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To Shop Green or Share Everything: is that the Question?

Posted by on Sep 11, 2017 in Tool Blog |

  Whether coming at it from a social justice perspective, an environmental angle, or in wanting to support local resilience and innovation, there is a loud discussion occurring about how to best go about consuming and using the goods and services that we do. Two approaches come to mind: “green consumerism” and “sharing economies”, both of which have been touted as being better for people and the planet.   In their own ways, each can contribute to a healthier economy, though it’s important to acknowledge the misconceptions and gaps that accompany each one. The Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot are often asked about the difference, and under which umbrella we consider ourselves. While we don’t disagree with making conscious decisions in what we do buy, what we are really looking to support is the vibrant movement towards buying less, and better sharing the wealth and resources that we already have.     Having this green consumption vs. sharing economy debate ought to start by clarifying some terms. For the purpose of this article, we look to the good ol’ Oxford Dictionary to define green consumerism as the “practice of purchasing products which are regarded as environmentally responsible”. We might expand this to also acknowledge just how intricate this process actually is, and how the process in itself is largely dependent on the amount of information made publicly available about a company’s sourcing, production and labour practices.   You Can’t Have Your Green Cake and Eat It Too   Green consumerism can be a powerful tool for market change. For one thing, it indicates to corporations, producers and vendors that there is a demand for “ethical” products and services. That demand is rising, particularly amongst Millennials. In a way, green consumerism plays a small role in challenging neoliberal economic assumptions by proving that homo economicus is driven by much more than simply the best price. Consumers are shaped by a little thing called “values” or “ethics”, the recognition of which injects a glimpse of individual choice and, well, humanity into the equation.   However, green consumerism is not without its controversies and this begins in some of its contradictions. Awareness of the ethical consumer as distinct from the price-driven consumer has been capitalized on through marketing and brand loyalty. While Chevron’s infamous 1980s “People Do” commercial stands out as the exaggerated epitome of greenwash marketing, there are more subtle forms, including eco-labeling which has created a crisis in consumer trust. With so many labels and buzzwords out there, it’s tough for a consumer to know what has really been “ethically” produced, let alone recognize that it is not a one size fits all process – what is designated organic does not necessarily mean it was farmed with ecological practices, produced with fair labour, or traveled fewer food miles.    ...

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The Future of Clothing: it’s Time to Wear Different

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Tool Blog |

* With the dawn of the industrial revolution, we began to see the rise of automation and large businesses. As people moved from small towns to big cities, large corporations replaced small merchants, and local markets gave way to national distributors. This was the beginning of the shift away from collaborative consumption and towards mass consumerism, the very life blood of our current economic system.   As a society, we have been trained to want to buy. This is a result of large businesses controlling what we think while being incentivized to continually grow the bottom line. The only issue is that infinite growth with the wrong incentives cannot work on a finite planet.   The sharing economy is reviving collaborative consumption and reimaging peer-to-peer-based activity. It is about sharing what we own and enjoying access to commonly owned goods. It is about understanding what we need, not impulsing on what we want.   Many of the companies that participate in the sharing economy have us engaging in behaviors that were previously unthinkable. We are getting into strangers’ cars (Uber), welcoming them into our spare rooms (Airbnb), dropping our dogs off at their homes (DogVacay), and eating food in their dining rooms (Feastly).   This raises the question, what if everyone could instantly have access to quality garments so they do not have to purchase them? What if the garments they had access to were not from businesses but from their community? How might this change our concept of ownership in an industry that prides itself on always having something “new”?   From these questions, Boro was born.   The Boro Concept   Boro was founded with a lofty objective: to offer quality garments at an accessible price, to pursue accessibility over ownership, and to lead the way for socially conscious retail businesses.   Boro is a trusted community marketplace for women to list, discover, and borrow clothing from the stylish closets of Toronto.     No more having to spend hundreds of dollars for a quality garment you will only wear once. All of our pieces come from women in Toronto. They spent hundreds of dollars on it for an event, wore it once, then stuffed it in the back of their closet. Boro brings life back to these designer pieces while making our lenders money and our customers look amazing, save money, and reduce waste.   If you were to Boro (rent) a garment for a 4 or 10-day period, we deliver it to whichever location is most convenient for you. At the end of the rental period, we pick it up and handle the cleaning. All you have to worry about is looking amazing. If you are concerned...

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There’s An Elephant In The Mall But We Keep Shopping Anyway

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Tool Blog |

Yesterday was Earth Overshoot Day – the day that marks the moment when humans of Earth have consumed more natural resources than the planet can renew throughout the whole of the year, representing our ecological debt. A shocking thought: From January 1 to August 2, the earth’s 7.5 billion people will have used as much of Earth’s biological resources—or biocapacity—as the planet can regenerate in a year. During the remaining five months of 2017, our human consumption will be drawing down Earth’s reserves of fresh water, fertile soils, forests, and fisheries, and depleting its ability to regenerate these resources as well as sequester excess carbon released into the atmosphere. (source) In 2016, Earth Overshoot Day landed on August 8th, the year before it was August 13th and if we go back in time to the year 2,000, it was pinpointed in October. There’s a trend emerging here.   But let’s back it up for a second.   Just last month two scientists released research detailing the most effective personal choices to reduce your contribution to climate change. All this time – the media marvelled – Governments and schools have been focusing on the wrong things. All we need to do is stop making babies and start walking everywhere and we’re golden, right? But left out of this neoliberal crusade that places the weight on individual choices was mass consumerism, the very life blood of our current economic system. Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock all your life, you know the current modus operandi on this planet involves infinite growth. Progress is measured in monetary terms, with an emphasis on endless increases in GDP (Gross Domestic Product) with little to no consideration of the real-life conditions of people and the environment they depend on. This – the economists preach – is how Capitalism will lift the world out of poverty and offer salvation to all those currently scraping the bottom of the barrel. What our consumerist model of life promotes is infinite growth on a finite planet (finite in the terms of earth Overshoot Day – yes depleted resources regenerate, but the earth needs a certain amount of time to regenerate after they have been extracted).   And so we arrive where we are – on August 2nd, Earth Overshoot Day 2017.    I spend a large amount of time on Reddit. Between /r/BeAmazed and /r/WoahDude many hours are consumed. But it was a mind blowing comment of a different nature that I read today that lay a finger directly on the pulse of what was missing from that groundbreaking research mentioned above. Reddit user/pk666 named the elephant taking up space in our Western living rooms, closets and storage units: The elephant in the room is consumption. A family with...

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Marine Biologist Launches Boomerang Bags In Toronto To Fight Plastic Waste

Posted by on Aug 1, 2017 in Tool Blog |

  Canadian born, Australian infused. I was a natural explorer, travelling from a very early age. Always captivated by the ocean; it provides me with comfort and ease, yet can leave me feeling intimidated. It was in my final year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, where I was first introduced to the possibility of a career in the marine field. I completed my honours thesis in Barbados, floating in the Bajan ocean, observing tropical fish and corals and collecting endless data. This was it, I found my calling. After graduating I packed my life in a bag, and travelled across the globe to Australia. I found myself gravitating towards a little island on the Great Barrier Reef, where I worked and lived as a Marine biologist. I spent my days sharing my love of the marine system to travellers from around the globe and my nights working with nesting sea turtles. My goal was to have every guest leave with more knowledge than they came with and provide significant reasons to protect and cherish not only this precious spot, on the Great Barrier Reef, but our planet in general.     Throughout the few years I worked on the reef, I sadly witnessed the changes occurring from climate change and environmental pollution – especially plastics.   I began to realize that no matter how much personal effort I put in to saving each turtle, if our behaviours as humans didn’t change nor would any of the issues. On my off seasons, away from turtle conservation work, I worked alongside many conservation campaigns and environmental programs. Boomerang Bags stood out and resonated with me strongly. Not only was it combating a plastic pollution issues from two sides, diverting landfill materials to create an alternative to plastic shopping bags, it was building communities and spreading the message – that we need to actively participate as individuals to make effective change. When I returned to Toronto, last year, I witnessed a plastic bag floating around every single day. It would happen in slow motion, taunting me.   I got the picture, and realized that these issues are global and we’re all connected, just like our water ways.   So here I am, calling out to the people of Toronto. Let’s build the Boomerang Bag TO community. Let’s join forces, let’s combat our environmental issues, let’s say NO! to single use plastics and let’s make some reusable bags while doing it!   Boomerang Bags Toronto takes second hand materials and upcycles them into reusable bags that can be passed around the community. See someone in line without a reusable bag? Hand them a Boomerang Bag and tell them to pass it...

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We Need To Talk About Inequality

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Tool Blog |

At the beginning of this month, The Guardian published a thought-provoking piece titled Is Inequality Bad For The Environment? That inequality has devastating effects on everything from life expectancy to happiness to mental illness to levels of violence is a given – these are issues that have been discussed at length over the years. But as the debate around climate change heats up, perhaps now more than ever the environmental movement needs to turn the spotlight on what this article is highlighting – that the more unequal a society is, the more poorly it will perform across a wide range of environmental measures. More equal societies consume less, produce less waste and emit less carbon.   Status Anxiety & Consumption As an organization that is asking people to borrow the stuff they need rather than consume things on an individual basis (through the Tool Library and Sharing Depot), what stands out for us here is the effect inequality has on consumption. Places that experience high levels of inequality also experience more consumption of cheaply made products that inevitably end up in landfills: “In more unequal societies, there is a proliferation of products that are designed not to last, so as to allow greater profits to be made. Producing endless must-have new versions exploits the higher levels of emotional insecurity that living with great inequality generates.” (The Guardian). Greater inequality is the key to increasing the cultural pressure to consume. The church of infinite economic growth disseminates its sermons through an endless stream of advertising designed to manipulate the most fundamental aspect of our nature: we are social creatures. We pray at the alter of consumption not because we necessarily need or even want more stuff, but because in “economically unequal countries the pressure to buy items to keep up with your peers, with ‘people who count’, is enormous” (The Guardian). This is especially the case with status symbols: clothing, technology, cars. It comes as no surprise then that more unequal societies spend a higher proportion of their Gross Domestic Product on advertising (The Spirit Level, p. 228). Keep up with the Kardashians or risk your own obsolescence.   Buying Ourselves Away From Each Other The Spirit Level, a book from 2009 that compiles extensive research on why equality is better for everyone, also touches on the link between perpetuating status anxiety and the desire to consume. The authors bring up a number of interesting studies that reveal our propensity towards consumerism is less a fundamental human material need driven by self-interest and more a reflection of how deeply social we are, using possessions to make ourselves look good in the eyes of our peers. Importantly, they also point to the correlation between high levels of consumerism and the weakening of community life. In societies with...

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Going Zero Waste – A Guide For Toronto

Posted by on Jul 2, 2017 in Slider Home Posts, Tool Blog |

Following Bulk Barn’s recent announcement last week that they will now be making their reusable container program company policy across all locations (YAAS!), it seems the zero waste train in Canada is more than ready to leave the station. There are even rumours that Toronto will (finally) be getting the zero waste grocery store we’ve all been dreaming about for years (I mean come on Toronto, Montreal already has zero waste grocery stores and so does Vancouver). The zero waste movement is the answer we’ve been looking for in Canada for our serious (and embarrassing) waste problem. For those of you considering putting your garbage can on a diet and jumping aboard that zero waste train, here’s a handy list from someone who has been easing her way into a zero waste lifestyle (slowly) for a few years now. These are 11 things I recommend for those first staring out:   1) Don’t Start With A Jar Challenge  The zero waste movement was really launched into the mainstream a few years back with several flashy stories about bloggers who were taking the ‘jar challenge’ – they would only make enough trash to fill a single mason jar over the course of a year (Lauren Singer of Trash Is For Tossers can now boast TWO years of trash in a single jar). I considered starting my zero waste journey like this, but began having panic attacks and feared I would fill the jar only with tears of failure if I tried this now. After speaking with several Toronto bloggers, it seems the main barrier for starting a zero waste journey is the sense that it will be difficult. If this is how you feel, my advice is to find a place from which to launch and take baby steps. My launching place was the birth of my daughter 3 years ago. I made the conscious choice to use cloth diapers, which I purchased second hand on Kijiji. Pick one for yourself and see where it takes you.   2) Remember ‘The Five PillaRs’ Every movement needs a mantra and zero wasters are no exception to this rule. Pare Down, the Toronto-based family blazing the zero waste trail in this city, recommends keeping these five Rs close to your heart – and I agree. These will help keep you on track as you start transitioning your way into a zero waste lifestyle: The Five PillaRs Refuse what you do not need. Reduce what you do need. Reuse everything you can. Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse. Rot the rest.   3) Never Leave The House Unprepared In the beginning, I found a lot of my slip ups happened because I was not prepared – I would forget my reusable bag, my glass jars, my coffee cup. Now when...

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