, household items, toys, books and furniture. “If something can be used, and not thrown away, that’s great!” said Shankus.“It just makes sense to share and provide for each other-- it keeps items out of landfills, opens up space in closets, and saves people money.”

The swap meet was open to all students, faculty and staff. Shankus and 27 student volunteers set up tables and signs in the West Coast Grocery atrium to show where to drop off and pick up items. The occasion was more like an event than just a meet. There were raffles, a presentation from Puget Sound Energy, and a “Bright Idea” booth from Peninsula Light that encouraged participants to brainstorm an idea about conservation in exchange for an energy-saving light bulb.

There was no charge to participate and everything was free, with one exception. “I decided to have one table area set up for folks that want to buy, sell, or trade items that may be of more value than they are willing to donate,” said Shankus. “I understand that there are some that would like to earn some money back on their personal items, but I anticipated this would only be a small portion of the event.”

At the end of the day, leftover items were donated to the Northwest Furniture Bank and Goodwill. “It is my hope and desire to make this an annual event at the UW Tacoma campus to celebrate Earth Day,” said Shankus.

Written by: 
Catarina Terrill / April 22, 2019
Photos by: 
Alex Volkman
Media contact: 

John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or