Public libraries are a win-win for people and the planet. I have access to more books than I could ever read, while sharing them, I save paper, ink and shipping fuel, writes Eleanor Margolies …
The idea was extended beyond books to toys, clothing, bicycles. At the Library of Things at Crystal Palace, you can borrow tools, a sewing machine, or an ice cream maker. This summer I rented a tent for a week and a premium digital projector for a day. Even if I could afford to buy a projector, I would only use it once per blue moon. Would the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, approve of sharing?
Likewise, instead of covering all auto insurance, parking and maintenance costs, auto clubs allow you to borrow a vehicle as and when needed. That means fewer cars cluttering the street: RAC research shows that most private cars spend 95% of the time parked.
Sharing programs can provide quality far beyond an individual budget. Instead of consumer products that seem affordable but fall apart in a matter of days, a “library” can invest in strong, ethically made items that can be maintained and easily repaired.
Repair is the key. The “Right to Repair” law passed this year obliges manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers and refrigerators to provide spare parts. The law must go further, in particular to include smartphones and laptops. The vast majority of electronic products have built-in “scheduled obsolescence”. They are literally designed to stop working, locking us into a cycle of upgrades that eat away at the world’s supply of precious minerals and create mountains of waste.
More and more people want to get off this treadmill. The “repair café” movement brings people together to repair everyday items like phones, kettles and toasters; there are opportunities to learn DIY, carpentry and upholstery skills at places like Southwark Adult Learning and the Goodlife Center in London Bridge. At the Loughborough Junction Remakery, volunteers share expertise, workshop space and materials that would otherwise be wasted.
Shared public resources like libraries, parks, swimming pools and art galleries are part of what George Monbiot called “public luxury”: belonging to all of us, they allow us to live happily on a finite planet. .