Bring Back The Sharing Shed

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When a friend moved to a small town in Maine, years ago, she enjoyed telling me how different life was there than in Ohio. Of all the contrasts, the two most fascinating to me were direct governance using the town hall method and the barn at the town dump.

This barn was lined with shelves where residents left behind things like old clothes, a broken lawnmower, vintage LPs, outgrown toys, hand tools, art supplies, knickknacks, lightly read magazines, and kitchenware. Then when they stopped by to toss bottles in the recycling bin or trash in the dump, they’d bring another item or two to the barn, being sure to peruse for something they might want — maybe a lamp needing a new shade, a stack of doll clothes, a few paperback mysteries, wool sweaters for felting projects, a leaf rake.

Some small towns are adding such sharing sheds to their waste facilities, such as this one in Virginia. Others are closing landfills, which will likely end the practice of sharing sheds as well.

All around the world there are initiatives that replicate and improve on the sharing shed. These projects are bedrock efforts to build community while reducing waste.

Here are a few similarly inspiring projects. 

ReTuna is the world’s first recycling mall, located in Eskilstuna, Sweden. Everything sold is recycled, upcycled, repaired, or organically/sustainably produced. Stores offer fashion, décor, technology, toys, and books.

SCRAP, located in San Francisco, is a creative reuse center where educators and artists can find donated and waste-diverted art supplies. Every year, SCRAP makes about $75,000 worth of art supplies available to teachers through giveaways. They also host classes and workshops. A similarly named venture, SCRAP Creative Reuse, operates in Ann Arbor, Baltimore, Portland, and Richmond.

Shareable. Get a free ebook on launching neighborhood waste reduction in your area from “Beyond Waste: Community Solutions to Managing Our Resources.”


There are great options nearby as well.

In Cleveland, the urban area closest to us, Upcycle Parts Shop has diverted 36 tons of waste from landfills since it opened in 2014

Cleveland also has several free stores which, unlike Goodwill or Salvation Army, offer used clothing, housewares, furniture, and other items for free to anyone who walks in the door. That includes Free Shop in the Slavic Village neighborhood

“Pass it On: A Resource-Full Guide to Donating Usable Stuff,” published by the Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District. The guide lists dozens of groups that want your old furniture, bikes, books and many other items. The information is posted online as a searchable database or call 216-443-3749 to have a booklet mailed to you.

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of four books and served as 2019 Ohio Poet of the Year. She's the editor of Braided Way: Faces & Voices of Spiritual Practice. She works as a book editor, teaches writing workshops, and maxes out her library card each week.
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3 Responses to Bring Back The Sharing Shed

  1. Lindsay says:

    Thanks for this post – what a cool way to cut down on unnecessary waste.
    The link you provided didn’t work properly, but I was able to reverse-engineer it enough to get to this page: that I think was probably the info you were trying to share. 🙂

  2. katechiconi says:

    We have the ‘IncredAble Tip Shop’, which takes broken, worn or unwanted items brought to the rubbish tip, and employs people with a disability to repair or repurpose them and then sell them in the shop for a very reasonable price. Triple win: people have somewhere to leave their unwanteds, it provides purpose and employment, and it prevents waste.

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