The public library is a fixture of any town and its role is to promote community literacy and provide everyone, regardless of their means, with access to books.
The Guelph Tool Library in the former Tytler Public School on Ontario Street fills a similar purpose by providing everyone, regardless of their means, access to tools for gardening, household maintenance, repairs, arts and crafts and more while promoting environmental sustainability.
“We have been here for about a year and we have been in existence for nearly three years,” said tool library coordinator, Susan Carey. “We are doing really well.”
They accept tool donations as well as provide programs and events to educate people about waste reduction, recycling and the environmental and social impact of consumer culture.
“We reached 400 members this month, which is really exciting and we have also exceeded 4,000 loans,” said Stephanie Clarke, Sustainability Initiatives Coordinator. “We have done that in under three years so we are really proud of that.”
In the fall of 2018 they were awarded an Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grant to support their Sustainability Series workshops.
Apart from operating the Tool Library, members organise events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Stuff Swap where people can swap clothes and other items and Repair Cafes, where the public are invited to bring in broken household appliances and other items to be repaired by volunteers.
Their most recent event was the Re Purpose Fest June 29.
“This is our first Re Purpose Fest,” said Carey. “It is the first time we held this specific project and it looks to me like it is pretty successful. There are lots of people here and lord knows we have a lot of stuff in our lives that needs to be re purposed.”
The festival included a barbecue, entertainment, workshops and an opportunity to recycle or re purpose more than 20 different items.
“The idea was to do an extension of the work we have been doing throughout the year on zero waste,” said John Dennis, tool library coordinator. “We are trying to recycle things that aren’t normally recycled. The idea being that there are many things we throw away but actually we could find another place for them to go or be used for something else.”
Items included blankets and towels for the Humane Society, art and school supplies, audio and video cassettes and scrap metal.
“We are doing scrap metal recycling, which is really for us to raise some money to help pay for the event today,” said Dennis.
Most of the books they collected went to prison inmates.
“We work with Wilma Alexander, an individual, who takes the books to five local jails,” said Dennis. “She has been doing it for about the last seven years and over that time has donated more than 16,000 books.”
They even found ways to repurpose old luggage and mascara wands.
“The suitcases are going to Toronto to ‘Not Just Tourists’ and they will fill them with donated medical supplies that people going on holidays to places like Haiti can take with them and find a clinic and donate,” said Carey. “We have ‘Project Wild Wands ‘where you can bring in a clean mascara wand and it gets donated to wildlife rehabs who will use it to brush little tiny birds and so on.
Among those helping with the Re Purpose Fest were David Bruce, Nancy Revie and Cindy Good from the Cooperators.
“The Cooperators is sponsoring a non-profit organisation that recycles children’s car seats,” said Bruce. “They have special needs people that take the car seats apart and chip up the plastic for recycling. The cloth, metal and the straps get recycled. It’s a great way to keep them out of the landfill sites.”
Recycling and repurposing things is the best way to reduce waste and events like the Re Purpose Fest are fun ways to get people thinking about ways to live more sustainably.
“We often buy things and use them once then throw them away when often it is easy to reuse them or find a new purpose for them,” said Dennis. “We know that the oceans are filling up with plastic, that we live in this world where we are constantly hearing this message to ‘buy, buy, buy’. We are hoping people will pause and take a moment to think, ‘Hey, I don’t need to purchase this. Is there a better way of doing this and maybe produce a little less garbage while I am doing it?' That is what we are hoping people take away from today.”
The Guelph Tool Library is looking for volunteers to help with their next big event the Zero Waste Festival, August 10 at the Victoria Road Recreation Centre.
The event is the first of its kind for Guelph and will include food trucks, a vendor fair featuring low-waste home and lifestyle products, a Repair Café, workshops, expert panel discussions and more.
For more information about the festival and the Guelph Tool Library visit the website.