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Share. Repair. Repurpose. An alternative to wasteful consumerism

Mamun, June 15, 2022

Borrowing instead of buying has an important part to play in building a circular economy. And it’s all about creating a desirable alternative to wasteful consumerism.

Let’s take a look at how the economy works right now

Our current economy generates value by producing and selling as many products as possible. This means that the goal of many businesses is to get us to buy the stuff we need. But when 80% of household items are used less than once a month, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us all to own every single item we need to use occasionally.

This level of consumption means we’re rapidly using up our planet’s natural resources to produce a load of stuff we don’t really need. And because things aren’t built to last, they end up in landfill once they break, or when we’re done using them. This model isn’t sustainable - for our environment, or our bank accounts.

But there’s a curvy, more sustainable alternative

Instead, the circular economy offers us a more sustainable alternative way to produce and access the things we need. One which works for people and the planet too.

It goes a step further than simply minimising the impact consumption has on our planet. Manufacturers are challenged to design out waste. The ability to repair stuff becomes the goal of good product design along with using sustainable or recycled materials to produce items. It also encourages manufacturers to consider how things can be repurposed or even used to enrich the natural ecosystem at the end of their life (like those beer can holders which break down and become food for sealife!)

The circular economy also wants to change us from ‘consumers’ to ‘users of products’,  by establishing more services which make it more convenient to share, repair and reuse items. This keeps things in use and out of landfill for longer.

When all these parts come together, it reduces the amount of resources we need to take from the earth because we’re producing  less, repairing and repurposing more,  less waste will eventually end up in landfill.

So where does Library of Things fit into the circular economy?

For us, the circular economy is about creating a desirable alternative to wasteful consumerism. We believe that to rethink the concept of consumerism, we need lots of people to come together to create an alternative that we’re all on board with. And that means asking the question: ‘how do we move from being passive consumers into active citizens?’ There are a few ways we’re working with others to do this.

1. Making it easier to borrow rather than buy

Borrowing household items - particularly the stuff you don’t need to use everyday -  is an important part of moving towards a circular economy. We’re doing this by making it easy and affordable for you to rent, rather than buy, high-quality things like drills, carpet cleaners, tents and pasta makers from local spaces like libraries. If you live outside of London, check out some of our friends who also run their own local lending libraries in Oxford, Totnes and Cardiff too.

We’re one part of a growing movement of platforms and services that are there to help us as individuals and communities to share more. From Olio who are helping us to share food, to Whirli who are sharing kids toys, or Thrift+ to buy second hand clothes.

2. Helping communities learn skills like repair to help things live longer

Library of Things started as part of a local movement in South London, where hundreds of people came together to create things like community kitchens, gardens, and to make and mend stuff.

It’s projects like these which create space for us to find meaning, purpose and belonging beyond just buying and owning more stuff. In Crystal Palace, borrowers and neighbours joined up at our mending meet-ups and repair parties which we ran with our friends The Restart Project to share practical skills like sewing and repair. We saw how coming together helped people learn new skills and make new friends.

Repair and reuse plays an important part in transitioning to a circular economy and supporting people to learn these skills or access these services is an important part of our mission. In fact, 60% of borrowers tell us that they are more likely to go on and recycle and repair more having borrowed from Library of Things. Pretty cool right?

3. Working together to make the change we need to see

Partnership is at the heart of how Library of Things works - it’s essential if we’re going to see the scale of change that is required to move to a circular economy. And for us, this starts in our communities. We partner with community groups, organisations and local authorities who are investing in the projects, businesses and spaces that we need to transform our high streets into places that support sharing, repair, learning and community.

We also work in partnership with the manufacturers who supply our things - like Bosh, STIHL and Karcher. By borrowing rather than buying, you’re showing that there is demand for a more sustainable, affordable means of accessing the items that you need than buying. Our Thing Technicians also share information about issues and repairs with the manufacturers which helps inform better product design and development.

What we’re working on next

We want to support people across the country to come together to create local borrowing movements in their own communities because together, we can have a great impact. This year we’re helping London to get sharing and thinking about how we can share our learning, technology and skills to help others get started with a Library of Things in their community in the captial and beyond.

Ready to give borrowing a try?

We're almost ready to open our 9th and 10th locations in Hammersmith and Sutton. Find your nearest borrowing kiosk from the menu above and browse our Things to see what might come in useful for you.

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