Use. Return. Repeat. That’s the motto for the city’s newest sustainability-focussed startup, and never has there been a more poignant time to get it off the ground.
The Gold Coast Tool Library will work just like a book library, but its inventory contains tools or other items. Often referred to as a ‘library of things’, Tool Libraries in other cities lend musical instruments, camping gear, sporting equipment, craft and artist tools, gardening tools, surfboards and SUPs, outdoor games, kitchen appliances, event and party equipment and sewing machines.
Founder David Paynter says the most popular items in a tool library are usually those that are very useful but only occasionally needed. Think chainsaw or hedge trimmer.
David says he’s always been passionate about reducing waste.
“I have been searching for a way that I can make a contribution to society to help transition our cities to a more sustainable way of living,” he said.
“It saddens me to see so many of the products we buy made as either disposable or simply made not to last so that they will break or become obsolete and thrown away. When I visit the tip and see all the items that are being thrown away I look at them with despair, as I see so many good items that could be used by someone else – if only there was a way to recover and share them.”
“My grandfather was a tool maker and I have the fondest of memories as a child being in his huge shed that was full of all his tools and equipment. We worked with wood, we built things and he showed me how to weld. My own father showed me how to use power tools, paint, to landscape and from there my desire to be hands-on developed. Unfortunately I often did not have the right tool for the job and have wished we had a tool library close by… So now I’m going to start one.”
David believes there are three groups in society who will benefit most from a tool library. The first is apartment-dwellers. They generally have little storage space and can’t afford clutter. The second are people who are actively choosing to minimise their purchases of items which are underutilised.
The third group are those in our society who simply cannot afford to purchase these items. They pay an annual library membership instead and access items all year ‘round.
In other global locations, tool libraries have had a hugely positive impact on the communities in which they operate. People donate tools and equipment, giving new life to items that might otherwise end up in landfill. This reduces waste. And then through collaborative consumption, cities reduce their carbon footprint by embracing a circular and sharing economy.
Possibly the most practical advantage of donating your underutilised tools to a library is you still have access to them, you just come and borrow them back when you need them.
“By sharing our tools and other items we free up space in our homes, we reduce the expense of purchasing items we hardly use and it allows others who may not be able to afford an item to still have access to them,” David said.
And then on top of that is the benefit of having a society repairing and maintaining their own broken or damaged items rather than replacing them.
And that’s where the Gold Coast Tool Libraries first community program comes in.
As soon as it’s practical and safe to bring groups of people together again, they’ll be hosting repair cafes. They’ll take the form of pop-up events that bring volunteer menders and fixers and the community together to share skills and knowledge on how to repair household goods and extend their life.
“The aim is to keep items out of landfill and reduce excess consumerism, which as we all know is exceeding the planetary boundaries of this Earth we call home,” David said. “The volunteer mender and visitor work on the repair together, exchanging knowledge and skills over a cup of coffee and a friendly chat.”
There are over 2000 Repair Cafes around the world and this number is actively growing as people embrace a sustainable way of living, turning their backs on the over consumptive throw away mentality. Repair Cafes also provide a platform for support, friendship and community resilience building.
As we all come to terms with a very different economic outlook than what we’ve been accustomed to over recent decades, initiatives like this will be crucial to community wellbeing.
“During these challenging times ahead they can also be an avenue to help those financially stressed where repair may no longer be seen for just its environmental benefits but also as a fiscal necessity,” David said.
“Clothing and textiles repairs are very popular. Ever had a zipper or seam go on your favourite pair of comfy pants that give your tush that flattering fit, don’t despair these are common mends at Repair Cafes,” David said. “Also electronic gadgets, bicycles, toys, appliances, footwear and 101 different types of household items that need to be glued, screwed, clamped and pulled apart to troubleshoot the cause.”
“Pretty much as long as you can carry it in and it doesn’t put our volunteers in danger, we can take a look at it,” David said.
The launch event for the Repair Café was scheduled to take place in May at Karma Collab Hub in Miami, but David says they’ll just have to see how things go as further restrictions on people gathering may impact that.
David says there are three ways people can assist the Tool Library and Repair Café projects. The first is a matter of urgency. David needs to raise $1798 to cover public liability and volunteer insurance premiums. Their ongoing fundraising can’t take place until volunteers are insured, so this is needed right now. You can give via the group’s Chuffed campaign. The second is practical and timely.
“We are collecting donations of tools and other goods to build the library inventory,” David said. “If people are going into isolation, now is a great time to have a house and garage clean up and see if they would like to pass along unwanted tools or gear.”
And like community groups the world over, David is also on the hunt for skilled volunteers. They’re working on policies and safety procedures and their website as well as grant-writing, so if you have talent to spare, then the Gold Coast Tool Library can use you.
Interview by Amaya Coburn + Samantha Morris
Story by Samantha Morris