Waste Reduction Week - The Power of Sharing to Reduce Waste


(Bettina) #1

At the Ottawa Tool Library, it’s no surprise that we’re huge proponents of waste reduction and see it as part of our core mission. As the name suggests, we’re a tool lending library in Ottawa. We provide access to tools and skills for our members. We also host Repair Cafés, community demo nights, workshops, and other events to share expertise and empower our community.

We understand that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged about our collective environmental impact, or be unsure of how to promote change. We’re very proud to be featured with a variety of friends from various other great community organizations about how we each work to divert waste; in the case of the OTL, we share, repair, and swap.


As a library, our fundamental aim is to promote sharing. Our inventory of over 2,000 tools means that a drill, ladder, wheelbarrow, table saw, or air compressor — each that would otherwise see its average lifetime household use in minutes or hours — can be effectively shared between dozens of people over its lifetime. This means that we collectively require (and produce!) far fewer tools, ultimately generating less waste in their production and eventual disposal. Our inventory is also entirely comprised of donated tools, which were once themselves relegated to attics, basements, and garages. When we do create waste, we’re careful to divert that too. Since 2015, we’ve disassembled and recycled unserviceable tools, and have recycled 2,822 pounds of steel, aluminum and copper to keep them out of landfill.


Through our series of Repair Cafés, funded with a generous OTF grant, we were able to run four events that repaired over 220 household goods, such as appliances, clothing, electronics, bikes, and toys, sharing not only our tools but also time and expertise of our generous volunteers. Most items were destined for landfill, but got a second life and further use thanks to our volunteer fixers. During these events, participants get to observe their own and other fixes, ask questions, and learn how to fix broken items. While many consumer goods are no longer made to last, it’s still possible to foster a culture of repair and teach our neighbours how to extend the life of their favourite jacket or coffee maker, sharpen their knives, and fix up a bike. We also host Learn to Mend events to repair textiles, and we repair and refurbish surplus tools for our inventory or resale.

Repair Cafés originated in the Netherlands, and are now an international movement. Participants attend for free, and volunteers fix broken items to give them new life. The OTL hosted a series of such events with support from the OTF.


As part of our Learn to Mend series, we have hosted a clothing swap for participants and the mended items. We also hosted a swap for Synapcity’s 100 in 1 Day Ottawa event with plants, appliances, clothing, and other household goods. Sometimes items are no longer your style; swaps mean that you also get something new to you without spending money or buying new. Whatever isn’t selected is delivered to local charities, making a difference in our community.

100 in 1 Day originated in Bogotá as an effort to host 100 community-focused interventions in one day in a given city. In Canada, it is coordinated by Future Cities Canada, and here in Ottawa it is run by our friends at Synapcity.

These aren’t the only ways we work to reduce waste at the OTL. A kind donation of over 30 camping plates and mugs have meant that we’re able to host our many events without using disposable plates and cups. Even our merchandise includes a tote bag and reusable water bottle to promote reuse and avoid disposable alternatives. Our tools are also used to build micro-libraries in our community and by other community groups like our good friends at Hidden Harvest Ottawa.

Hopefully the efforts above illustrate that we see sustainability and waste diversion as a core component of our mission, and it is truly woven throughout our organization and activities.

  • How does your organization help to promote sharing, repair, reuse or recycling?
  • Do you have any ideas for how we can further divert waste?
  • Would you like to know any details from our efforts above?

Let us know in the comments!

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(Thea Silver) #2

Thanks @bettina for the great info! I’m really fortunate that my husband is an awesome fix-it guy - if it’s repairable in our house, it gets repaired!! Amazon has been amazing for that, as sometimes there’s an obscure part that needs replacing and he can somehow find it on Amazon!

Your post gets me thinking about our office - and maybe there’s a way to start a little office swap-share-repair club - even setting up a webpage on our office intranet could get this started. Something I’m definitely going to look into.

For those wanting some additional information on swap/share/repair - check out the resources through Waste Reduction Week in Canada.

(Bettina) #3

You’re right, @TSilver! Not just on Amazon, but sites like eBay or Kijiji too, as well as sometimes from manufacturer (often useful for tool parts). If you can’t find a part, you sometimes another broken device for sale. There are also sites like Instructables and YouTube which are super helpful if you don’t know how to repair or even open/disassemble a particular item or device (which isn’t always so obvious).