Hi, my name is Power Drill and my average useful life is 12 minutes. If tools, gear and equipment could speak, you would be horrified about their short useful lives. The tool sharing initiative called The Toronto Tool Library offers an alternative to ownership to use resources much more efficiently in the city.
Inspired by the first tool library that started in 1979 in the city of Berkeley, California, Ryan Dyment together with Lawrence Álvarez co-founded The Toronto Tool Library in 2013. The timing couldn’t have been better. Sustainability was up in the world agenda and the sharing economy or peer-to-peer economy had emerged to use resources more efficiently. In addition, the western world had probably already reached ‘peak stuff’. Having more no longer offered the same satisfaction.
“Many people buy tools for a specific project and after the project is finished, never use them again”, says Ryan. The tool library in Toronto takes advantage of the density of the city and the fact that people in the city own things they hardly ever use. These are resources that sit in their homes and garages gathering dust while occupying a lot of space.
In fact this is how the Toronto Tool Library started. After Ryan and some friends found their first location to house the tools, they met with a reporter who did a short story in a local newspaper. ‘It was a very effective story and helped get the word out to the whole city. People quickly realized the program filled a need for people who have a lot of stuff they wanted to get rid of but they didn’t want to throw it away. The project offered a feel-good way to donate under-used goods and help the community at the same time. The first tool library location was in the basement of another community-project, the Parkdale Activity Recreation Center.
“We couldn’t have predicted the tide of tools that people donated—and the swell of interest in the new idea of a tool library. We reached around 500 tools by our opening day and now have more than 10,000 items”, says Ryan. Making these resources accessible to those who need them, especially in a low-income area of the city, has also been key for a successful start. We filled the need of many that have to repair their homes but couldn’t afford the tools. Using resources efficiently is a win-win situation for everybody.
From there, tool donations were pouring in to help build the inventory and new members were signing up every day. Nowadays, the tool library in Toronto has developed into a much more large scale project where community members can rent and swap pretty much anything for affordable membership rates and offers workspaces and workshops supervised by experienced members.
Using a tool library promotes sustainability through efficient resource-sharing and is an example of how cities are changing into a more collaborative experience. In some ways, tool sharing is also about stopping superfluous consumption and waste. Do you need a power drill or just a hole in the wall?