If the first Slow Down Salt Spring event is any indication, there’s a real appetite on the island for the sort of traditional get-togethers organizers hope can become first steps toward climate action.
Transition Salt Spring (TSS) held a clothing swap at its SIMS office space on Saturday, Oct. 14, and it was a resounding success, according to TSS climate action coach Morgan Fraser, who said word-of-mouth led to a bigger turnout than they had expected.
“It was quite the thing,” said Fraser. “I was imagining maybe 50 people would show up, we’d have a sweet little event with some tea and cookies.”
She laughed. “There were over 500 people in this room. It was spilling out into the hall!”
Fraser said the event took in more than 900 kilograms of clothing, and in a single afternoon participants took home over 800 kilograms — all of it free, and all done without a single drop of fuel or a scrap of packaging. It’s a culture change, she said, for people who normally might’ve bought something new to do something different — a wonderful first step in realizing climate action efforts aren’t all doom-and-gloom.
“There is something so empowering about it,” said Fraser. “There’s the community connection — there was clearly a huge need, and it was great seeing everyone taking the opportunity to say ‘hi’ to each other — but it’s also exciting to have something empowering, because the climate crisis can feel overwhelming.”
Taking part in these kinds of events answers a common question, said Fraser, of how we as individuals have an effect — and helps encourage people to do more.
“Now that you’ve had this first experience with ‘climate action,’ you can start to reconsider other things you do,” said Fraser. “Maybe you look at things you can do in your own home, or your investments and where you bank, or how you spend — maybe it can inspire you to advocate, and vote in a way that will help with the adaptation and mitigation of the climate crisis.”
Fraser said the clothing swap was likely destined to be an annual — if not biannual — community event; it also is the launching point for additional efforts under the “Lighter Living” initiative, including the upcoming second Slow Down Salt Spring event: a toy swap next month, right in time for the holidays.
“We’re planning Dec. 1 for intake, and Dec. 2 for the big free shopping day,” said Fraser, adding that the toy swap would again be at SIMS.
Toys, she said, often are made of materials that are difficult to recycle — particularly on Salt Spring — and represent a huge amout of packaging and shipping fuel around the gift-giving season. And a community exchange is a great way to reach people who might never have considered buying something second-hand.
“When we’re looking at how much new stuff gets made and sold every year, and ends up in the landfill, I think it’ll be a big contribution to the community,” said Fraser. “We can say yes, this is great for your wallet, but this is also what waste reduction looks like in your life. Maybe you’ll think about doing a little clothing swap with friends now, instead of going to the mall off-island, or buying something online.”
The shift in thinking will hopefully inform the climate coaching program’s next Lighter Living initiative: a Repair Café, according to Fraser, that’s in early planning stages. They’re reaching out to Salt Spring’s fixers and tinkerers, the menders and sewing pros — anyone who can support the idea of repairing things that might otherwise be discarded.
“So much of this could end up in a landfill,” said Fraser. “But the Repair Café will be set up so if you bring in your broken lamp or toaster, you’ll be able to sit beside someone and start learning as well — again, empowering people to be able to make better choices in their lives.”
For information about volunteering for the upcoming toy swap, or to help with the Repair Café, email Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org. TSS has more information about their climate coaching program — including a list of rebates available to islanders, for everything from water storage tanks to heating systems — at transitionsaltspring.com/climate-action-coach-program.
Toy Swap details
Organizers are seeking no-longer-needed toys for tots, kids, tweens and teens for the Slow Down Salt Spring Toy Swap — and shoppers are encouraged to return for the latest event, regardless of whether they were able to donate.
Items in giftable, used condition will be accepted for drop-off Friday, Dec. 1 from 2 to 4:30 p.m. at the Transition Salt Spring room at SIMS, top of the hill at 124 Rainbow Rd. Organizers and volunteers will then sort and curate, welcoming everyone on Salt Spring to come shop for free on Saturday, Dec. 2, from noon to 3 p.m.
Shoppers are encouraged to bring their own bags, and cash donations will be accepted. The event is made possible by the TSS Climate Action Coach Program and the CRD Rethink Waste Grant; to pre-register (recommended), visit tinyurl.com/toy-swap.