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Library of Things 'feel-good story' for Banff

“The Library of Things has just been such a feel good story for our community."

BANFF – Banff’s Library of Things has been building on its early success.

Run by the Banff Public Library, the program offers Banff and Lake Louise residents the opportunity to borrow a variety of things such as carpentry tools, cookware and household appliances.

Town of Banff officials say the Library of Things has several positive impacts in the community, including waste reduction, supporting affordability, helping residents save space, and providing residents with social skill-building opportunities.

“The Library of Things has just been such a feel-good story for our community,” said Mayor Corrie DiManno during council’s Sept. 13 meeting.

Banff council will consider whether to approve an ongoing funding agreement of $5,000 for the Library of Things at 2023 service review and budget deliberations, which get underway at the end of November.

“We always talk about value and we talk about impact, and this is a small number that has big impact on our community. It is helping with waste reduction, supporting affordability and making those community connections,” said Mayor DiManno.

“I love that this program has basically become that neighbour you want to borrow the odd tool or appliance from that you don’t need year-round. It’s working so great in Banff and I think it is a worthwhile conversation to have when we get to budget.”

What started as a pilot program in a partnership between the Banff Public Library and the Town of Banff in 2021 has since become a permanent lending program, giving residents access to useful items that are rarely needed, hard to store, or expensive to buy.

So far, 302 Banff and Improvement District 9 residents have signed waivers to use the Library of Things and more than 60 items have been donated by the community, valued at about $1,200.

The most popular items are the carpet cleaner, a circular saw, a drill driver and an air fryer.

The Library of Things is part of an initiative to shift more activities in Banff to a circular economy.

A traditional linear economy has items produced, bought, used or consumed, then thrown away, whereas a circular economy emphasizes reusing, repairing, recycling and recovering items rather than dumping them at the landfill after one person uses the product.

“Circular economies reduce emissions because fewer items need to use energy for manufacturing and transportation, and they reduce costs for participants and reduce the need for storage space,” said Kathryn Reeder, Zero Waste educator for the Town of Banff.

In response to the urgency of addressing climate change, global biodiversity loss, and resource overexploitation, The Town has committed to ambitious goals in the areas of zero waste and climate action.

Specifically, Banff has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050, and cut waste going to the landfill by 70 per cent by 2028 and to have no waste at all going to landfill by 2050. 

Reeder said achieving these bold goals will require a shift beyond waste management, and into the elimination or redesign of products and materials which are currently destined to become landfill waste.

“As an economic model which reduces the consumption and disposal of raw materials, the circular economy has the capacity to mitigate emissions attributable to the extraction, production, transport, while reducing quantities of materials and products sent to landfill,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Town of Banff is exploring other areas in the community that could adopt circular economy practices of sharing, like the Library of Things, or reuse and repair.  

Ideas include a centrally-located community hub for repair, shop space, food rescue and other high demand circular opportunities, as well as a regional material salvage facility for Bow Valley residents to donate and collect or purchase salvaged or excess building materials.

“These are not short-term projects,” said Reeder. “These are just ideas to keep planted into the future as opportunities arise as redevelopment plans happen.”