Borrow don’t buy

Library of Things (Dalston)
To put it simply, a linear economy that relies on the continuous flow of raw materials is a significant problem, given the widely reported environmental disadvantages and resource scarcity. At the same time, purchasing ‘bigger ticket’ items that are used infrequently is very inefficient and expensive and only compounds the issue.

The concept of the ‘sharing economy’ has been around for decades and has gained a lot more interest with our increased awareness about reducing our carbon footprint and the depletion of natural resources.
Buying services is part of this sharing economy and if you’ve used an accommodation-sharing platform like Airbnb or a ride-sharing company like Uber or a parking-sharing app like JustPark, then you’re already part of it.

As paying for services expands to new areas, people are inevitably rethinking about the need to own products. Today, we own a lot of goods with short life spans and low usage rates. As things change, it will be the other way around – we will own fewer goods, but the goods will have long life spans and high usage rates.

Instead of owning goods, there will be more opportunities for sharing products. This may seem like an odd concept, but it’s merely another aspect to the sharing economy. Product share libraries exist up and down the country, and at some locations members offer their product skills and knowledge too. For example, as well as borrowing tools to use at home, members of the Edinburgh Tool Library can access dedicated workshop spaces several times a week, attend training classes and learn skills while making something for another community organisation.

The Library of Things lends an even wider array of equipment to its members, from sewing machines and steam cleaners to pasta makers and hedge trimmers. Its network of 11 locations across London is growing as more people turn to borrowing instead of buying – cutting down on clutter, reducing waste and doing things more cheaply.

Are you running or thinking of running a sharing library to make it more affordable for people to use a wide range of products when needed? Options for funding during the early stage before a product share library becomes self-funding include grants, match-funding from social investment institutions and crowdfunding. The Scottish Government is to help fund a new national network of community sharing libraries and repair cafes as part of a drive to reduce consumption and cut waste; potential funding for sharing libraries is also available in Wales through NRW and WCVA.
Library of Things, Dalston Library of Things, Dalston
Start something new…

If your local area would benefit from a product share library, then visit the relevant network for help in starting one. Turn to the Share And Repair Network in Scotland, Benthyg Cymru in Wales, or the UK Sharing Network if you are based in England or Northern Ireland. Another great resource is the National Tool Library Group on Google Groups where over 1,000 tool librarians exchange advice.

Inspired by doing more with less? Check out lots of great circular economy initiatives.

… or join an existing community project:

That font of sustainable knowledge, Ethical Consumer magazine, has produced a list of all tool lending libraries around the UK. Community projects like these are always looking for more volunteers to help to run them.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert in sustainability: a whole range of skills is needed to guarantee the success of projects like these and it’ll also be possible to learn as you go.

Other related community actions: Use less plastic, Repair instead of recycle, Slow down fast fashion

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