'Moving' Towards Sustainability

Monday, April 17, 2017

A pile of donations to the uOttawa Free Store

T.S Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month and although for different reasons than his, I couldn’t agree more. Exams are stressful, your thesis might be due, you have to nail down a summer job or maybe even decide what your graduation game plan is. You’re saying goodbye to friends and professors for the summer, or maybe for longer. And on top of all this, you might even have to move out, move in or move home.

I see moving as an opportunity to downsize and declutter. One of the central tenets or zero waste is minimalism, or at least that everything you own serves a purpose and was procured sustainably. But how do you get rid of the big things, like a kitchen table or all your glassware, and not just leave them on the side of the road, or worst, throw them away.

The reuse economy is the best place to get things and give away things when moving. What is the reuse economy? It is so many things! The salvation army, consignment stores, selling clothing in facebook groups or even selling your curtains to a friend for a beer are all resources and options to avoid buying new, perpetuating plastic culture and can save you cash money.

The reuse economy is strong in Ottawa and even on our own campus. If you lived or live in residence, the Dump and Run is a program managed by the Campus Office of Sustainability which collects all the things people leaving residence don’t want anymore and takes them to the Free Store.

A student happily donates a bag of clothing to the uOttawa Free Store using the donation bin

If you now live off-campus, you can still bring your things to the Free Store. The donation bin is just behind the building, which is located on King Edward. The Free Store has many community partners like the Ottawa Mission, St. Joe’s Women’s Center and Operation Come Home with whom they are constantly in discussion, figuring out what their community needs are and allocating stuff accordingly, in order to ensure best use of your donations.

The Free Store accepts things like clothing, textbooks, lamps, small furniture and kitchen supplies (find a full list here). Getting rid of something bigger like a bed or a sofa is a little trickier, particularly if you don’t have a car to bring it to a donation drop-off area. Thankfully, Matthew House Refugee Services, Helping With Furniture, and the Salvation Army all offer pick-up services for large items and are all places looking to give your things to those who need it most. For example, these three organizations have been extremely active in helping the Syrian refugees feel welcome and settled with everything they need. This way you know the things you’re giving away are going to a good home and all you have to arrange is a pick-up time.

A pile of clothing and accessories that are ready to be donated at the uOttawa Free Store

Through Dump and Run, the Free Store is also taking food donations of unspoiled, non-perishables which will then be distributed to various food banks. So instead of throwing out all those extras cans which have been collecting dust in your cupboard since Day 1, you can combat food waste and give to those in need either by donating to a food bank.

If you’re looking to make a little cash money from your stuff, that’s cool too. Plato’s Closet in Barrhaven will give you some money for gently-loved clothing or you could try your luck with the University of Ottawa Clothing Exchange Page on facebook (sometimes you can try selling furniture there too!) A friend also recommended this thing called Bunz to me, which is a way of bartering things for other things. I haven’t tried it out, but it looks easy to use and it could be worth a shot if you wanted to put up some things you didn’t need and see what people in your area would be willing to give you in return.

And this may seem obvious, but I found a good home for many of my things by just getting social and asking friends if they need stuff in exchange for a little cash or even some beer. Speaking of friends, when it comes to the physical moving of moving, friends are a great way to save money, time, your back, renting a truck, energy etc. and all you have to do is ask nicely.

When moving, the more stuff you have, the more energy (manpower and otherwise) it takes to get it from point A to point B. If you downsize in the first place (remember not by throwing away, but giving things to the reuse economy), you are contributing to a better earth environment, but as well your own living environment.

And then if you need things like a kettle, lamps, shoes, chairs, a pot, forks, curtains, whatever, check out places like the Free Store, the Salvation Army, online posts or friends before going to Ikea or Bed Bath and Beyond. By procuring from the reuse economy, you are doing better for the environment, I guarantee you will be saving money and you are directly supporting these resources who exist simply to make the world more sustainable.

A box of kitchen accessories ready to be donated to the uOttawa Free Store

And if you are kicking things to the curb, make sure you follow Ottawa’s recycling policies! Things that are unsorted or improperly set out just end up in landfills! Read up about them here!

Although I am desperately sad to be leaving my wonderful student life in Ottawa (despite being desperately happy to be finished my undergrad), I love the opportunity moving brings to downsize, minimalize and donate. Once again, good luck on exams, good luck on your summers and please don’t leave your perfectly good things to the landfills!

~jennie @trashlesslovemore

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