Green Living: Community lending library the Thingery to launch in three Vancouver 'hoods

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      Eco-conscious and particularly handy (and not handy) locals may be familiar with the Vancouver Tool Library (3448 Commercial Drive), a volunteer-driven co-op that lends screwdrivers, wrenches, and other DIY-friendly devices to its members free of charge.

      Beginning this fall, however, residents won’t have to travel as far as Trout Lake to check out a tool or gadget—as well as recreational equipment, appliances, and other practical everyday goods—thanks to the launch of the Thingery.

      Conceptualized by VTL cofounder Chris Diplock, the Thingery is described as a “lending library of things” that operates out of repurposed shipping containers. After conducting a pair of pop-ups in East Vancouver last summer, Diplock has been greenlit by the City of Vancouver to open three Thingery locations in the Grandview-Woodland, Hastings-Sunrise, and Kitsilano neighbourhoods as part of a two-year pilot project.

      Situated at Charles Street and McLean Drive, Graveley Street and Slocan Street, and the Arbutus Greenway at West 6th Avenue, they’re slated to launch in October.

      Both a complement to and an expansion of the existing VTL, the Thingery will move beyond tools to stock a range of outdoors, hobby-oriented, and household objects, such as snowshoes, entertainment systems, tents, and vacuum cleaners.

      Buoyed by the continued success of the VTL—and research completed by local initiative the Sharing Project, which revealed that residents preferred to share items with people who live nearby—Diplock sought to create more convenient, community-oriented lending rooms that would help foster social connections among its users.

      “We see the place that peer-to-peer online lending has, but it hasn’t gained quite as much traction as people expected it to,” Diplock tells the Straight by phone. “In place of that, there’s a real opportunity to have a shared space that we own together, where we collectively pay to maintain it through a single provider.”

      VTL cofounder Chris Diplock poses outside a Thingery pop-up, which took place out of a van, in East Vancouver's Clinton Park last summer.

      Like the VTL, the Thingerys will function as a nonprofit co-op, where residents pay a one-time membership fee and a yearly rate of around $30 thereafter. Users can then reserve goods online, access the six-by-three-metre shipping containers with a personal code, and scan out items on an iPad—much like at a self-checkout counter at a library or grocery store.

      A small fleet of staff will be available by phone for assistance. Diplock is also working to establish a complimentary car service to aid users who may have difficulty transporting a particularly large or heavy product home.

      Objects may be borrowed for a maximum of 10 days before late fees begin accruing. From volleyball nets and air pumps to speakers and carpet cleaners, the entirety of the Thingerys’ stock will be donated by Vancouverites. (Kitchen tools and appliances are excluded for now due to food-safety reasons.)

      “I think that’s a huge benefit of an entity like a tool-lending library,” explains Diplock. “I can donate my stuff to it, they maintain it for me, and I still have all the access I usually need, which is not a lot for a single piece of equipment.”

      Diplock notes that, by diverting material goods from the landfill and reducing consumption, lending libraries play a major role in helping to minimize the ecological footprint of neighbourhoods. However, he’s most excited about the Thingerys’ potential for social productivity: the sharing-economy advocate wants to use the libraries as a launching pad for civic events, where residents use items from the inventory to host block parties or to groom or clean up parks.

      “We will be creating programming around the equipment, which is going to, I think, activate the community a bit more,” he says. “And people are going to get to know each other and collaborate over their passions.”

      The fact that locals will be seeing their little-used bocce ball sets, tarps, and power drills in action in the neighbourhood helps spur on the movement, too. “It’s not like something goes off and you never see it again, like, ‘Hey, I wonder whatever happened to that thing I donated two years ago?’ ” states Diplock. “It’s right around the corner, and the impact is right in your community.”

      Follow Lucy Lau on Twitter @lucylau.