Would you like to save money, support the environment and become involved in your community? The Library of Things should be your next destination! To gain a better insight about this innovative and humble new initiative in the KW region, we interviewed the Co-Founder, Devon Fernandes.
Nikita: Tell us about the Library of Things!
Devon: The KW Library of Things is a space where you can borrow infrequently used items such as tools or camping equipment. In addition to helping our members reduce waste through sharing, the library provides livable wages for individuals who face barriers to employment while they work in the library. The KW Library of Things is launching on February 24th between 9am and 1pm at 91 Moore Ave. We’d love for people to come check out our inventory, talk to the founders, and sign up for a $40/year membership if they are interested.
Nikita: What excites you about the library?
Devon: As an environmentalist, the library excites me for its capacity to engage individuals in the sustainability movement. Sustainability is fun, exciting, and contagious when you frame it in a way that people can relate to. As soon as I tell someone about the KW Library of Things, they become my largest advocate and tell all their friends and family about it. It’s such an exciting initiative to be a part of.
Waterloo Region has been looking for ways to extend the lifespan of its landfill, which is expected to reach capacity in 2030. One method proposed in the Region of Waterloo’s Waste Reduction and Diversion Study involved local organizations offering innovative diversion programs. A Library is Things is the kind of program that could make a significant contribution: it would reduce the perceived need for people to purchase their own tools,
camping equipment, etc. and, therefore, would reduce the amount of waste ending up in the landfill when these items are discarded. And in addition to the environmental benefits, the program would allow for people in all socio-economic situations to access tools and recreational equipment. As someone who also deeply values diversity and inclusion, the library is also going to be a place to bring people together. By collaborating with Extend-A- Family Waterloo Region (a local organization committed to working with families and the community to promote inclusion and serve people with developmental and/or physical disabilities), our library will strive to employ individuals who face barriers to employment (such as individuals with disabilities). Statistics Canada states that the employment rate of individuals with disabilities is nearly twice that for Canadians without a disability. Developing inclusive employment practices is essential to addressing this employment gap.
Nikita: As Co-Founder, what types of challenges have you faced while starting up a new sustainable initiative?
Devon: Balance has been the largest challenge for me. I’m currently a full-time master’s student in Laurier’s Community Psychology program, an Environmental Sustainability Consultant at Sustainable Societies Consulting Group, and a Teaching Assistant while Co-Founding the KW Library of Things. I work some pretty long hours, but I’m so passionate about the Library and I wouldn’t trade any of these experiences. When starting an initiative centered around sustainability, there are so many different aspects to consider (from how to make the space more inclusive to how to reduce the environmental impact of the operation) and engaging with all those aspects in an in-depth fashion takes a lot of time that I underestimated at the beginning of starting to create the Library. Another challenge has been the need to adapt constantly. Throughout this project, me and my team have had to troubleshoot to deal with unexpected challenges that will inevitably arise with any project. However, having a team of people who are flexible, supportive, and share the need to address complex social and environmental problems has made the whole process so much more exciting and fun.
Nikita: Laurier's Students for Sustainability Club is focused on sustainability in business, why do you think that this integration is important?
Devon: Sustainability is required for businesses to prosper. I believe all organizations should be catalysts for social and environmental change. We need organizations to think of innovative solutions to not only “do no harm” to the environment and communities, but to provide positive benefits for the environment and to people (i.e. net-positive rather than net-neutral). I think all business students should be actively engage in seeing how businesses can make the world a better place. Especially since young people, in addition to many other marginalized populations, will face the largest impacts of climate change, I think we need to challenge the status quo and promote sustainability in every facet of organizations.
Nikita: Are there any pieces of advice that you would offer to students?
Devon: Talk to people. I have yet to meet one person who hasn’t been incredibly supportive of the KW Library of Things. Everyone is always happy to talk about it, connect you with their contacts, and help you succeed. The sustainability community in KW is so small and everyone is always willing to help and support initiatives that are focused on environmentalism.
Library of Things Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWy8uSHdKu4