Get rid of those books

Personal Library Too Big? Re-purpose!

Are you a lover of books of all kinds?

Have a hard time getting rid of old magazines?

If you’re like me you promise you’ll one day take another look at that chocolate zucchini cake recipe, or that backyard landscaping article, but one day never seems to come.

Is your hardcover book collection taking up more and more valuable real estate on your shelves as each year passes?  Always have one too many outdated phone directories cluttering up your home office space?

Here are some tips to help you cull that book, magazine and directory clutter once and for all.

First, be aware hardcover books or softcover paperbacks are not permitted for recycling in your curbside recycling cart.

They are not part of the Recycle BC paper and packaging program. There are still many other options available to you to help regain some bookshelf real estate.

Consider a book swap with family and friends. Sell them, or give them away online. Consider donating them to your favourite thrift store or charity, or having a garage sale.

Try contacting your local chapter of the Friends of the Library. They gratefully accept not only donations of books, but also CDs, DVDs, puzzles and games. And their sales help fund valuable local causes.

IF your books aren’t in good shape, West Kelowna’s Planet Earth Recycling is an option to consider, a good spot for outdated textbooks or encyclopedias that you may have a hard time unloading.

You can put your old phone books in your curbside recycling cart. The same goes for business directories.
Keep in mind though, if you’re getting any directory delivered to your doorstep and you never use it, because you do all your info lookup online, remove yourself once and for all from the company’s delivery list. Today.

That way by the time the next issue is about to hit circulation, you won’t be on it, and won’t be wasting valuable production/delivery time by accepting something you don’t need or want.

How about those stacks of magazines taking up household space and energy? Yes, they too can get tossed into your curbside recycling cart. Or, if they are still in good shape and can provide some entertainment and education value, pass them on to others.

Check in with your local seniors’ centre, long-term care facility, doctors’ or dentists’ offices, women’s shelter, kids daycare to see if they can use those old magazines.

Swap with friends and family. Or, send them on their way to your local thrift store. Just remember to X out your personal information on the front cover before you pass them along.

We may as well mention household paper clutter while we are at it. Those stacks of outdated flyers, kids school projects, even bills and statements are all just fine in your curbside recycling bin.

If it’s sensitive material you wish to shred, keep in mind with shredded paper, you are asked to put that in a clear plastic bag before you put it in your cart — the only time a plastic bag is OK in your curbside recycling bin.

And, of course, if you are not yet a fan of online billing, it’s something to consider if you wish to reduce your paper waste in future.

Oh and finally, have you met Pinterest? The next time you have an hour or 10 to spare, Google  the zillions of fun and crafty project ideas all made from  pre loved books, magazines and kids art: baskets, decoupage lamp shades, wall art, earrings.

The ideas are amazing and endless.

As always, when wondering what to recycle and where, there’s the handy and free to download Recycle Coach app, or visit regionaldistrict.com/recycle.

You can get the right fix

What happens in your household when your favourite lamp goes on the fritz?

Or when your toaster quits toasting, or coffee maker, cassette player, gizmo of any kind just stops working?

You may be willing to change out a bulb, wiggle a cord or check that the electrical outlet is working. But if you’re like many, that’s as far you go.

And then that perfectly good thing that perhaps just needs a new plug, or switch or sometimes just a good dose of WD40, perfectly good stuff, hits the trash because it has a new name. "Broken.”

This may not be so common in our parents, or grandparents era; they were typically very good fixers. And they were also not as privy to the more recent notion of planned obsolescence, where many products today are designed to fail.

That said, many of us  today are just not that terribly comfortable opening up the innards of electrical devices to see what makes them tick, to see if we can figure out what’s gone wrong.

Chalk this up to:

  • lack of technical savvy
  • lack of confidence
  • concern for personal safety (read here fear of electrical shock!)
  • lack of patience
  • all or any of the above.

The thing to keep in mind though — all our belongings, at one stage or another, were made by people, and can also be fixed, by people. At least by people who know a little about what they’re doing, and are at least well equipped to try.

That in a nutshell is the whole idea behind the Repair Café.

It’s a whole bunch of awesome volunteers who all know how to fix different types of things — coming together in one location on one day — who bring tools, and let another bunch of people with some basic household stuff that needs fixing show up, looking for help. It’s just that simple.

So what do they fix?

The list is long, and depends on not only on the skill set of the volunteers who show up on the particular day to be fixers, but also what walks in the door tucked under someone’s arm to be fixed.

No job is too big or too small; the volunteer fixers typically take a look at just about anything and give it their best shot.

We’re talking about everything from small electronics, audio equipment, clocks, figurines and fine china, furniture, collectibles, clothing items, and beyond. If it’s broken, it’s fair game.

The Central Okanagan Regional District Waste Reduction Office has hosted a spring and fall Repair Cafe for the past number of years at Okanagan College.

All repairs are done free of charge.

Fixers encourage the owner of the item to get involved in the fixing process, help troubleshoot, dismantle, whatever it takes.

Sometimes they also offer up advice on where to get missing parts, or where to go for additional advice. If you bring in a broken item in need of repair, you will be encouraged to engage in the whole fixing process — no drop and return later for pick up.

Volunteer fixers are grouped together with similar skill sets and basic tools and supplies. People who attend line up to get their broken things repaired.

Waste Reduction Office staff match up visitors with the right fixer, or next available fixer. While people wait, they are treated to coffee, tea, donuts and other fun activities to keep them occupied.

Over the last few years, the Okanagan Regional Library has also been on hand to help do research, and provide manuals and books on loan to help with fix ups.

The Repair Café model is not new to the Okanagan. It started in the Netherlands almost a decade ago, and has since been spreading to the North American continent as consciousness builds over the incredible volume of stuff North Americans toss away, often needlessly, daily.

The Repair Cafe is not only about fixing things, but also about building community. Fixers tend to chat with one another, and the people they are helping- while they work.

Not only do Repair Cafes keep stuff out of landfills and save us money, they help the fixers and those having items fixed feel good. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment — taking something from broken to fixed.

And what a feeling of empowerment too, teaching people to troubleshoot, learn a new skill set, walk away with more knowledge about how to fix something for themselves, or know how to troubleshoot for themselves in the future.

If you want more info on the upcoming Repair Café at the Okanagan College Trades Building on Saturday, March 30, visit regionaldistrict.com/repaircafe.

Even better, if you would like to lend your particular skill set to a future Repair Café, we would love to hear from you.

Just email [email protected] or call 250-469-6250.

A conversation about gifts

Most of us get the warm fuzzies by showing our love and affection for our near and dear ones with the giving of gifts.

However, the shopping craze that has become synonymous with Christmas, not to mention the rest of the over consumption that often times spins around the holidays, leaves many of us exhausted and downright tapped out.

It also often leaves us knee deep in a pile of waste — physically and financially.

Perhaps it’s time for something simpler, less consumer driven, more intentional, so that we truly do bring joy to those we love and appreciate, including ourselves.

Consider this.

Before you buy a bunch of stuff this year for those cherished loved ones, ask them first if they even want a whole bunch of stuff this season. Or, perhaps pitch the idea of a family plan to only buy gifts for the kids or the gift of an experience.

Why not limit gift giving to something more manageable by drawing names, instead of gifts for everyone, or choose to volunteer with family and friends instead, in support of a cherished cause.

If any of the above resonates with you, start the conversation. Often that’s the hardest part —approaching your family with a new idea. If not now, perhaps in time for next years’ holiday swirl.

Quite likely someone in your circle will appreciate it. And, to get things rolling, you could always ask for a change to what you  receive, perhaps no gifts at all, or a donation to a charity in your name instead.

The possibilities are endless.

While you are searching for alternate gifting ideas, why not check out the ample lists of experiences over stuff to treat your loved ones.

You can find all kinds of fun ideas at www.regionaldistrict.com/makememories.

Here are just a few to get you started.

  • Organize a family skate
  • Re gift a favourite novel or board game
  • Treat someone you love to a live performance, sporting event, theatre tickets, a trip to the  spa
  • Offer your dog walking or cat sitting services
  • Sign someone up for a cooking class, or art class
  • Teach them to tango, line dance, samba
  • Host an amazing dinner for all your friends

Thoughtful gift giving can dramatically reduce the amount of packaging and wrapping that accumulates and can encourage opportunities for us to create new holiday traditions for years to come.

Recycle your textiles

Here’s one to ponder the next time to you feel like adding a little something new to your wardrobe to spiff things up. Canadians on average buy 70 new items of clothing a year.

And textiles are one of the fastest growing waste streams, thanks to rapidly changing fashion trends and lower than ever prices.  In fact, some stats tout that 12 million tons a year of textile waste is dumped into North American landfills. Yikes, right?

Gone are the days that clothing is something we wear to cover up and keep us warm when it’s cool, and cool when it’s hot. We seem caught up in this constant thirst for new, novelty, on trend, which can sometimes translate into unnecessary, over the top, and disposable.

We can all find ways individually to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Here are some tips to ensure you and your family are not part of that growing textile waste trend. Old clothing and textiles are most definitely re-usable, doing so simply involves a few extra steps to make it so.

Don’t throw them in your curbside recycling cart, they are not considered part of the Recycle BC program. If you throw them in there, they end up contaminating the acceptable recyclables that are being collected, will be deemed garbage (and likely sullied with other stuff by then) and sent off to the landfill.

That’s sad, when there are so many other valuable avenues in the community that can make good use of them.

So what can you do with your old clothing and household wares to make sure they find a new life and are reused appropriately?  It’s really quite easy to get them into the second-hand market.

Consider these options.

  • Sell them online, and make some cash in the process.
  • Donate them to friends or family.
  • Donate them to thrift stores.
  • Send those that are still current to second hand consignment shops, there are many thriving ones in our area to choose from.
  • Hold a clothing swap party.
  • Contact your local animal shelter to see what they may need for pet bedding and cleanup.
  • Sometimes theatre groups or drama clubs are in need, depending on what you’ve got to donate.
  • Check out the stores policies where you buy your stuff, some retailers have launched sustainability campaigns and set up in store bins for recycling old items.

The possibilities are endless.

You’ve likely also seen the clothing donation bins all over town that support charities in our communities. A lot of the thrift stores will even come to your door and pick the donations up.

For example with the red mailbox style community boxes supplied by the Canadian Diabetes Clothesline, whatever you put in, those charities sell that material to the for profits like Value Village, they’re paid per pound, no matter what is in the bin-nice fundraiser for the charities.

They say they want “useable” textiles (not your old rags), and not just clothing-cushions, belts, shoes, sheets, blankets, bedspreads. It all has a new purpose, somewhere along the chain of reuse and repurposing.

As you are cleaning out your closets and doing your sort, keep in mind, donations don’t have to be in 100 per cent perfect condition.

Let the professionals, the textile recyclers and thrift stores make that decision, to sell them, or sell them to second end markets. Just don’t throw them in the garbage.

More How's Your Waste Line? articles

About the Author

Rae Stewart is a waste reduction facilitator with the Central Okanagan Regional District and passionate about sharing information on all things related to waste-less living.

Contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories