Author: Emily

Posted on / by Emily / in Blog

A Zero Waste Guide for Toronto

This is a guest blog from @itsahashtaglife – blogger, social media manager and content creator for non-profits and charities in Toronto. She takes the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and applies them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet. #LetsGetWasteless

Since the 1950s, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled.

Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

Skip the intro, take me directly to the guide! or jump to a section:

  1. Don’t start with a jar challenge
  2. Remember the seven pillaRs
  3. Never leave the house unprepared
  4. Locate package-free stores
  5. Borrowing > buying
  6. Find stuff second hand
  7. Community swaps
  8. Repair
  9. Make it yourself
  10. Find alternatives
  11. The art of reuse/repurposing
  12. Zero Waste Toronto support group
  13. Follow zero waste bloggers/instagrammers
  14. Get political

#PlasticFreeJuly 2019 marks the fourth year that I’ve been actively striving to live a low waste lifestyle and avoid plastic like it’s the plague on the planet that it is.

My introduction to the zero waste lifestyle was atypical compared to many people’s journeys – I usually say that I entered low waste living through a back door. While most seem to wake up to the enormity of the waste problem upon seeing dead sea birds full of plastic bits their mothers accidentally fed them, or washed up whales with stomachs stuffed with plastic bags, or the many and ongoing reports of microplastics in everything from fish to rainwater to…yup, even human poop, my entry point was via the problems with the system of consumption itself, of which single-use plastics are but one amongst many symptoms.

As one of the original team members behind the first tool lending library in Toronto, my primary fixation point was on the absurd notion that in our culture, it’s perfectly acceptable (encouraged, even) for every household to have a power drill sitting in a basement, garage or closet – even though the average drill is used for just 13 minutes in its useable lifespan (when tools sit idle, they depreciate). When you factor in all the rare earth metals and resources that make up a drill, the pollution released into the air from creating and shipping that drill and the impact of its end-of-life on the planet, the idea of “a drill for every household” begins to appear as wasteful as it actually is.

Hence taking the same system we’re already so familiar with for books and applying it to tools. Most people do not need access to such items all the time; they only need the use of them occasionally, so why not put them in a community hub and borrow them instead? We soon expanded this line of thinking to camping gear, board games, children’s toys, party supplies and sports equipment through The Sharing Depot.

At the time we were launching these projects, we all lived together in a communal house, sharing all the things (#PracticeWhatYouPreach). It was a beautiful experience and the community atmosphere we fostered at home fed directly into the vibe of these lending libraries we were investing all our time and energy into. But one day when I was in the kitchen, I noticed something horrible: there hanging by the door were several large plastic bags filled with many other smaller plastic bags. While most of us were using tote bags to carry our groceries home in, we were not doing anything to avoid the flimsy plastic veggie bags. So into these monstrous bags of bags they would get stuffed, continuously expanding with each grocery trip.

I decided right then and there that enough was enough. I couldn’t possibly talk about the problems with our consumer society and not make some effort to curb my reliance on single-use plastic (#PracticeWhatYouPreach). So I put together a Zero Waste Kit – my first step towards fending off disposable demons – and went from there. Soon after, I released a post called A Zero Waste Guide for Toronto to share the things that were working for me in my little war on waste.

Why am I telling you all this? Well because it’s #PlasticFreeJuly and I’ve updated my initial guide to include more useful tips and tools for those of you interested in waging your own war on waste. #LetsGetWasteless Toronto!

Zero Waste Guide for Toronto

1) Don’t Start With a Jar Challenge 

The zero waste movement became visible to the mainstream a few years ago when small mason jars filled with trash began to surface on the internet. But not just any trash – each jar represented a year’s worth of waste created by the innovators and early adopters of the zero waste movement. Several flashy stories about bloggers who were taking the ‘jar challenge’ went viral – 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 started here. And as it turns out, there are some pretty solid reasons that the jar challenge is bullsh*t anyway.

After spending a lot of time online and monitoring the conversations around waste, it seems the major barrier for most people in beginning a zero waste journey is the sense that it will be too difficult. People become overwhelmed at the enormity of the problem and give up before they start.

If this is how you feel, my advice is to find a place from which to launch and take baby steps. I started with a Zero Waste Kit and this felt manageable for me. If that still feels like too much for you, maybe just pick a couple of things and go from there: challenge yourself to stop using disposable coffee cups and water bottles, for instance, by carrying reusable alternatives for those two items.

The Zero Waste Movement began to gain widespread visibility several years ago when bloggers such as Lauren Singer (Trash is For Tossers) went viral for being able to fit a year’s worth of trash in a single jar.

2) Remember the Seven PillaRs

Every movement needs a set of guidelines. For far too long our culture has leaned too heavily on the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” with the emphasis on the latter R (which, as many are now becoming aware, is not as environmentally friendly as we’ve been led to believe).

We can reinvent that system of Rs to put an emphasis on reducing and reusing, reorienting our notions of waste management towards a circular economy:

The seven pillaRs of a low waste lifestyle:

  • Refuse what you do not need.
  • Reduce what you do need.
  • Reuse everything you can.
  • Recirculate items within your community.
  • Repurpose old materials into something new.
  • Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recirculate or Repurpose.
  • 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. That’s when it dawned on me that if I had a system of resusable items I carried with me all the time, that would eliminate the mental labour involved with remembering what I needed to bring. I put together a Zero Waste Kit – now I never leave the house without it, it’s become so much a part of my natural routine. If I’m heading to a bulk store, I also bring my extra cloth bags and jars.

In my Zero Waste Kit:

4) Locate Your Package-Free Stores

Look for package-free and bulk stores where you can find what you need without plastic packaging. Not sure where to start? When in doubt, check out Bea Johnson’s Bulk Store Locator App where you can search for package-free shops near you as well as add stores to the app yourself. This app is particularly useful because it allows users to note what is available at each store listed.

Here are a few of my favourite spots to fill my jars and cloth bulk bags and find package-free products in Toronto:

  • Bare Market, the package-free shop that has been hosting pop-up shops throughout the city for the last year, has just secured its first permanent location. This will be a one-stop package-free shop where you’ll find a range of plastic-free products such as cosmetics, soaps, cleaning supplies, beeswax wraps, stainless steel containers, cutlery sets, food items and so much more!
  • Unboxed Market is another one-stop package-free shop from a couple who have first-hand experience with how wasteful the food industry can be. After years of owning a restaurant, the pair launched their Unboxed Market as a solution where you can find a variety of food items and other package-free products.
  • Eco + Amour – a sustainable living boutique that carries a range of package- and plastic-free products
  • Green & Frugal – natural, handmade personal care products with locally sourced ingredients, housewares and bulk DIY ingredients (bring your own container!)
  • Pretty Clean Shop – offers alternatives to single use plastic items and a selection of all Canadian products for household and personal care in sustainable packaging. Many of them are available in bulk and refills, including Green and Frugal’s beauty line. You can find bulk shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, shower gel, baby bubble bath, sunscreen, deodorant, all purpose cleaner, floor cleaner, laundry detergent, dish and hand soap, toilet cleaner tablets, dish washer tablets, bath soaks, and a whole bunch of raw/DIY ingredients like salts, clays, carrier oils, butters, essential oils for refill from Anarres.
  • Karma Coop Toronto – a non-profit food co-operative owned and operated by its members. You can bring your own containers here! Package-free castile, laundry and dishwashing soap, refills on detergents, shampoos and conditioners, unpackaged soaps and candles, bulk spices, grains, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and even eggs!
  •  Anarres Natural Health – uses glass & metal packaging for natural toothpaste, deodorant, hand sanitizer, shaving cream, room deodorizer sprays, moisturizers, body wash/scrub, cosmetics, sunscreen, bug spray, etc. They offer a container return program so that you can put your used containers back into circulation. Anarres also carries a number of reusable products: cloth face masks, stainless steel straws, sporks/travel cutlery, food storage containers, menstrual cups/pads and nursing bra liners. You will also find petrochemical free items: dish washing brushes, water filters, bamboo toothbrushes and naked beeswax tealight candles. And, very importantly, they reuse packaging from suppliers when shipping.
  • Binz – a kitchen supply store in Bloor West Village. It has everything from reusable containers to portable coffee cups to this awesome Redecker brush with replaceable heads. If you are looking for products to replace disposable items in your home, you will find them here.
  • Nuthouse – a bulk food store located in Bloor West Village that carries quality bulk dried goods, coffee, oils, candy, etc and allows you to bring your own container.
  •  Saponetti Inc – Toronto’s first and only soap refill delivery service! They offer premium, Canadian-made, environmentally friendly, soaps and detergents for home and personal care. Saponetti Inc bulk-buys all their products and delivers them to you in reusable glass mason jars. Alternatively, we have Saponetti Soap refill stations at both our 192 Spadina and 830 St Clair West locations. Now you can borrow stuff and get package-free soap at the same time!
  • Sweet Potato Toronto – a natural and local food service located in the Junction that offers fresh, local, organic food. They also sell skincare and cleaning products that are petrochemical free, biodegradable and without synthetic dyes/fragrances.
  • Strictly Bulk – an awesome local bulk food store whose motto is “because you don’t eat packaging.” Cheers to that. They also let you bring in and tare your own containers.
  • Urban Bulk & Refill – In addition to carrying bulk foods, the store is also dedicated to providing a wide selection of refills for soaps, household cleaners and personal care products.
  • Bulk Barn – launched a reusable container program last year – so now you can bring in your own containers and cloth bags to Canada’s most prolific bulk food store chain.
  • Greg’s Ice Cream – will fill reusable containers, by the litre or half-litre (bring a scoop/spoon to do the packing and note it’s cash only)
  • Ed’s Real Scoop – will accept containers
  • Fiesta Farms – has a great cheese deli counter and they will let you bring your own containers. They will tare for you but not all staff are trained. They also have grated cheeses (reggiano, parmigiana) and cream cheese.
  • Hooked Fish Market – can bring your own containers
  • De La Mer Fish Market – can bring your own containers
  • Ella’s Meat Market – can bring your own containers
Saponetti is Toronto’s first refillable soap delivery service. They will bring you soap in jars and take your empties. They also have a storefront and refill stations at both our 192 Spadina ave and 830 St Clair W locations.

Help bring the _________________ Reduces to your neighbourhood!

Several initiatives around the city are helping people reduce their reliance on single-use plastics by encouraging both consumers and businesses to practice waste reduction together. Participating businesses are invited to display a sticker on their door that tells customers they accept reusable containers/cups/mugs, etc and in exchange, those businesses get promoted on the reduces social media pages. You can read more about this amazing grassroots, community initiative online here.

Here are the active programs so far:

“This is such a fabulous initiative and we are thrilled it’s spreading to neighbourhoods across the city.”

Adrianna Couto, co-ordinator of Beaches Reduces

5) Borrowing > Buying

“We all like to put the blame on someone else, the government, or businesses. … But between 60-80 percent of the impacts on the planet come from household consumption. If we change our consumption habits, this would have a drastic effect on our environmental footprint as well.”

– Diana Ivanova, a PhD candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, lead author of this study

Probably one of the best things you can do to cut back your waste is refuse to buy things at all. People are finally becoming aware of the negative impacts of mass consumption on the planet and are looking for alternatives in how they access goods. Thanks to apps like Peerby and stuff lending libraries such as Toronto’s Tool Library and The Sharing Depot, consumers can now choose to opt out of consumption altogether.

Before you venture out to purchase something, consider alternatives to buying. Ask yourself, first of all, if you need to own the item at all. Is it something you are only going to use occasionally? For instance, The Sharing Depot carries all the camping gear you could ever need, party supplies like folding chairs, projectors, record payers, popcorn machines, etc. along with board games, children’s toys and sporting equipment. I’ve been using the Sharing Depot to borrow toys for my daughter on a weekly basis since it opened last summer and it has been GREAT. It has become our routine to visit the toy section every Wednesday night, and every Wednesday night my daughter happily returns the toys she took out previously in exchange to borrow something else.

QUICK LIST: places in Toronto to #BorrowDontBuy

The Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot allows you to borrow tools, camping gear, board games, children’s toys, party supplies and more – just like a book library, but for stuff!

6) Find it Second Hand

Consumers must recognize that the most sustainable item is the one that already exists.

2018 State of Reuse Report

If consuming new products individually is destroying the planet, what’s a lover of beautiful and shiny things to do?

Fortunately, Toronto is the Bunz capital of Canada and on this fabulous trading app, you can swap for what you need. You can either make a call out on the app for what you’re looking for OR use the convenient search bar to search for a specific item.

Toronto also has Freecycle whose mission it is to cut back on waste while building and strengthening a community of people who share. On Freecycle, there’s no need to swap for an item – you just pick it up from the designated location.

Another Toronto gem is the Really, Really Free Market. Although you can’t necessarily be specific about what you’re going to find there, it’s worth checking out because, while you may not get what you want, you just might find what you need.

And of course, there are many amazing thrift and consignment stores available in this city, such as  Common Sort.

QUICK LIST: where to swap, trade & find things second hand in Toronto

7) Organize a Community Swap

Rather than purchasing things new, why not host a community swap to recirculate the stuff that already exists in your community? The more people who attend the swap, the better the selection will be and the easier it becomes for people to find what they need.

It is best to partner with a local community organization or hub that can provide space and help spread the word about the swap. For example, we ran a successful Kids Stuff Swap at Withrow Park Farmers’ Market last summer. We also host an annual spring swap and a Holiday Gift Swap – what has become our most popular swapping event – in December so people can swap like-new items to give as gifts.

To get notified about upcoming swaps, sign up for our monthly community newsletter.

Swaps are a great way to recirculate items within a community, keeping stuff from going to landfill while helping people find what they need without buying new.

8) Get Broken Items Repaired

This is an important one. While Toronto is not quite as far ahead in the Repair Movement as say somewhere like Sweden – where they have implemented tax breaks for repairing broken things and a full blown repair/reuse mall – we do have an incredible Repair Café. When something breaks – whether it be clothing, books, electronics, appliances, bicycles, etc. – you can bring it to Repair Café Toronto where their skilled volunteers will do everything in their power to heal your broken treasures (there’s even a mini-documentary about them). We host weekly repair events with them at our 830 St Clair West location from 12-4pm every Sunday.

Repairing things rather than replacing them with new ones is a huge step towards putting less trash in our landfills, leach chemicals into the ground and waterways (e-waste alone represents 70% of toxic waste in landfills).

QUICK LIST: places to get things repaired in Toronto

Repair Café Toronto hosts weekly repair events with them at our 830 St Clair West location from 12-4pm every Sunday.

9) Make It Yourself

Making your own laundry soaps/detergents, cosmetics, shampoos/conditioners, cleaning supplies, candles, perfumes, etc. is a fantastic way to cut back on wasteful, unnecessary packaging and harmful chemicals. Following zero waste bloggers/instagrammers (see #13 on this list) is helpful in locating instructions for how to make all kinds of things. @yourecofriend on Instagram, for example, runs DIY workshops through the Toronto Public Library. Check out her instructions for a DIY citrus cleaner.

Anarres Natural Health also offers workshops and classes on how to make all these things and conveniently sells reusable containers and all the DIY ingredients you will need to make them (butters, oils, clays, herbs, hydrosols, etc.).

10) Find Alternatives

Find alternatives to everyday products that, while you might not be thinking about it, actually cause a lot of waste. Whenever you come across a single-use item or an item that is wrapped in plastic, search around for an alternative (but DON’T replace things in your home just because they are plastic. Going around replacing perfectly good items with the more “sustainable” alternative will lead to unnecessary waste. Only replace products once they are worn out).

Here’s a few to get you thinking:

  • Tape: consider using Washi, Japanese tape which is compostable
  • Toilet Paper: there’s a number of alternatives to toilet paper. Some zero waste bloggers are advocating for the bidet, which eliminates the need for toilet paper altogether. Other options include individually wrapped rolls of Caboo (bamboo toilet paper found at Karma Coop and Nuthouse, mentioned in the list of zero waste stores above) and Sustainable Earth Toilet Paper which can be ordered from Staples in bulk.
  • Toothbrush: a bamboo toothbrush can replace the standard plastic ones, which can be found at Anarres Natural Health or Bare Market.
  • Toothpaste: find toothpaste in glass jars at Bare Market and find toothpaste in bulk at Saponetti’s storefront location.
  • Menstrual Products: every body is different, which is why we’re so lucky that there are many different types of reusable menstrual cups so we can skip the wasteful pads and tampons. You can also look into Period Panties.
  • Straws: it’s just one straw, said 8 billion people. Straws are a big waste problem. Consider getting a stainless steel straw instead, which you can find online or from places like Anarres Natural Health in Toronto.
  • Wrap: swap out plastic wrap and ziplock bags for beeswax wrap! You’ll find instructions on how to make them yourself here and here. You can use upcycled fabrics and leftover beeswax drippings from beeswax candles. Not up for the DIY challenge? Toronto’s Bare Market has them and etee wraps are made in Toronto.
  • Soap: switch to bars of handmade local soaps and shampoo/condition bars

It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about all the things in our lives that create waste. I recommend writing them down as you think of them and selecting one a week or even just one a month to find a wasteless alternative for.

11) The Art Of Reuse/Repurposing

Consider giving things you would normally toss a new life by upcycling them. For instance, @myzerowastelifeintoronto made a spray bottle for her homemade vinegar scrap cleaner with an old perrier bottle and spray nozzle she picked up via Freecycle. Here are some others to help you put your upcycle cap on:

The internet will, of course, be your best friend in this endeavour. Upcycling is endlessly creative and saves perfectly good resources from ending up in landfills.

QUICK LIST: places where you can learn to make your own upcycled things or purchase things that have been made with upcycled materials  

Creative Reuse Toronto takes materials that already exist and teaches people the skills needed to transform them into something new.

12) Join the Zero Waste Toronto Support Group on Facebook

There’s nothing quite like having community support when navigating the sometimes complicated and tricky zero waste lifestyle. Maybe you want advice about which menstrual cup is best for you or which bidet you should go with (my sources tell me this one and this one are pretty good). Maybe you want to learn more about package-free/sustainable cosmetics or need to trouble shoot difficult-to-find package free products like tofu.

Enter Zero Waste Toronto, the Facebook group extraordinaire for people interested in pursuing the zero waste lifestyle in this city.

You will find some handy resources in the files section of this page, as well as in the recommendations section.

13) Follow Zero Waste Bloggers/Instagrammers

Follow the journey of those who have already been there and are doing it. There are some great Zero Waste blogs and resources out there, such as Trash Is For Tossers, My Plastic Free Life, Going Zero Waste, Zero Waste Home and Litterless. If you’ve got a question about something or are stuck finding a zero waste solution to a product you need, it’s likely these folks have already taken it on. It may also be handy to follow along with Toronto-based zero wasters on Instagram:

Zero Waste Shops to follow:

Go above and beyond following, join the chorus! Start posting about your own zero waste endeavours to inspire others to jump on the zero waste train. The more passengers, the more effective we will become at pressuring big manufacturers, corporations and government to change their minds about the throwaway culture we are currently filling our garbage cans (and our planet) with.

14) Get Political

Individual acts to reduce waste will never be enough to fully resolve the waste crisis – it needs to be cut off at the source via bans and regulations at the Government level. That being said, individuals can cause a culture shift through their actions and put pressure on Governments to force the changes to our waste system that we need.

In June this year the Canadian Government announced plans to ban single-use plastics and hold companies accountable for their waste. This announcement comes after months of consultations with the public and pressure from environmental groups. There’s no question that the public’s rising awareness and demand for action on plastics is having a significant impact on the government response (it helped that China shut its doors to 96% of western waste imports and now much of our recycling has no where to go).

Keep the pressure on by following along with groups and organizations that are actively engaged at the political level. This is a critical time – even as we push for change, lobbyists from big businesses whose bottom line is directly impacted by bans and regulations are already pushing back (which is exactly what happened when a Right to Repair Bill was introduced in Ontario).

Stay on top of what actions you can take to make sure Governments side with the people over corporate profits, follow these organizations:

  1. Toronto Environmental Alliance
  2. Environmental Defence Canada
  3. Greenpeace Canada
  4. Open Media
Posted on / by Emily / in Uncategorized

We’re Hiring! IRBE Executive Director

The Institute for a Resource Based Economy is growing, and we’re looking for a leader to help shape and implement our vision!

The Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE) is an environmental and social economy organization with a makerspace with an educational focus in teaching hands-on skills for both youth and adults. The Makerspace offers a wide range of workshops and courses designed to teach practical skills to facilitate creativity, building and design such as Laser Cutting, Woodshop, Lathe and 3D Printing. IRBE works closely with our partner organizations, the Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot, to provide radical access to the tools and community needed to build a more sustainable, equitable future.

The ideal candidate is self motivated, with a head for complexity and strategic thinking. We are looking for a progressive leader with excellent communication skills and keen business sense.

The Executive Director reports to the IRBE Board of Directors and manages its staff team. Core responsibilities include:

  • Strategic development and implementation of the IRBE vision  
  • Financial reporting and management
  • Staff management  
  • Operations management
  • Business development
  • Partnership development

We are looking for candidates that match the following requirements:

  • 5+ years of business management and or managerial experience
  • Proven experience leading organizational growth and complexity
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work collaboratively in team dynamics and partnerships
  • Accounting and/or bookkeeping experience an asset

Terms of Employment

  • Full time, permanent role
  • $40,000 initial salary with room for growth
  • Start time: September 2019

Please send your cover letter, resume and three professional references to Molly Fremes (she/her) at by August 6, 2019. Please package your application in a single PDF attachment with the subject line “Last Name_IRBE ED Application”.

IRBE is committed to employment equity and actively encourages applications from self-identified members of racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, LGTBQ2 youth, people with disabilities and women in STEM. We prioritize consideration of those applicants who ask to be considered for employment equity.

Thank you for your interest and best of luck in your application!

Institute for a Resource Based Economy, Board of Directors

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

– Buckminster Fuller
Posted on / by Emily / in Uncategorized

Join our Team! Canada Summer Jobs Applications

Interested in the circular economy and building strong, resilient communities through sharing? Join our team for the summer! Thanks to the Canada Summer Jobs program, we’re hiring for three positions, please see below and please share with anyone you know who might be interested in working with us! Candidates must be 30 and under to apply. Each contract is for $16/hour, 33.5 hours a week for the duration of the summer.

The Institute for a Resource Based Economy (IRBE) is an environmental and social economy organization with a makerspace with an educational focus in teaching hands-on skills for both youth and adults. The Makerspace offers a wide range of workshops and courses designed to teach practical skills to facilitate creativity, building and design such as Laser Cutting, Woodshop, Lathe and 3D Printing. IRBE works closely with our partner organizations, the Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot, to provide radical access to the tools and community needed to build a more sustainable, equitable future.

Communications & Content Creator

We are seeking a creative Communications and Content Developer to help IRBE showcase our mission and engage our active community over the summer. You will support our Social Media and Marketing Manager in the creation of graphic design material, promotional material for marketing campaigns and some video content for social media engagement. Our content will require an interest in the circular economy, maker culture, and waste reduction, complemented by stories and projects captured from our community.

The successful candidate will have experience with graphic design and video creation. Preference will be given to those with an efficient understanding of narrative-based storytelling and communicating mission and values through social media.

You must possess superb written and verbal communication skills, and be interested in socially engaged work. To be successful in this role, you will need to have excellent visual design skills and be proficient in graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.

This job requires flexibility to work between three locations, and some remote.


  • Creating engaging multimedia content
  • Building graphic design content for our service offerings, promotions and communications
  • Establishing design guidelines, standards, and best practices.
  • Aligning work to our communications strategy
  • Shooting and editing video content


  1. Demonstrate strong visual design portfolio
  2. Proficient in Adobe suites
  3. Must be able to shoot and edit video content
  4. Must have excellent writing and editing skills
  5. Be able to communicate clearly and effectively
  6. Strong time-management and organizational skills
  7. Proven experience working independently
  8. Fabrication skills an asset (laser cutting, 3D printing, woodworking)

IRBE is a small team with a collaborative work environment. We prioritize personal and professional development for staff, interns and research assistants, and use our vast network and connections to open opportunities for career success.  

We actively encourage applications from members of racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, LGTBQ2 youth, people with disabilities and women in STEM. We prioritize consideration of those applicants who self-identity to be considered for employment equity.

The Communications Coordinator has the opportunity to learn the safe use of hand & power tools available in our Makerspace, as well as programming & operation of 3D printers, the laser cutter, & CNC machine. Extensive training can be conducted if the candidate is interested.

Applications are due by 5:00pm on Friday, June 21. Please send a cover letter and resume/portfolio to with the subject line “Last Name_IRBE Communications and Content Developer Application”. This is a summer contract from beginning of July to the end of August.

Web Developer

We are seeking a savvy and detail-oriented Web Developer to support of website development over the summer. The ideal candidate will translate wireframes into a clear, user-friendly website that captures our service offerings and values. This includes improving our web design so that it is more effective and iterative for users, and working with our Social Media Manager and Executive Director to support content updates and client queries.

IRBE’s first line of communication with our clients and community is through our website. The web developer is an integral part of ensuring that our messaging, mission, hours, location, events, workshops and other communications points are clearly and logically presented on our site. The successful candidate will be proficient in JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and have solid knowledge and experience in React or similar JS library. You must also have clear communication skills, and be able to work with both technical and non-technical members of our team.

This job requires flexibility to work between three downtown locations, and some remote work.


  • Translate wireframes into a user-friendly site
  • Collaborate with designers to create a beautiful product.
  • Maintain ongoing communication with team
  • Meet regular deadlines and check ins


  • Training in Web development or related field, or relevant experience
  • Proficient in JavaScript, HTML, CSS
  • Excellent written and verbal communication.
  • Able to translate ideas to non-technical people
  • A mind for complexity and problem solving
  • Gatsby, or any static-site generation tool. Require knowledge of React or similar JS library
  • Good understanding of search engine optimization principles
  • Proficient understanding of cross-browser compatibility issues

The Web Developer will report directly to the General Manager and will work closely with the Social Media Manager.

We actively encourage applications from members of racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, LGTBQ2 youth, people with disabilities and women in STEM. We prioritize consideration of those applicants who self-identity to be considered for employment equity

The Developer has the opportunity to learn the safe use of hand & power tools available to our members, and programming & operation of 3D printers, the laser cutter, & CNC machine. Extensive training can be conducted if the developer is interested in the Makerspace facilities.

Applications are due by 5:00pm on Friday, June 21. Please send a cover letter and resume/portfolio to with the subject line “Last Name_IRBE Web Developer Application”. This is a summer contract from beginning of July to the end of August.

Operations and Administrative Assistant

We are seeking a detail-oriented and organized Operations and Administrative Assistant for the summer to help establish more robust administrative pipelines and roll out key programs. You will support our Executive Director in managing the organizational workflow, automating tasks, administrative needs, and day-to-day operations.

The successful candidate will be interested in learning about not-for-profit management and working in a dynamic grass-roots community. You must possess superb written and verbal communication skills, and be interested in socially organizing and environmental work. To be successful in this role, you will need to be thoughtful, organized and comfortable with self directed work.

This job requires flexibility to work between three locations, and some remote work.


  • Support programs and initiatives happening in the organization through administrative or operational assistance
  • Implementing outlined policies and procedures
  • Maintain ongoing communication with team
  • Meet regular deadlines and check ins
  • Assist with organizing meetings, workshops and events to engage the community
  • Lead day-of activities including but not limited to set-up, take down, volunteers


  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Excellent computer literacy skills.
  • Ability to prioritize tasks.
  • Able to solve complex problems
  • Handling basic bookkeeping tasks.
  • Helping prepare for meetings.
  • Prior administrative experience.
  • Must be able to meet deadlines in a fast-paced quickly changing environment.

We actively encourage applications from members of racialized groups, Indigenous peoples, LGTBQ2 youth, people with disabilities and women in STEM. We prioritize consideration of those applicants who self-identity to be considered for employment equity.

The Operations and Administrative Assistant has the opportunity to learn the safe use of hand & power tools available to our members, and programming & operation of 3D printers, the laser cutter, & CNC machine. Extensive training can be conducted if the EA is interested in the Makerspace facilities to create project materials.

Applications are due by 5:00pm on Friday, June 21. Please send a cover letter and resume/portfolio to with the subject line “Last Name_IRBE Operations & Admin Assistant Application”. This is a summer contract from beginning of July to the end of August.

Institute for a Resource Based Economy, Board of Directors

You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

– Buckminster Fuller
Posted on / by Emily / in Blog

Earth Day isn’t an Event You Attend. It’s a Lifestyle.

Earth Day was launched in April 1970 by Denis Hayes and has evolved into an international day of action – observed by 200 countries around the world – to inspire people to make environmentally conscious decisions while provoking policy changes.

Every year on April 22nd environmentalists, activists and citizens organize and attend events that demonstrate support for environmental protection. They scour the beaches for plastic waste, they organize vegetarian potlucks, they attend swaps, they hold rallies, they discuss much-needed political action to stop the harmful impacts of climate change.

Given that we are running out of time to make the structural changes necessary to save the planet, at the Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot, we like to live like it’s Earth Day every day. Keeping in mind that we aren’t going to save the earth with a better kind of disposable coffee cup and that 60-80% of the negative impacts on the planet come from household consumption, we like to focus on the root of the problem: the inefficient use of the earth’s resources and the act of individual mass consumption itself. 

How do we do this? By focusing on four Rs:

  • RECIRCULATEprovide spaces of access where people can borrow things they don’t need to own as individuals. If the average drill is used for just 13 minutes in its useable lifespan, what is the point of having a drill in every household? It makes more sense to share things like tools, camping gear, party supplies, toys, board games, etc as a community. We also host swapping events throughout the year (such as this one and this one), giving people an opportunity to recirculate items that already exist rather than purchasing new in store.
  • REGENERATE – provide spaces and tools for people to learn the art of repair. We host weekly events with Repair Cafe Toronto at our 830 St Clair W location, an opportunity for people to not only get broken items fixed, but learn how to do it themselves.
  • REIMAGINE – closely related to repair, reimagining involves taking materials that already exist but may no longer be useful and transforming them into something people need. We provide space to organizations like Boomerang Bags Toronto who take used textiles and transform them into reusable bags for the community. We’ve also just launched a new initiative called CraftWorks, which will provide classes to empower people with skills in repair, sewing, mending, making and creating, with a focus on upcycling and reusing materials. Buy less, waste less, create more.
  • REFUSE – some materials just shouldn’t exist at all, such as single-use plastic. We partner with organizations like Saponetti to provide greater access to package-free items.

Do you see the through line? By focusing on recirculating, regenerating, reimagining and refusing, we can shift our relationship with resources from a take-use-waste linear approach to a circular approach where waste is designed out. This is about reinventing our relationship to the earth’s resources, and by extension, our relationships to each other.

While it’s going to take more than bringing your own reuable bag to the grocery store to scale these things to make the four Rs above the norm for our society (for instance, we should have libraries of things in every neighborhood and we should have repair malls like in Sweden) we can begin making choices to generate a culture shift that will lay the foundation for larger scale changes.

Here is a guide to give you some inspiration on how to live like it’s #EarthDayEveryday:

1) Avoid Buying Things New

When you purchase an item new in a store, you are creating demand in the market for that product, essentially voting for more of that thing to be made. But over-consumption is harming the planet, with research showing connections between the environmental consequences of consumerism and climate destabilization. 

Drop below the radar of the invisible hand by swapping, trading, borrowing and utilizing Toronto’s ‘free markets.’

  • Trade for items using the popular Toronto-based app Bunz Trading Zone. This is a particularly efficient and easy way to find what you need second hand thanks to the app’s handy search function: if there is something in particular you are looking for, you just plug it into the search bar and any user with that item up for trade pops up.
  • Borrow items from your local Library of Things or from your neighbours using the handy app Peerby.
  • Borrow clothes rather than constantly purchasing new items that eventually become boring or fall out of style. You can become a member of Fresh Fashion Library to get access to their entire inventory of clothing, shoes and accessories – like a big community closet! You can borrow fancy outfits and dresses for special occasions via Rent Frock Repeat and stylish designer clothes via Boro. Or purchase clothes second hand from thrift or consignment stores (one of our personal favourites is Common Sort)
  • Go on a treasure hunt at Toronto’s Really Really Free Market, which takes place the first Saturday of every month. And yes, it’s exactly as it sounds – all the pre-loved items are really, really free.
  • Look for items on Toronto’s Freecycle app, another great resource where Torontonians post items they no longer want, offering to the community for free. This app also has a search function, making it easy to find specific items.
  • Get your community involved with a Secondhand Sunday event, which is a city-wide event taking place on Sunday, April 28. During Secondhand Sunday, participating neighborhoods simply leave unwanted items next to the sidewalk or curb for their neighbours to browse and take. That thing your neighbour no longer wants could be exactly what you need!

2) Dare To Repair

When something breaks down, don’t throw it away! Take it to the amazing ‘fixperts’ at your local Repair Café. Repair Café Toronto is an invaluable resource in this city and we now have a space for them at our 830 St Clair West location where they hold weekly repair events every Sunday afternoon from 12-4pm! Bring your broken treasures and get them fixed!

Getting things repaired not only pushes back against the wasteful practice of built-in obsolescence, it also supports a culture of repair by showing governments that there is a demand for this sort of thing. These are the kinds of movements that can encourage sustainable policy changes that tackle throwaway culture. For example, Sweden implemented tax breaks on repairs to incentivize people to utilize repair services, create jobs in the repair sector and put pressure on companies to design better products.

Toronto also has an amazing clothing repair service – Toronto Clothing Repairathon –  which pops up at various farmer’s markets and community events around the city to repair people’s damaged textiles for free. Join their Facebook group to stay up-to-date on their events.


MPP for Don Valley East Michael Coteau has finally brought the right to repair movement to Ontario with the introduction of a private members bill that would force companies to provide instructions and parts to consumers and local repair shops.

Currently, big tech companies do not provide these, creating a monopoly on the repair of their products. This often makes it more expensive to repair a device than to replace it, forcing people to purchase new devices. Excellent for corporate profits – bad for people and planet.
Right to repair laws will:

  • make it cheaper to get your broken devices fixed
  • support local repair shops and businesses
  • keep electronics in circulation and out of landfill

3) Practice Proper Disposal 

When an item has definitely reached the end of its useable lifespan or you no longer have use for it, retire it with dignity by disposing of it properly and with care or donating it responsibly:

  • Check out this list of charities in Toronto for where to donate various items that are still in good working order.
  • Use the search bar on Toronto’s Waste Wizard for inspiration and answers to questions about where to properly dispose of items (which will also generate a list of charities for still functional goods).
  • For textiles that are no longer suitable for donation or swaps, check out this amazing service in Toronto – Textile Waste Diversion. They take everything in their bins and ensure it’s properly recycled. Textile waste is a growing problem and we should do everything we can to keep textiles from entering the regular waste stream.
  • For electronics recycling, check out this list of resources for e-waste recyclers in Toronto.

4) Reduce Your Reliance on Single-Use Packaging & Plastics 

We are in the midst of a shift in relation to the global plastic epidemic. Since plastic production ramped up in the 1950s, scientists estimate that we’ve produced upwards of 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, most of which has gone into landfills and waterways rather than recycling centres (only 9% of plastic gets recycled globally Even if recycling rates were increased, the amount of destruction involved in the creation and distribution of plastic materials is just as problematic for the environment.

“By the time waste gets recycled, 95% of the environmental damage has already occurred – in manufacturing, in oil extraction, in the poisoning of our rivers and air…the output of carbon.”

– Daniel Hoornweg

By 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, which explains why we are finding so many plastic particles in the sea food we eat and why whales and other marine animals are dying due to plastic ingestion (researchers estimate over 100,000 marine mammals and over 1 million sea birds die by plastic each year). Broken down bits of plastic (microplastics) are now being found inside bottled water, in our soil and even in human poop.

The solution to the plastic epidemic lies in stopping the creation and distribution of the materials – in other words, government bans and regulations. Kenya enacted a plastic bag ban that carries with it a hefty fine and a jail sentence for possession of plastic bags. Vanatu, Chile and, most recently, New Zealand have enacted their own plastic bag bans. France banned plastic plates, cups and cutlery. The EU has backed what is being called the most extensive single-use plastic action plan in the world and the conversation has also begun in Canada. While what we really need is a comprehensive, global strategy, at least this is a start.

In the meantime, you can take action on your own to reduce your reliance on single-use plastics by making strategic decisions about what and where you get your products from. Here’s how to assemble a zero waste kit to avoid single use plastics while on the go and here’s a zero waste lifestyle guide for Toronto to get you started.

5) Make Your Own Cleaners/Personal Care Products

Skip the nasty chemicals found in everyday cleaning and personal care products by learning how to make them yourself out of natural ingredients (this will simultaneously help you reduce waste as you won’t have to buy them pre-packaged):

  • Anarres Natural Health in Toronto runs workshopson how to make your own cleaners and personal care products.
  • Check out our Pinterest Board full of DIY recipes for skin-care and personal care products.
  • Follow the SheMade Factory, who runs courses on natural DIY personal care products and natural cleaners.
  • For The Love Of Body in Toronto runs DIY Workshops on nutrition and healthy living, including a range of personal care products. They will also run custom workshops for small groups so you can request something specific.
  •  Wanna Be Toxic Free runs monthly meetup groups in Toronto that discuss these issues.
  • Follow @YourEcoFriend on Instagram who runs workshops through the Toronto Public Library on how to make zero waste, eco-friendly cleaning products.

6) Upcycle 

Need a new reusable bag? Garden watering can on the fritz? Wallet seen better days? Before you go searching out new items, explore the many ways that the things around your house can magically transform into that thing you were about to go out and spend money on. For instance:

  • An old t-shirt becomes a no-sew tote or reusable shopping bag (the same thing can be done using a pillow case).
  • Sign-up with Boomerang Bags Toronto, who make reusable bags out of deadstock and unwanted textiles.
  • An old juice or milk jug is actually just a watering can waiting to happen.
  • A juice carton can be made into a surprisingly durable wallet.
  • Plastic bottles have too many alternative uses to even count.

The Internet is full of creative, interesting and fun transformations for old items that will keep them from ending up in landfill while saving you money. To support you in learning some of the more complicated techniques of repair and upcycling – such as visible mending, weaving, rug-making, crochet, knitting, sewing, etc. – we’ve launched a group dedicated to teaching such skills: CraftWorks.

7) Eat Less Meat

The environmental impact on the planet of diets that rely heavily on meat and animal products has been the subject of much debate and many a documentary over the last few years. Farming animals for food generates more carbon emissions than ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other forms of transport put together, threatens delicate aquatic ecosystems by polluting global waterways with runoff from farms, and contributes to a loss of biodiversity due to the clear-cutting of land required to raise and feed the animals. In a world that is entering an era of water shortages, we need to be mindful that meat production is also extremely water-intensive: it takes 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef and only 220 gallons of water necessary to produce one pound of tofu. The UN has begun urging governments to promote diets less reliant on meat, and Health Canada has responded by revamping the Canada Food Guideto encourage a plant-based, low-meat diet.

While you might not be ready to give up meat entirely, you could consider cutting back. This has been the goal of the Earth Day Network’s #MeatlessMondays, a campaign that encourages people to skip animal products for at least one day a week. The impact of this is bigger than it sounds – for instance, skipping meat and cheese for just one day a week would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for five weeks.

8) Choose Green Transportation Options

This is perhaps an obvious one, but it’s important. Air pollution from cars, pick-up trucks, minivans and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) continues to be one of the highest environmental priorities and challenges in Canada. When you can, opt for a greener transportation option to keep fewer cars on the road:

  • get on a bicycle – Bike Share Toronto has many conveniently located access points across the city and for the cost of an annual membership, you can ditch your four-wheeler for a two-wheeler.
  • take public transportation
  • #ShareTheRide with BlancRide – this Toronto-based app connects you with drivers or passengers that are heading in the same direction as you, car-pooling made easy.

9) Reduce Food Waste

Wasted food has a HUGE impact on the environment – not to mention the insult of wasting food when billions of people on the planet don’t have enough to eat.

One third of food produced globally is wasted annually and when it end up in landfills, food waste releases methane gas – which has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. In Canada, half of the 27 billion dollars worth of food wasted every year comes from homes. Let’s repeat that: we throw out $27 billion dollars worth of food in Canada every year and half of that is coming form our household refrigerators. In Toronto alone, single-family households are throwing out about 275 kilos each year.

Taking steps to cut back on our food waste is a great way to make it #EarthDayEveryday:

  • Try implementing and following a weekly meal plan so you only buy what you need and use it up on time.
  • Support Toronto’s first pay-what-you-can grocery store – Feed It Forward – which is stocked using ‘food waste,’ more appropriately termed ‘surplus food.’
  • Test out the app, which will help you keep track of what’s in your fridge and prompt you with recipes to help you use what you have before it expires.
  • If you haven’t already, check out the app FlashFood which will enable you to purchase discounted food that is coming up to its expiry date at participating grocery stores.
  • Support the work of LifTOvers, a start-up in Toronto that is connecting perfectly good leftover food from social and catering events to those who are hungry in the city. You can follow them on Twitter @lifTOvers

10) Organize Community Cleanups

Community cleanups often happen around environment days such as Earth Day. These are a great way to not only cleanse our public spaces of trash, but also serve to bring people together to strengthen community.

Consider launching a community group that organizes regular cleanups around various parts of your city or register with Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup to join cleanups close to you. You can combine this with a potluck picnic (but make sure its a zero waste picnic) to facilitate connections between people. Since we all know conscious consumerism alone isn’t going to save the world, these meet-ups can be an opportunity to strategize and brainstorm various ways to become politically engaged, developing an action plan to make environmental issues key election issues. Encourage people to support groups like Toronto Environmental Alliance who are actively pushing for policy changes that would help us all live more sustainably in Toronto (it’s thanks to them that we have green bins in this city).

When we live our lives like it’s #EarthDayEveryday we contribute to a cultural shift, laying the foundation for the political and economic changes needed on a structural level to design waste and excess out of our system.

I’m @itsahashtaglife, a social media manager, storyteller and blogger for non-profits and charities in Toronto. I take the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and apply them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet.

Share more, waste less

“The miracle is this, the more we share, the more we have.” – Leonard Nimoy

Learn more about joining the Library of Things movement in Toronto.

The Sharing Depot Blog

Posted on / by Emily / in Blog

Spring Swap, Mend & Make: GIVEAWAY

Post the treasures you find at Spring Swap, Mend & Make on social media for a chance to win our zero waste prize pack!

We want you to act like you’re a big-shot YouTube blogger showing off your shopping haul – only better because you didn’t have to spend any money or destroy the planet in the process!

At our Spring Swap, Mend & Make event this Sunday, April 21 we’ll have a photo station set up for you to take photos with your new found treasures (and yes, that photo station will involve a shopping cart that you are welcome to sit in!). Post those photos on social media using the hashtag #SwapHaul and tag the Toronto Tool Library on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win the following prize pack:

  • a $25 gift card for Common Sort
  • a mason jar filled with package-free laundry soap & dryer balls from bare market
  • laundry stain removal stick + clothes pegs in a cloth bag from Hera & Co.
  • a free rental from Freshrents
  • a rain jacket from Patagonia Toronto made with 100% recycled nylon face fabric worth $160

Winner will be contacted on their post a couple of days after the swap. The social media account you use to enter the giveaway must be public for us to see it.

Happy swapping and THANK YOU to all the businesses that have donated the items for the giveaway! 

Everything you need to know about the swap this weekend:




Swap into spring! Clear out your closets, book shelves and treasure chests and swap for new-to-you treasures! We’re partnering with Birth Mark and Centre for Social Innovation to bring you the swapping event of the season on April 21.

In addition to the swap, we will have making and mending stations. Creative Reuse Toronto will be facilitating a rug-making activity and we’ll have a station set up for textile repairs (sewing machines & hand-sewing).


5 swap tickets and pizza lunch provided for volunteers. Contact Matt


Bring a maximum of 15 items in good condition (which includes a max of 2 stuffed animals). Exchange them for tickets and use your tickets to pick up items in the swap shop. Each item is worth one ticket.

You can drop your items off in advance at our 192 Spadina ave location during the week of April 15th during open hours.

Admission is $2 with advance drop off, $5 at the door OR pay-what-you-can. Children under 12 are free!


– Baby Supplies: Clothes, shoes, blankets, bottles, dishes, toys, & accessories

– Children’s Clothing & Toys: casual wear, outerwear, shoes, accessories, clean & working toys

– Clothing & Accessories: casual wear, work wear, fancy dress, handbags, jewellery, shoes, suits, jackets, outerwear, athletic wear, jeans, t-shirts, blouses, dresses, skirts, shorts, rompers, dress pants, jumpsuits, hoodies, scarves, hats, vintage items, silk tops, shoes, belts, athletic wear, etc.

– Housewares & Art: dishes, fine china, utensils, small appliances like blenders, juicers, bread makers, linens, quilts, lamps, framed art, ceramics, craft supplies, tools, small furniture like coffee tables or chairs

– Media/Entertainment: DVDs, Blurays, video games, books, CDs, cassettes, vinyl records, art supplies, & instruments

– Sports & Recreational Equipment: hockey gear, ski equipment, tennis rackets, soccer balls, skates, golf clubs, nets, free weights, yoga mats, jump ropes, rollerblades, boxing gloves, skateboards, & camping/hiking gear.


We will not be handing out plastic bags at this event. Please bring your own bags in which to carry your swap haul home in.


We will have a jar filled with bulk jelly beans from Bulk Barn at the door when you enter the swap. Guess the correct number of jelly beans in the jar and you will win a $50 gift card to Bulk Barn (and the jar of jelly beans, of course)!

Share more, waste less

“The miracle is this, the more we share, the more we have.” – Leonard Nimoy

Learn more about joining the Library of Things movement in Toronto.

The Sharing Depot Blog

Posted on / by Emily / in Blog

Say Hello to Saponetti, Toronto’s First Package-Free Soap Delivery Service

The Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot partnered with Saponetti – Toronto’s package-free soap delivery service – a couple of years ago to bring you bulk soap stations, which you’ll find at both our 830 St Clair W and 192 Spadina Ave locations! These soap stations have been extremely popular with our community and we’ve had great feedback from you!

Saponetti Inc. (inspired by the Italian word for soap, sapone) is Toronto’s first and only soap delivery company.

They offer premium, Canadian-made, environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic soaps and detergents for home and personal care. You can order online and they’ll deliver to your home milkman style, or you can pick them up from one of their refill stations at our locations!

At our St Clair W and Spadina locations you will be able to refill:

  • shampoo
  • conditioner
  • shower gel
  • dish soap
  • hand soap
  • all-purpose cleaner
  • laundry detergent
  • cleaning vinegar

​Each time we buy a bottle of liquid soap, another plastic container becomes destined for the blue bin, where it enters a big, dirty waste stream. Only about 50% of Toronto’s waste plastic actually gets recycled. Almost all of it is made from petroleum oil, so there’s a sizeable percentage of geopolitics in every gram of the stuff. And all that recycling requires trucks and facilities that burn energy and generate waste and pollution.

Saponetti is committed is to providing sustainable choices toward a future that relies less and less on obsolete products like single use plastics. Saponetti does everything in its power to eliminate waste and prevent plastic from entering our landfills and waterways.

To celebrate the launch of their very own storefront location – The Saponetti Depot at 615c Brock Avenue – we sat down with co-founder Nikki to ask her to tell us a little bit more about the inspiration behind what they do.

When / how did you first start striving to live an eco-friendly lifestyle?

My husband (and business partner), Christian, and I made radical shifts in our lifestyles about 16 years ago. I was struggling with chronic and debilitating migraines and was desperate to find a reason and some relief. This journey to wellness led to a whole process of change in pretty much everything we were doing, what we were eating and what products we were using on our bodies and in our home. 

Having grown up in Germany, Christian arrived in Canada already with a strong sense of environmental responsibility around water use, waste and recycling.

When / how did you decide to start a zero-waste store?

The lack of local package-free options was the ultimate inspiration to open our own business. Also, the realization that while we were making efforts to buy the most environmentally friendly products available, we were still poisoning our environment with plastic waste, which just didn’t make sense. We were convinced that we were not the only ones looking for alternatives and so we decided to open an online delivery service targeting our local community and surrounding neighbourhoods. Saponetti launched online in June 2016 with the depot following in April 2018 conveniently located at 615c Brock Avenue, just a few steps north of Bloor Street, between Dufferin and Lansdown Stations. 

Christian at The Saponetti Depot, 615c Brock Ave

Tell us about your store’s mission + what products / services you offer

Our mission is to provide a solution to the overwhelming problem with single-use plastics. We want to help redefine the way we shop by providing package-free options. The goal is to make it easy and convenient for consumers to zero-waste everyday consumables from laundry soap, dish soap and all-purpose cleaners to personal care products like shampoo, shower gel and deodorant. Everything is eco-friendly and cruelty-free. All our brands are Canadian and we try to source as local as possible so we can manage and minimize waste within our supply chain as well. It is important that our partners share our same values in terms of environmental protection as well healthy products for healthy homes and businesses.

Customers shop online and we deliver refills in returnable mason jars, which we collect on the next delivery, via electric vehicles and bicycles with our partner The Drop Distribution. Now that we have opened the refill depot, customers can also drop by with their own containers to refill or borrow from our stock of mason jars. 

What do you love about about the work you do?

Good feelings pour in on a daily basis. Every time someone walks into the depot and exclaims how excited they are that we exist we feel confirmed in our choice and that we are on the right track. We meet likeminded people and hear so many going-green journeys! We are very happy to know that we are helping people decrease their reliance on plastic and make sustainable choices for their families. 

Follow Saponetti on Facebook & Instagram

Saponetti reusable soap station at the Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot

Price List for Saponetti Soap Stations inside the Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot:


  • Liquid Dish Soap: $0.55/100ml
  • Hand Soap: $0.95/100ml
  • Laundry Detergent 2x concentrated $0.74/100ml
  • All Purpose Cleaner (spray): $0.48/100ml
  • Cleaning Vinegar (spray): $0.36/100ml


  • Shampoo: $2.20/100ml
  • Conditioner: $2.20/100ml
  • Shower Gel: $2.20/100ml
Posted on / by Emily / in Blog / 1

8 Tips for a Zero Waste Valentine’s Day

Like any consumer-driven Holiday, Valentine’s Day has become an excessive and wasteful celebration. While trying to express our love for friends, family and partners, we litter the planet with non-recyclable candy wrappers, take away containers carrying the dinner we couldn’t finish and stock the shelves of our landfills by purchasing unnecessary cheap trinkets that will inevitably fall apart.

This Valentine’s Day, let’s show our love for the planet by making an effort to waste less. Here are some tips for a waste-free Valentine’s Day:

1) Look for package-free sweets

Partaking in the sweeter side of the Valentine’s Day tradition? Grab some jars, containers or bulk bags and head to a bulk store to stock up. Many candy wrappers are made from mixed materials and are therefore not recyclable. Most candies and chocolates that you’ll find in stores also come in unnecessary plastic bags, which you definitely want to avoid if you’re trying to be nice to the planet.

You can use Bea Johnson’s handy Bulk Locator to find a bulk store close to you.

Add a personal touch with these cute punny messages from Going Zero Waste:

  • Reese’s Pieces: 100 “Resse”sons I love you!
  • Reese’s Pieces: I love you to pieces!
  • Gummy Bears: Life without you would be un-BEAR-able.
  • Raisins: You’re always raisin my spirits

2) Don’t purchase a new outfit

The celebrity mindset that makes us feel we need a new outfit for every special occasion and a new wardrobe for every season is slowly (not so slowly) killing the planet. We purchase 400 times more clothing now than we did in 1980 with the number of new garments created every year now exceeding 100 billion. The average North American creates 70lbs of textile waste per year, with much of that ending up in landfills. And the narrative around the ‘good’ we do when we donate our used clothes is coming undone at the seams (some countries are trying to ban the import of used clothing and shoes from the west as the massive influx of our hand-me-downs is devastating their local artisan markets).

So, if you were considering getting something shiny and new for a date or a night out with friends this Valentine’s Day, don’t. Instead, consider getting something ‘new-to-you’ from the second hand market:

  • trade for an outfit on Bunz Trading Zone
  • borrow an outfit from Toronto’s Fresh Fashion Library
  • purchase second hand. If you don’t feel like digging through the racks of a thrift store, check out the carefully curated consignment inventory at the Common Sort.
  • you can also borrow clothing from other Torontonians via Boro or rent a fancy outfit from Rent Frock Repeat.

3) If you dine out, bring a zero waste kit

Haven’t you heard? A zero waste kit is 2019’s hottest accessory to pair with your sustainable second hand outfit! Whether you skip out to a local cafe to grab a drink on the way to a romantic skate at your local rink or sit down to enjoy dinner out with friends and family, a zero waste kit will help you avoid using single-use disposable items like coffee cups and take out containers.

It’s important to remember that even if the disposable item you’re using is recyclable, recycling is not the solution to the waste crisis:

By the time waste gets recycled, 95% of the environmental damage has already occurred – in manufacturing, in oil extraction, in the poisoning of our rivers and air. People have to buy less…our economy is based on endless growth, endless production of what our landfills tell us is basically junk. The cycle just keeps going: manufacture, consume, discard.

Here’s how to assemble your own Zero Waste Kit!

4) Make a card using upcycled materials

Elevate your Valentine’s Day above the basic Hallmark Holiday and skip the purchasing of store-bought cards (which are often wrapped in plastic, which – as we’ve covered many times – is bad for the planet).

Make your own card instead using upcycled and scrap materials. I have a box in my home where I keep packaging, used wrapping paper and other odds and ends that can be used to wrap gifts or make creative cards. I will often include a little pouch on the cards where a note can be tucked inside so I don’t need to write on the card itself. This way, the person you give it to can reuse the card by removing the note and writing their own!

5) Make something together

Why buy cheap gifts that are made overseas when you could celebrate your love by making something special together?

The Toronto Tool Library’s Makerspace is hosting a special Valentine’s Day Wind-Up Music Box Build at 192 Spadina on February 14. There are two time slots to choose from:

6) Give an experiential gift

Let’s face it – we’ve been doing the cheap stuffed teddy bears, boxes of chocolates and diamonds thing for long enough. It’s getting old. Plus, household consumption is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80% of total land, material, and water use.

We don’t need to purchase stuff to express our undying love for a significant other or our gratitude to friends and family. Research has shown that accumulating more and more stuff does not equate to increases in happiness. Quite the opposite.

Experiences are where it’s at, so rather than give the ones you love unnecessary things, give them an experiential gift instead:

  • a membership to a Library of Things like the Toronto Tool Library or The Sharing Depot, where the borrowing of items will give them access to infinite experiences (for example, they could borrow board games to host a games night, a record player, disco ball and chocolate fountain to throw a wicked party or a projector, screen and popcorn maker to host the ultimate movie night).
  • take them out to a movie or a theatrical play
  • go rock climbing together at a rock climbing gym
  • take a trip to a museum or art gallery
  • get them an online subscription to a music or movie streaming service
  • hire a tool ninja at the Toronto Tool Library and make something special together
  • head out to a skating rink and pack a zero waste picnic (obviously if you’re in Toronto, you will find somewhere to take shelter from the cold to eat it).
  • the possibilities are endless!

7) Skip the flowers

What better way to say I love you than cut flowers that are grown far away, shipped around the world, sprayed with pesticides and inevitably DIE? No thanks, hard pass.

Take a trip to your local seed library and pick up some some free seeds they can plant when spring rolls around. These are often seeds that are saved from gardeners in the community and donated back to the seed library for others to take.

8) Make dinner at home with what you already have

A staggering 1/3 of all food produced globally is wasted annually and in Canada, we’re collectively chucking out approximately $31 billion worth of food a year. This is not only insulting in terms of the fact that we’re throwing away perfectly good food when there are many on the planet without enough to eat, but food waste has 25 times the climate change potential of carbon dioxide.

All this to say, you can make a really fun night out of taking note of what’s already in your fridge and making a nice meal with a significant other or friends. You can enter those random things you find at the back of fridge drawers into the app which will then give you recipe suggestions based on what you have. You could also use the Flashfood app to locate food that is about to be tossed out by grocery stores and pick it up for a fraction of the price.

BONUS: you might be wondering about the waste associated with birth control. While there is no fully wasteless way around protection, Trash Is For Tossers does have a blog you can peruse on the more sustainable options.

This is a guest blog from @itsahashtaglife – blogger, social media manager and content creator for non-profits and charities in Toronto. She takes the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and applies them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet. #LetsGetWasteless

The Sharing Depot Blog

Imagine if Libraries of Things became as readily accessible as book libraries, where every week you visit to select toys, camping gear, board games, sports equipment or party supplies and return what you took out the week before? Imagine the shelf space, imagine the savings, imagine the community connections, imagine a greener planet.

This is about experience, without the price tag or the clutter. Support us by becoming a member or making a donation. If you are interested in learning how to set up your own Library of Things, get in touch with us for a free Skype consultation where we’ll tell you all about how we did it!

Posted on / by Emily / in Uncategorized

Marie Kondo Came for Your Clutter, Mottainai is Coming for Your Consumption Habits


  1. Respect
  2. Reuse
  3. Recirculate
  4. Repair
  5. Repurpose

It’s 2019. A war has been declared on single-use plastic. Upcycling and repurposing are suddenly in vogue (recycling is dead, long-live the reuse revolution!). People are fleeing their three story mansions in droves, downsizing their living rooms and their lives to squeeze what’s left into tiny off-grid homes. High priestess of the zero waste movement Bea Johnson has taught her minions to refill glass jars at bulk stores across the planet and arrange them in aesthetically pleasing ways in pantries, drawers and cupboards. Meanwhile, sergeant general of decluttering Marie Kondo has triggered the great purge of the 21st century (she’s also triggered a lot of white people).

If it isn’t clear by now, it soon will be. Several niche lifestyle movements that have been bubbling under the service for years have suddenly hit the mainstream like a climate change-enhanced hurricane and it’s giving consumer culture an identity crisis. You can blame millennials – so that’s what happens when you rig an economy and screw an entire generation! Fun experiment *insert side eye emoji* – but you can also look at it as a natural response akin to overstuffing your face at an all you can eat restaurant. After decades of the most extensive (and expensive) accidental research study in history, the people have concluded that the answer is yes, you can indeed have too much stuff.

Our overflowing closets tell tales of sales past, tags glaring at us from shirts in seasonal colours that never suited us. Our junk drawers give lectures on the evolution of cell phone technology and act as graveyards for dried up pens with missing lids and conference swag we never wanted but never thought to refuse. Our garages contain exactly everything except for our cars (yes, of course you need all that gear for your annual camping trip – psyche! No you don’t). Our storage units are mausoleums dedicated to china sets, puke green couches with puke orange floral patterns and extensive useless trinket collections. It all sparks anxiety but you feel bad for grandma so into storage they go.

But what comes after the decluttering? It’s not enough to go on a spark joy purging trip through your home once a year and then dump the rejects onto the doorsteps of unwitting thrift shops to absolve yourself of consumer guilt. No. It’s time that decluttering go the way of recycling and we adopt practices that avoid the creation of clutter in the first place.

Say Hello to Mottainai – Your New Lifestyle Practice

Mottainai is a state of mind rooted in Japanese culture expressing regret at wasting resources and reflecting an awareness of the interdependence and impermanence of all things. Naturally, this mindset favours and upholds things like reusing, repairing and repurposing materials that already exist so as to minimize waste and to put respect for the planet at the centre of our relationship to resources.

As we make the shift from a linear economic model of resource use to a circular economy where waste is designed out, I would like to suggest that we apply Mottainai as the underpinning philosophical framework for a new way of relating to our things.


The first thing we can do is acknowledge deep respect for the planet we live on and use that as a guiding principle for all our actions. This involves understanding that each time we consume something, we are using Earth’s resources which are not infinite and take time to regenerate. The Earth itself is an organism and if we take too much at one time OR use items that the planet can’t digest, we risk disrupting its natural systems. We need to acknowledge this and be mindful of the interconnected nature of our actions and the well-being of all life on earth.

Makes it pretty hard to pump the air full of carbon, decimate essential-for-life-on-earth forests, pollute global waterways and force species extinctions with that as a guiding principle, doesn’t it? It follows naturally from this that one of the first steps we should take in implementing respect is awarding personhood to the entire planet.

From respect flows practices for accessing the stuff we need in ways that reflect the above: reuse, recirculate, repurpose, repair. And lucky for us, in Toronto each of these is becoming increasingly more available.


Reuse involves taking materials that already exist and using them again – wooooh, what a concept *insert mind blown emoji*. For example, this could involve taking a jar that once contained pickles and, rather than chucking it, reusing it to store bulk food items in. Reuse could also include bringing a reusable cup, container, bag, cutlery, etc when on the go, such as carrying a zero waste kit. Or it could involve using a reuse service, such as Dream Zero who bring reusable cups to events and pick them up when the event is over to be washed and readied for another event.

Reuse in Toronto: places to fill your own containers or get quality reusable items


Recirculating goods involves reimagining our perceptions of ownership while creating the infrastructure that makes it possible to share, borrow and exchange things as a community rather than buying new. For example, you likely don’t really need to own a drill – what you need is a hole in the wall. Why have a garage packed with tools you use occasionally when you can have a community hub that makes things available and accessible for everyone to use when they need to?

Recirculate in Toronto: places to swap, trade and borrow things you need rather than purchasing new


Repair involves taking an item that is broken and fixing it so you don’t have to throw it out and can therefore avoid replacing it with a new item. For example, your handheld steamer stops working, you open it up, discover calcium build-up in the tube, remove it and it starts working again (true story – Repair Cafe Toronto is a stuff-saver).

Repair in Toronto: places where you can access the knowledge and tools you need to get your treasures fixed

No need to reinvent the wheel – Repair Cafe Toronto has an extensive list on their website of all different types of repair shops in Toronto, sorted by category. View the list here.


Repurposing could also be called upcycling. This involves taking materials that used to be one thing and turning them into something else. This keeps the materials in circulation longer and avoids using new resources to create the thing you need. For example, turning an old t-shirt into a reusable bag.

Repurpose in Toronto: places where you can learn to make your own upcycled things or purchase things that have been made with upcycled materials  

Know a shop or service that isn’t on the list but should be? Let me know and I’ll add it in!

In all seriousness, we have a real opportunity here. The foundation for a new way of accessing what we need in more environmentally and socially responsible ways is already being laid. Waste is nothing more than a cultural mindset rooted in the notion that we can take whatever we want, whenever we want and dispose of it however we want. Cultural mindsets change and we’re already in the midst of a shift. Changing our relationship with the earth and its resources has the potential to spiral out, transforming how we relate to each other, to money, our concepts of work, and so much more.

Imagine libraries of things in every single community and every condo. Imagine reuse centres all over the city that have all the tools and knowledge in one place to create, repair and innovate with upcycled materials. Imagine malls but instead of new junky products, they are filled with reused, repaired and repurposed things.

You don’t have to imagine all that hard, because the pieces needed to get to that future have already been put in place. We have very nearly arrived, it’s up to us to keep up the momentum. Get rich or try sharing ✌️ and stay wasteless.

This is a guest blog from @itsahashtaglife – blogger, social media manager and content creator for non-profits and charities in Toronto. She takes the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and applies them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet. #LetsGetWasteless

The Sharing Depot Blog

Posted on / by Emily / in Uncategorized

Now There’s a Better Way to Give Memberships as Gifts

For the maker, the DIYer, the tinkerer. For the lover of outdoor adventures and nights under the stars. For the party animal and the event planner. For the board gamer. For the little people who love toys but love novelty even more. For the minimalist who likes stuff but hates clutter. For the environmentalist who wants to live lighter on the planet.

THERE’S A CARD FOR ALL THAT AND MORE – give your loved ones the gift of access to thousands of items with a membership to the Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot this Holiday season! The gift that gives all year long, a membership to a library of things provides infinite experiences without the price tag, clutter or environmental damage.

And now there’s an even better way to give memberships as gifts! We are excited to be partnering with UnWrapIt to make your gift of access that much more meaningful to the person who receives it. With UnWrapIt, you can create a memorable gift opening experience for intangible and experiential gifts by “wrapping” any kind of gift with multiple choice questions, a scavenger hunt and personal photos.

So how do you wrap thousands of tools and other items available to borrow through our library of things to make the experience of opening a membership card exciting for the recipient? Choose from a variety of different wrap experiences when you purchase the membership online through UnWrapIt

Check out the pre-made wrap experiences UnWrapIt put together for gifted Toronto Tool Library & Sharing Depot memberships. Decide which level of membership is right for your loved one, add it to the gift builder and follow the steps! You can select the ‘preview’ section at the bottom of each bundle to see an example of what the unwrapping experience will be like for the person you are sending it to.

Why UnWrapIt?

Fewer Parcels, Better Gifts 

Every year, tens of millions of parcels are ordered online, wrapped with wrapping paper, and delivered as gifts. 

Meanwhile, independent research has shown that more than 50% of gift recipients in North America prefer intangible gifts like experiences to physical gifts.

The Big Idea  

If there was an easy way to create exciting and joyful gift opening experiences when giving intangible gifts, then more people would give intangible gifts. And with more intangible gifts given, there would be:

  • More satisfied gift recipients
  • More shared experiences
  • Fewer trees cut down
  • Less CO2 emissions from manufacturing & shipping
  • Less gift waste overall
Posted on / by Emily / in Blog

Save Money, Reduce Waste: the Sustainable Back-to-School Guide

It’s that time of year again, the time of year when parents excitedly begin prepping their children for the transition back to publicly funded daycare (otherwise known as school 😜). Part of this preparation involves equipping kids with the tools and items they need for a successful year – new clothes, notebooks, pencils, lunch kits, backpacks, etc.

While there are a certain number of items kids really do need, our culture has elevated the relatively mundane process of sending children to school into a shopping frenzy on par with other consumer holidays. In fact, recent polls suggest that some parents spend more on back-to-school shopping than they do on holiday gift shopping in December.

This means that not only are we maxing out our credit cards on plastic binders and fresh fall looks, we’re contributing to the wastefulness associated with mass individual consumption of goods. Couple this with food packaged in non-recyclable materials and the excessive plastic packaging that school supplies are stuck in, and the education of our young people suddenly becomes a pretty wasteful process.

Since the 1950s, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide, and to date, only 9% of that has been recycled. – Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

What’s an environmentally-minded parent to do?! Here are a few practical tips to make the back-to-school process a little lighter on the planet (and your wallet).


1) Assess What You Need, Use What You Have

Chances are, you’ve still got a good number of items floating around from the previous school year in good working order. Take inventory of what you already have around the house and make a list of the things you still need – and then stick to that list. Make it part of your end-of-school-year routine to keep all school supplies in one place to reduce the amount of time spent looking for rogue markers or tricky calculators.

This seems like pretty basic advice but if you skip this step, the chance of acquiring repeat items is higher.


2) Organize a Community Swap

Chances are, there are parents in your neighbourhood who have a lot of gently used clothing, backpacks, shoes and school supplies their kids have outgrown or grown tired of. Rather than going to a busy mall and purchasing all these things new, why not host a community swap to recirculate the stuff that already exists in your community? The more people who attend the swap, the better the selection will be and the easier it becomes for people to find what they need. Imagine if back-to-school swaps became as much of a cultural phenomenon as back-to-school shopping?!

Consumers must recognize that the most sustainable item is the one that already exists. – 2018 State of Reuse Report

It is best to partner with a local community organization or hub that can provide space and help spread the word about the swap. For example, we ran a successful Kids Stuff Swap at Withrow Park Farmers’ Market this past weekend. Imagine if every school got involved in the swapping movement and began hosting a large back-to-school swap in the gym each August for parents to attend?  The more we participate and push for events like these, the more likely back-to-school swapping will become an engrained cultural behaviour.

We hold several community swaps a year. To get notified about upcoming swaps, sign up for our monthly community newsletter.


3) Shop at Thrift Stores & Use Trading Apps

Thrift shopping ain’t what it used to be – it’s BETTER. Because consumer culture has exploded over the last 20 or so years, we are drowning in stuff and our thrift stores are the physical evidence of that. In Toronto we have some exceptional second-hand children’s stores that reveal another excellent way to get what you need for back-to-school without shopping new. Find children’s clothing, shoes, accessories and backpacks at:

Maybe you found all the clothing and shoes you needed by shopping thrift, but weren’t able to find an appropriate backpack, for example. For more specific searches, try out apps like Freecycle and Bunz Trading Zone where you can input search terms and find items in your community that people have available for free or for trade.


4) Learn the ABCs of Packing a Plastic-Free Lunch

Ditching packaging in your kid’s lunch requires a little bit of thought, finding the right tools to do the job and knowing where to shop to avoid over-packaged products. Let’s take a little lesson in the zero waste lifestyle before sending your little ones to school:

A) Swap out Plastic Wrap & Ziplock Bags for Beeswax Wrap

Who actually likes dealing with plastic wrap?! No one, and definitely not the planet. If you haven’t already made the switch, beeswax wraps are your new best friends. They can be used for wrapping just about anything – sandwiches, veggie sticks, fruits. They are easy to use and actually pretty easy to make at home yourself (check out two different DIY instructions here and here. You can use upcycled fabrics and leftover beeswax drippings from beeswax candles). Not up to the DIY challenge? Toronto’s Bare Market has them available at their pop-up markets around the city.

B) Invest in a Zero Waste Lunch Kit 

Making a package-free lunch starts with the right tools – good quality stainless steel containers, a mini container for dips, a cutlery set, reusable water bottle, etc. Putting together a zero waste lunch kit for kids is very similar to the process of putting one together for adults.

If you’ve already got these items, just use what you have! But if you’re in the market for anything, Bare Market has everything you need – including the stainless steel containers, cutlery sets and beeswax wraps. Bare Market will be Toronto’s first one-stop, package-free shop and has been running pop-up shops around the city this summer. They will be at the Toronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot’s 830 St Clair West location on Thursday, August 30 for one of these pop-up shops. Stop by, say hi and get wasteless!

C) Locate bulk stores that have reusable container programs

Here comes the trickier part – if you want to avoid the packaging that typically comes on pre-bought food, it means lunches have to be made from scratch using package-free ingredients.

Don’t know where to find bulk stores that allow you to bring your own containers? There’s an app for that! Use the Bulk Locator App to find the package-free shops nearest you and shop for ingredients using your own containers and bags. Karma Coop Toronto,  Anarres Natural HealthNuthouseSweet Potato Toronto and Strictly Bulk are all good options. Bulk Barn has also recently launched a reusable container program.

If you’re looking for bread for sandwiches, check out local bakeries and bring along a bread bag (the bread loaf can then be stored in a large beeswax wrap or bread box to avoid it going stale). If you use cold cut meats, you can bring your own container to the deli counter in grocery stores or to specialty meat shops to skip the plastic wrap/plastic bags they put put those in.

For some easy-to-prep zero waste lunch recipe ideas, check out Everyday Eco Living and Zero Waste Chef.


5) Get Broken Items Repaired

Backpack with a broken zipper? Ripped jeans? Binder with a broken spine? Rather than tossing these items and buying new, take them to a Repair Cafe or to Clothing Repairathon Toronto.

Repair Café Toronto holds pop-up repair events all around the city. We also host them at our 830 St Clair West location every Sunday from 12-4pm. Bring your broken items – everything from small appliances, jewelry, textiles, books, bicycles, etc – and the amazing volunteers will help you fix them.

Clothing Repairathon is similar to the Repair Café, but focuses just on textiles. They will be at Withrow Park Farmers’ Market on September 15 from 9am-1pm. Check their website or Facebook group for other upcoming events.


6) Find Sustainable Alternatives

Bic has sold over 100 billion disposable pens since 1950. If all those pens were lined up end to end, they could circle the Earth 350 times. – JetPens

While finding and using what already exists in circulation is the most sustainable option, sometimes you can’t avoid buying new. When purchasing an item new, try to locate eco-friendly or sustainable alternatives.

  • Pencils and Pencil Crayons: Bare Market carries a brand of pencils and coloured pencils made from recycled paper and non-toxic graphite. They will be at theToronto Tool Library and Sharing Depot’s 830 St Clair West location on Thursday, August 30.
  • Highlighters: the Pilot Wytebord highlighter is made using 56% recycled plastic and is refillable using bottled ink. The Zebra Optex 1 EZ Highlighters are made of 98% recycled plastic, but use a cartridge system for refills. Or check out these highlighter pencils from Stubby Pencil Studio.
  • Pens: look for pens that are made from biodegradable materials, such as the DBA 98 Penwhich is 98% biodegradable. There are also many pens out there made from recycled plastic (look for the pens that are refillable on that list, such as the Pilot Kakuno Fountain Pen or the Pilot Hi-Tecpoint).
  • Look for products that don’t include plastic – such as opting for a stainless steel ruler rather than a plastic one.
  • Notebooks: the Decompossion Notebooks are made in the USA using 100% recycled paper, soy ink and bio-gas and can be recycled when you’re finished with them.
  • Backpacks and Lunch Bags: if you’re in the market for a new backpack or lunch bag, look for makers who are making them using upcycled fabric. A quick search on Etsy led me to SANDbags, who make backpacks out of repurposed clothing, curtains, linens and rescued fabrics (super into this rock star backpack made from a curtain and this aztec print backpack made from rescued fabric). They also make reusable snack bags out of upcycled materials. Similarly, SecondBirthday makes backpacks using upcycled denim. FatDragonfly makes lunch bags out of recycled organic cotton.

These are just some examples, the point being that with a little bit of research (even into your own local maker community) it’s very likely you can find a more sustainable version of the mass produced, highly unsustainable item you almost bought at a commercial retailer. Looking for reusable products that use upcycled materials is the priority.

JustEco pencils and coloured pencils will be available at Bare Market’s pop-up shop with us this Thursday, August 30.


7) Consider Investing in a Zero Waste Box Program

TerraCycle is an eco-friendly recycling company that has become a global leader in recycling typically non-recyclable waste. –

Recycling might not be the solution to our culture’s waste woes, but it is one way to reuse materials that are already in circulation. And it isn’t so much that most materials can’t be recycled – it’s that most materials can’t be recycled by our local recycling facilities.

Get your community involved in recycling materials you would normally be chucking in the garbage by going in on a Terracycle Zero Waste Box together. For instance, a group of parents could get their children’s classroom a Zero Waste Box for snack wrappers (and for the month of August, this box is 20% off with the code AUGUSTBOX20) or try an Office Supplies Box for the whole school. You can also check in with them to see if your school qualifies for one of their Free Recycling Programs, sponsored by brands, retailers and manufacturers around the world. You can reach out to them about this here.

This is a great way to not only recycle materials that would otherwise end up in landfill, but also to get more people thinking about waste and our relationship to the Earth’s resources a little more carefully.


8) Donate or Properly Recycle Used Items

If you aren’t distributing your child’s used school items at a community swap, ensure you recycle or donate your items responsibly, to the best of your ability.

  • Staples has partnered with Terracycle Canada to implement a writing instruments recycling program available across 300 locations. Bring your used up pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, etc to a location near you to be recycled.
  • Get your school involved in ColorCycle, Crayola’s North America wide marker recycling program. This program is easy to participate in: put all of the dried up markers in a box and Crayola will pay for the shipping. They then separate the markers, melt them down and use the recycled product to make new markers.
  • ‘The Pen Guy’ accepts pens, markers, crayons, highlighters, etc and uses them for upcycled art projects.
  • There are charities who distribute back-to-school items to children in need, such as the Caring and Sharing Exchange in Ottawa.
  • Bring items that are gently used to the Really, Really Free Market which takes place on the first Saturday of every month.
  • List items on the Freecycle app for others in your community who need them.
  • Get your neighbourhood involved in Toronto’s Second Hand Sunday event, which is a city-wide event where people leave their gently used items on the curb for others to take (takes place on Sunday, September 30). Contact them to learn how to bring it to your community!


Nothing is going to be perfect and don’t stress if you don’t have the time or resources to invest in all of these tips. The zero waste lifestyle is one that can be adopted over time and doing any of these things helps to make the world a more sustainable place.

Do you have any wasteless back-to-school tips? Let us know on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).



I’m @itsahashtaglife, a social media manager, storyteller and blogger for non-profits and charities in Toronto. I take the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and apply them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet.




The Sharing Depot Blog