Shopping for free! First swap and repair event hosted by municipality during Waste Reduction Week

October 26, 2023

For over 20 years, all across Canada, the 3rd week in October is Waste Reduction Week.

Everyone knows that it’s becoming more and more urgent that we humans stem the tide of waste that we produce. But it’s not always easy to see how we as individuals can make a difference. Waste Reduction Week is a time to come together and take action to adapt our lifestyle for a less wasteful present and future.

It’s all about extending the life of the products and materials we use through swapping, sharing, thrifting, and repairing. It’s about empowering people to protect the planet and give back to our communities while reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and contributing to the circular economy.

The Municipality of Inverness County waste services team has a mission to help residents live more sustainably by diverting as much waste as possible out of landfill. One easy way to do that is by reusing and repairing things which still have a lot of life in them, instead of tossing them out.

Shopping for free

The waste services team got together with 4-H Cape Breton and organized the municipality’s first ever swap and repair event last Wednesday evening at Mabou Parish Hall. The focus was on kid’s winter clothes, sports gear and toys. And there was a lot of online buzz in the run-up the event.

The concept is simple – if you’ve outgrown something or you’re not using it anymore, but it’s still in good shape and could be used by someone else, bring it on down to the swap and repair event. Then take some time to peruse the cornucopia of coats, skates, mitts, tuques, sweaters, golf clubs, helmets, hockey sticks, books, trainsets, stuffies, hula hoops and tons more besides, that other Inverness County residents are no longer using. You’re sure to find something that you could use yourself.

As one parent said at Wednesday’s event – it’s like shopping for free!

New life for pre-loved clothes, toys and sports gear

Nicole Latimer was one of the event organizers for the municipality. She says that over 200 kg of materials made it onto the tables at this first event.

A photo of children's footwear in good condition available to take for free during the swap event.

“I’m so glad to see such a positive response from the community towards the idea of passing down, swapping and mending that this event has shown,” Nicole said last week. “People here tonight are contributing to a circular economy. They’re preventing valuable items from ending up in landfills.”

Nicole said that in addition to the swap aspect, volunteers demonstrating how easy and social it can be to repair lightly used things was a major component of this event. ‘People see how quick it can be to have their items fixed. But not everyone has access to what you need to do these small repairs at home,” she says.

“Here you can use whatever you need, or watch someone show you how and gain confidence that you can do it yourself. We are hopeful that this will become an annual event.”

Above all, as well as being good for the community and for the planet, this was a fun event. Parents enjoyed chatting with each other while picking out the best treasures from the swap tables, and kids let loose, playing with the toys which they then tried to persuade their mums and dads to let them adopt.

There was even live music from local musician Jonathan Andrews which brought a chilled out, upbeat vibe to the proceedings.

A photo of musician Jonathan Andrews singing and playing guitar at the swap event.

Collaboration for a zero waste future

Mike Dickson, regional program coordinator for Cape Breton with 4-H Nova Scotia, said he was thrilled that the municipality had reached out to propose this collaboration.

4-H Nova Scotia is a nationwide, family oriented, community-based youth organization which is dedicated to helping young Canadians develop into well-rounded and responsible members of society.

It’s a network of clubs dedicated to learning-by-doing, which helps younger folks (ages 7 to 21) to develop life and leadership skills in a fun and inclusive way.

“Having the opportunity to work together with the municipality’s waste services team was my pleasure,” says Mike, “because community-based events like this one – which had a focus on supporting youth – is an obvious fit for 4-H. Raising awareness toward a more sustainable future with reduced waste is extremely beneficial to us all.”

Mike pointed out that swap and repair events are a fantastic way to promote a more sustainable lifestyle for our communities. “I’m looking forward to more partnerships here in the Municipality of Inverness County, and to many more such successful events!” he says.

Indeed, moving back to a ‘mend it, don’t throw it’ mentality is one way that we can reduce waste, which is why the organizers were keen to have a repair table corner at the swap event.

A photo of volunteers a the repair table at the swap event, with sewing equipment

Armed with needles and threads, hot glue, a sewing machine and more, three crafty volunteers were on hand to bring new life to clothes or toys. Attendees could get a quick fix to a zip, button, little hole, etc.  Or they could borrow supplies and do it themselves.

More to come

People went away happy, having snagged all kinds of goodies for their kids and themselves. Almost half of what people brought to the event was swapped right here in the community.

A photo of games and books at the swap event that were in good condition and available to take for free.

What was still left at the end of the event was carefully bagged up by the municipal staff and 4-H partners and has been donated to the Leeside Transition House, who locally support women and their children leaving violence and abuse.

This first swap event will surely not be the last. It was very well received by kids and parents, who wanted to know when the next one would be.

The comments from people who had attended, speak for themselves:

Larissa Mac Neil commented, “I love this! Hope it becomes an annual or even quarterly event. These kiddos grow so fast and it’s great to see the clothes and toys passed down.”

Jane Thom added, “Please do more of these! Such a great idea and a way to help people cut their spending and consumption.”

While Shania MacMillan remarked, “Would love an adult clothes/books/knick knacks version next!”

The smiling faces as people left, confirmed that swap and repair events appeal to Inverness County residents. Look out for more in the future!

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