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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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Saying Farewell to a Giant: Reflecting on Jacque Fresco

Posted by on May 26, 2017 in Tool Blog |

  Jacque Fresco – American futurist and self-described social engineer – was an important inspiration to many of us involved in the Toronto Tool Library (he once visited us at our first communal living house in Toronto just prior to launching the tool library). On May 18th 2017, Jacque passed away at the age of 101.     Jacque was well known for his work with the Venus Project in Florida, his home and research centre for the exploration of how one might go about designing and engineering a world that no longer relies on money as a medium of exchange. According to this train of thought, many of the social ills of our time – poverty, hunger, war, environmental destruction, greed, selfishness, etc – are actually built right into the nature of our current economic model. Inequality, injustice and the unfair distribution of resources are symptoms of the current operating system on our planet and so long as we continue to treat the symptoms, the disease that causes them will remain. A system which pits human against human to fight over what are supposedly scarce resources brings out the worst in human nature.     What if we could design a world that brought out the best in human nature? What if we finally acknowledged that resources are not scarce – there really is enough to go around – and began building a world that reflected this reality? What if we began making things to last rather than to break down just so a corporation can turn the highest profit? What would the world look like if we were raised to collaborate with one another, rather than competing for grades, houses and top spots at the board room table? What if equality and human rights were built into the very fabric of existence?     Jacque’s book The Best That Money Can’t Buy, as well as his ideas about shifting the world towards a Resource-Based Economic model, were important inspirations for us when we decided to launch the first tool lending library in Toronto (the non-profit behind the Toronto Tool Library is called an Institute For A Resource-Based Economy). We were introduced to Jacque’s work via the Zeitgeist Film Series – most notably Zeitgeist Moving Forward – and wanted to find a concrete and useful way to communicate some of these ideas with people without hitting them over the head with them. What better way to help people understand the notion that things we need can (and perhaps a better word is should) be detached from money than through a resource sharing library? We are already so familiar with the concept of sharing books, why not extend it to...

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Tool Libraries: Spirit of a Global Movement

Posted by on May 25, 2017 in Slider Home Posts, Tool Blog |

DIY and repurposing culture has exploded in recent years, fuelled by open-source websites such as Intructables and Thingiverse where people share knowledge and how-to guides on how to make everything – from crafting your own bunk bed (this one was made by one of our members!) to making a wallet out of a juice carton to 3D Printing your own fidget spinner. Online marketplaces such as Etsy and Instagram have even allowed some makers and crafters to take their DIY to the next level, fully supporting themselves on the income they generate from things they make. Tool Libraries are a rapidly emerging and important branch of this DIY culture, enabling folks who could not otherwise afford the expensive tools needed for these projects to access them at a low cost annual membership fee. Unsurprisingly, tool library locations are popping up across the globe – particularly here in North America. Opening its doors in 1979, the Berkley Tool Library has been a leader in this movement with the Bay Area now boasting over five different locations. In 2011, the Vancouver Tool Library sparked the trend in Canada, with the Toronto Tool Library fanning the flames shortly after by launching in 2013 and since expanding into four locations, some including additional resources such as Maker Spaces, Sharing Depots and Repair Cafes. After Toronto’s launch, the idea spread like wildfire: there are now tool libraries in Victoria, Calgary, Sudbury, Hamilton, Ottawa, and Halifax, just to name a few. The movement has become so popular that from June 9-11th, The Toronto Tool Library will be hosting lending libraries from all over the world for the 2nd Annual Lending Library Symposium. This conference has been designed to help librarians build their platforms through workshops covering volunteer engagement, governance models, expansion strategies and more – but anyone interested in the Alternative Library Movement is welcome to join us and mingle with thought-leaders: Register: Lending Library Symposium For some members, a Tool Library is simply a convenient means to access tools for projects around the home. But for others, (and certainly for the board that governs the Toronto Tool Library, called the Institute for a Resource Based Economy) these spaces are representative of a larger value system that stems from a long history. Concepts of lending and sharing have been shaped by communities that value reciprocity and the commons, who understand humans as only a small part of a larger system. These communities do not distinguish between economic growth and the impact it might have on our social and ecosystem health, but rather, they recognize that human wellbeing (and survival) is intrinsically dependent on how we protect the health of those systems. These relationships have forever been fundamental to many Indigenous communities, as scholars such as Winonah Laduke,...

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