Summer: The Season of Sharing

Happy Summer, Friends!

If you’ve spent all spring brushing up on your smart recycling skills and are ready for the next challenge – the Recycle Smart Team has you covered.

While the primary mission of Recycle Smart MA is to promote good recycling habits here in the Commonwealth, we know that recycling alone is not the answer. Recycling is just one tool in the toolbox for reducing our waste footprint.  Join us this month as explore another important tool — sharing.

Want To Test Your Recycling Skills?
Take this 2 minute quiz to see how your recycling knowledge stacks up: https://recyclesmartma.org/staging/quiz/
Sharing is Caring
From an early age we are taught that “sharing is caring.” We encourage our kids to take turns sharing their toys, books, and snacks with siblings and friends. While this certainly can cut down on toddler temper tantrums and bickering, you may be wondering what sharing has to do with reducing waste? Many common household items are underutilized meaning they sit idle for long periods of time collecting dust.   Typically, these are things we need only occasionally (like camping equipment for an annual trip) or for a specific purpose or project (such as a specialty cake pan or a post digger). Rather than everyone on your block purchasing, maintaining, and storing their own ice cream maker — the idea behind a “sharing economy” is to lend out and borrow these underutilized assets within our community rather than buying them new.  This not only helps save money, but can save on storage space, reduce clutter in our homes, build stronger community ties, and yes — decrease the number of ice cream makers that will eventually break and be thrown away.
All The Buzz: The Sharing Economy
📷: Aluance Digital Borrowing and lending with your neighbors is not a new concept.  Of course the public library is a centuries-old institution where we borrow books, movies, and music.  But with the rapid advance of digital technology, the “sharing economy” has taken off, and is projected to be worth 335 billion dollars by 2025. This includes platforms that allow you to lend out your home when you are away, get more use out of the car sitting in your garage, rent clothes for a wedding or special event, borrow a bike to use around town for a day, and stream pretty much any artist’s music you can think of.
Think Globally, Act Locally

While many of the emerging platforms and companies are monetized models that allow people access to items without the burden of owning (and maintaining) them – think vacation home, bike, or car —the Recycle Smart MA team is highlighting some free or low-cost local resources that can help you get involved in this ever-expanding movement.  And if you’re new to your neighborhood, or just shy, these resources will help you connect with neighbors and maybe even make new friends!

Library of Things

Library of Things at Peabody Institute Library, Danvers. 📷: MassDEP

Ever resourceful, many public libraries are pivoting to offer more than books.  A “Library of Things” allows you to check out non-traditional items such as toys and games, gardening and lawn tools, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) kits, wi-fi hot spots, small kitchen appliances, musical instruments, sewing machines, and more. In some communities you may also find that a non-profit, business, or community groups has taken up the charge and started a tool lending library, toy library or even a seed library (no, you don’t have to return the seeds).

Check out this map to find a Library of Things or Tool Library near you. Know of one that is not listed here? Drop us a line so we can add it!

The Brickyard Collaborative Makerspace in Lynn, MA 📷: The Brickyard Collaborative


Makerspaces  (yup, it’s a real word, says Merriam-Webster) are collaborative workspaces that can be located at your public library, school, or as a stand-alone business or organization.  By providing tools that can range from 3D printers and laser cutters to pottery wheels and kilns – these workspaces (also known as hackerspaces) encourage innovation and learning.  Removing the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and anyone who wants to get a little creative – makerspaces provide a place to play, create, learn new skills, build community and learn from one another.

Online Sharing and Gifting Platforms

Using online platforms like Nextdoor, Facebook Buy Nothing groups, or Freecycle, you can ask to borrow that pressure washer from a neighbor or offer up the food dehydrator you are not currently using.  These platforms are generally considered part of the “gifting economy” where you freely give away items you no longer want or need and can acquire items you could use from a neighbor. Although most items are gifted, many people also use these online platforms to share and borrow items locally.

Swap Shops

Swap Shop in South Hadley. 📷: South Hadley DPW

Although not exactly the same as sharing, a swap shop is a local place where you can donate and acquire used items that are in good working condition in your community. Yankee thriftiness is alive and well at the more than 90 swap shops in Massachusetts. Typically located at a community’s transfer station or recycling drop-off center, swap shops allow you to drop off unwanted items and go “shopping” for things you want or need. Check out this map of swap shops throughout Massachusetts to find one near you. If we are missing a location, let us know so we can add it!

Little Free Libraries

Little Free Library in Salem, MA. 📷: MassDEP
Done reading the latest beach read and realize you are unlikely to read it again? Drop it off at a Little Free Library near you and pick up your next page turner at the same time. Use this map to find a little free library in your neighborhood.

Partner Spotlight - Town of Eastham

Eastham Swap Shop📷: The Town of Eastham

The “Eastham Stock Exchange” is back!  A Recycle Smart MA partner, the Town of Eastham held a “soft launch” reopening of their beloved swap shop this past week after shutting down last year for the pandemic. This much missed local gem has a few new rules in place to keep people safe while allowing Eastham residents to “shop” for treasures and drop off donations (coming soon). In order to keep the doors open though, Eastham, like many swap shops around the state, relies on volunteers. So if you have a swap shop in your community, consider volunteering your time to help accept, sort, and organize donations.   Your help might just make it possible for your local swap shop to re-open, if it is not already. To learn more about all the recycling and waste reduction services the Town of Eastham provides at the transfer station, check out their website here: Solid Waste Division | Eastham MA (eastham-ma.gov)

📚 What We're Reading

 Happy Summer-of-Sharing!

The Recycle Smart Team