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Southwark Green: ‘Borrowing and repairing is the way to a green future’

Public libraries are a win-win for people and planet. I have access to more books than I could ever possibly read, while sharing them saves on paper, ink and shipping fuel, writes Eleanor Margolies…

The idea has been extended beyond books to toys, clothes, bikes. At the Library of Things in 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 high spec digital projector for a day. Even if I could afford to buy a projector, I would only use it once in a blue moon. Surely the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, would approve of sharing?

Similarly, instead of taking on all the costs of motor insurance, parking and maintenance, car clubs allow you to borrow a vehicle as and when needed. That means fewer cars cluttering the street: research by the RAC shows that most private cars spend 95 per cent of the time parked.

Sharing schemes can provide quality way beyond an individual budget. Instead of consumer products that seem affordable but fall apart in days, a ‘library’ can invest in solid, ethically made items that can be maintained and easily repaired.

Repair is key. The ‘right to repair’ law brought in this year obliges manufacturers of washing machines, dishwashers and fridges to provide spare parts. The law needs to go further – in particular, to include smartphones and laptops. The vast majority of electronic goods have ‘planned obsolescence’ built in. They are literally designed to stop working, locking us into a cycle of upgrades that chew through 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 together people to fix everyday objects like phones, kettles and toasters; there are opportunities to learn skills in DIY, carpentry and upholstery at places like Southwark Adult Learning and the Goodlife Centre in London Bridge. At the Remakery in Loughborough Junction, volunteers share expertise, workshop space and materials that would otherwise be wasted.

Public shared resources like libraries, parks, swimming pools and art galleries are part of what George Monbiot has described as ‘public luxury’: belonging to us all, they allow us to live with joy on a finite planet.


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