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Sharing is caring (and sustainable): A different kind of commerce is on the rise in T.O.Despite the Torontonian reputation for standoffishness, a sharing economy thrives.

Maybe it can be chalked up to our long, grey winters or the city's staid Upper Canadian roots but, for whatever reason, Torontonians aren't always regarded as warm. While we might not have a reputation for being brusque (hello, New Yorkers) or mean (hello, dwellers-of-cities-that-shall-not-be-named) somewhere along the way we picked up the unfortunate reputation of being less-than-friendly. Yet, an ever-expanding cabal of organizations is setting out to rewrite the city's rep, staking out our place as Ground Zero for a bustling sharing economy--where ideas, tools and skills freely flow to build community and limit waste.

Take, for instance, the Kitchen Library. Dayna Boyer opened the cookware appliance rental outpost in October 2013 out of the Toronto Tool Library to provide people with the kinds of kitchen supplies that they might need to use from time to time—things like stand mixers, juicers and canning equipment—but which are too expensive to warrant buying outright. 

“It's a really exciting phenomenon," Boyer says of the growing movement toward communally-focused economic transactions, brought to mainstream awareness by big name (if beleaguered) peer-to-peer service facilitators like Uber and AirBnb

The way the Kitchen Library works is simple. Membership costs $9 per month, or $25 for three months, and entitles members to take out appliances for a full week at a time, with the expectation that they wash and return each item after use. Members are also given discounts to the workshops the library hosts throughout year. So far, Boyer reports that the library users have been respectful toward the rentals; not a stand mixer or dehydrator has gone missing.

Following its stint at the Tool Library's Greektown locale – that particular organization's second location, to boot – the Kitchen Library moved to its current digs in the high-density Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood, at 120 Eglinton Ave East (inside Living City Health). Boyer explains that the area's condo boom makes it an ideal locale. 

“I think there's a lot of room in the sharing economy for [libraries that provide] other kinds of things that you only use every so often, that are expensive,” says Boyer, who points out that this time of year brings a spike in resolution-minded juicer rentals that gives way to a rise in ice cream maker loans in the warmer months. Boyer suspects that the city would benefit from establishing a toy library or camping equipment library, as well. 

While Boyer sees the sharing economy as a practical, community-minded approach to accessing goods and services, some of the city's key players in the sphere fancy themselves part of a greater movement to transition out of a currency-based economy, full stop. As Tool Library co-founder Ryan Dyment told Yonge Street in 2013:  "As we increase that ability to share things, using fewer and fewer resources, that automatically makes things more abundant. And when things are more abundant, then they're cheap. You don't need to make as much money. And eventually we will get to the point where we don’t need money at all in the society. Because everything is just abundant. That would be the idea, to share everything."

Sometimes sharing means teaching. Inspired by a similar organization in Amsterdam, Repair Café Toronto was co-founded by Wai Chu Cheng and Paul Madger in May 2013 with a simple goal: to change our culture of quick consumption by running workshops that impart handyperson know-how to fix a multitude of broken household items. 

The project's encouragement of sustainability was its initial draw says Cheng, who has observed that it can often be less expensive to replace broken items than to have them repaired in shops; this encourages waste. Since the organization launched, she has adopted a mantra of "reduce, reuse, repair," in place of the old adage that encourages recycling. 

"Try repairing first, then recycle," she advises. It's a good mindset to get into and, besides, some items (like electronics) are difficult to break down into reusable parts. 

From repair comes more reuse. Furniture, clothes, jewelry, and appliances are among the items that Repair Café's team of volunteer fixers have helped visitors bring back to life in workshops held at a handful of rotating locations, usually on a monthly basis. The organization is entirely volunteer-run, with fixers coming from as far as Burlington to help with repairs. 

The spirit of giving fostered by Repair Café has proven a major added bonus to the sustainability experiment.  

"Every Repair Café, you see a lot of positive energy," says Cheng. "It's about caring about your items, but the attitude extends to people. When people help out each other, it's contagious." 

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