Being car free means that you often have to think carefully about what you acquire since it isn’t always easy to bring things into or out of your home. I’ve been reflecting on this for a few reasons this January.
The first is that I’m currently reading On Bicycles: 50 Ways the New Bike Culture Can Change Your Life (edited by Amy Walker, New World Library, 2011). Amy Walker, co-founder of Momentum magazine, has a great chapter in the book called “Less is More,” which examines the relationship between cycling and living simply and how living without motorized transportation makes people more considerate about what they bring into their lives. (As soon as I finish the book I’ll post a review.)
The second reason is that it’s Christmas tree chipping season and I’ve discovered that if you don’t have a car (and don’t car share) and you live in a building (as many Vancouverites do) where the City doesn’t collect yard trimmings, it can be very challenging to properly dispose of a real tree. We didn’t have a tree this year because we suspected, based on the limited chipping events held in past years, that it would be too difficult to get a tree composted after the holidays.
When you live without a car it’s very important to think cradle-to-grave, which I admit that I don’t always do but I’m trying to get better at it. All of the above also had me thinking about how we pass along things we no longer need and do our best to keep them out of the landfill. This last part isn’t actually that difficult when you don’t have a car. It may just require several trips that can be done along with your usual errands on foot, bike or public transit. Here is a list I compiled that outlines how we deal with particular categories of items:
Really Great Stuff in Excellent Condition
Sometimes you may acquire something with really good intentions and find that you never use it. If you have a really special item in great condition consider asking local charities if it’s something they could put to good use in their programs. Before you sell something on Craigslist you might want to consider what the outcome would be for that good camera you hate lugging around if it were put into the hands of a young artist. Or how that guitar that you never learned to play that now collects dust in your closet could be used by a charity that serves people with mental illness.
Give books to friends who would love reading them
Donate books to Friends of the Vancouver Public Library
Donate books to a local library but make sure you adhere to the donations criteria (see Vancouver Public Library’s for example) to ensure that your donation won’t be a burden
Bring books to a local used book store – often for store credit
Clothing, Toys and Housewares
Bring these to a thrift store in your neighbourhood that accepts donations and supports the local community (use your favourite search engine or online review tool to locate stores near you)
Drop items in one of the Developmental Disabilities Association bins (use the handy bin location search tool on the website to find a bin near you) – learn more about these bins from this Vancouver Courier article
Free Geek – this organization reuses and recycles donated technology (read the list of acceptable donations carefully) and provides valuable training to volunteers in the process
Use the Metro Vancouver Recycles search linked below to find recycling points for electronics and e-waste that Free Geek doesn’t accept
Head to a Food Scraps Drop Spot – these are continuing after a successful pilot project in 2011
Everything Else and Alternatives for the Above
Check out the Metro Vancouver Recycles residential search tool. I ran some basic searches for things like batteries, electronics and tetra cartons and the results were fairly good and within 5 km of my home thanks to the handy distance limit that you can set on your search. The results aren’t always complete, however, so bear in mind if you don’t get any results it doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a place to drop off items in your neighbourhood. The results for tetra cartons weren’t accurate, for example, as I know many grocery stores (like Whole Foods and No Frills) will gladly accept these and recycle them.
This list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive so please add to it by posting a comment.