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I’ll Swap You – It’s Good for the Environment – West Side Rag

Sandy Busken. Photographs by MotePhotoaux/Rachel Montelone.

By Sara Lewin Lebwohl

Upper West Sider Sandy Busken has always been passionate about the environment. When she moved to New York City from the Midwest in 2010 to pursue dance, she formed a group for swapping clothing with other women in her industry. Every time she hosted a swap, the group grew larger. Instead of limiting the number of participants, she decided to expand the idea.

It started small…

During COVID, Busken created the concept of popupswapX. The 68th Street Block Association helped her get a location and a permit to host a large gathering in front of the First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 68th and Central Park West, where people could bring and take items. The concept took off and she is now hosting popupswapX on the last Sunday of the month at Open Streets, sponsored by the Columbus Avenue BID. All types of items are welcome, including clothing, household goods, and art.

…and it grew!

“At its heart, the swap is meant to save things from the landfill, which is great for the environment. Also, there are always people who will be so happy to use your items,” Busken said.

On the last Sunday of July, popupswapX saved 4,110 pounds from the landfill! How does she know the amount? The bags of donated items are weighed before being put out on the table to give away. Things that are not picked up at the event are donated to a variety of local organizations, including libraries and free stores, or they are recycled.

“Every person, no matter where they come from or their background, should be excited to participate, because we all have so much to give,” Buskin said. “If we can make the circular economy convenient and accessible, then we can curb the consumerism that is filling up landfills.”

While Sandy spends a great deal of time collecting and redistributing items through her popupswapX program, she also takes on private clients and helps them make their homes sanctuaries.

“The physical noise of your space can impact you, subconsciously, and you don’t realize it. Sometimes we just need an energetic reset by using the things we already have,” Buskin said.

Buskin helps clients organize, always with an eco-conscious and low-to-no waste strategy.

Kat Suarez volunteers for popupswapX. After moving to the neighborhood in June, 2021, she sought and found a community of like-minded people looking to set up their new spaces without buying new things and creating waste. “I have a childhood friend who was a member of the Upper East Side Facebook ‘Buy Nothing Group.’ She told me about their mission and recommended I join the Upper West Side group. She helped me track it down on Facebook.” Through the Buy Nothing Group, Suarez found popupswapX.

A satisfied swapper.

“To me what was really amazing was to see not just the impact on me, but the community,” Suarez said. She watched as people came and went and asked a lot of questions. Despite the hundreds of free items being given away, no one was hogging or being pushy; there were ‘good vibes,’” she said. She observed one lady sitting close by, watching the event unfold, silently nodding in approval throughout the afternoon. Eventually she confided in Suarez that she wished her community in Florida would do a swap event.

The next popupswapX will take place on August 28th, from noon to 4 pm, at Columbus Ave between 70th and 72nd Streets. The website can be found here.

Check out the @popupswapX Instagram or Facebook for the final trash total after an event!

If you are an UWS business interested in supporting this initiative, please reach out to the Columbus Avenue BID here.

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