Swap-meet season

Welcome to one of my favorite times of year in Ashland: swap-meet season.

Southern Oregon University's Ski Swap is this weekend and Ashland's Abundance Swap is Dec. 12.

I can hardly wait.

I love swap meets, and not just because I love the word swap.

I grew up going to swap meets near Los Angeles with my grandfather. He'd load my brothers and me in his pickup and we'd go peruse the rows of fantastically weird stuff.

A whole table of obscure action figures from the '80s? It was there.

A booth filled entirely with handmade leather fanny packs? Yep.

A section where you can get your alias stamped onto a belt? No problem.

It was all at the swap meet. The aisles were filled with everything you never thought anyone would want again. And guess what? People wanted it.

In fact, there are probably still people pining for a tiny, plastic Sonic the Hedgehog or a leather fanny pack.

As a kid, going to swap meets was great.

And, as an adult, it's still great.

My brothers and I have been known to hit up swap meets while visiting the southland and at least two of us may have acquired stamped belts.

One of my brothers, who still lives in Southern California, gave me this list of things he's picked up in recent years at swap meets: huaraches (Mexican sandals), a rusty bike, Mexican candy, off-brand baseball caps, socks, owl-shaped trinkets and a fruit bowl.

Although many vendors want money for their wares, they're often also willing to barter or swap.

Cutting yourself a deal also can mean cutting the environment some slack. If we swap for things we need, we consume less.

I've long thought that if everyone was able to share extra things, we'd need to produce a fraction of what we do now. According to Abundance Swap organizers, the United States accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, but uses as much as 50 percent of the resources on the planet.

It doesn't have to stay that way.

Reducing consumerism may seem like a daunting task, but it starts with each person deciding to buy less new stuff.

Swap-meet season is a perfect time to try this out.

"For some of us it may also be a stretching exercise — a chance to let go of stuff, or let go of worries that we might not get back 'our fair share,' or more fully let go of commercially-planted ideas that it's not a real gift if it's not shiny and new from the store," the Abundance Swap's website states.

SOU's Ski Swap will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at McNeal Pavilion, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd. People can drop off snow gear to be sold from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Friday. There is a $1 fee to sell gear. For more information, send an e-mail to greenz@sou.edu.

The ninth annual Abundance Swap is designed to offer an alternative to holiday shopping. People are invited to bring between three and five items from their homes that would make good gifts. The items don't have to be expensive, but they should be well-made, organizers said.

The free event will be from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St. For more information, see www.abundanceswap.org.

I love swap meets so much I'm holding my own swap meet, right here in this column. Send me some of your words, and I'll send you some of mine.

And, remember, with swap meets, the general rule is the weirder, the better.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456, ext. 226, or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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