COLUMN: Let’s put the ReUse-It Fair on repeat

Could Squamish benefit from a year-round free store?

Last weekend our community came together for its annual Reuse-It Fair at Brennan Park Rec Centre and, I have to tell you, it really brought me to my happy place.

Organized by the District of Squamish and Squamish Climate Action Network for eight years and counting, the fair has diverted hundreds – if not thousands – of tonnes of material from Squamish’s landfill. 

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It’s hard to choose what might be my favourite aspect to this behemoth event. 

Is it the coming together of a community to keep unnecessarily discarded items out of the landfill? Is it the look on someone’s face when they find something they desperately need or want, and then the strange – and perhaps uncomfortable – feeling of just… taking it? 

Is it the opportunity to rid one’s own home of things that have plenty of life but no longer serve us, knowing they will get a second chance? Or the smiles on the faces of friendly volunteers who understand what an incredible opportunity this is affording our community?

For years, my number one B.C. holiday destination has been Hornby Island. The beaches and small island feel draws me back again and again. 

But it’s the free store, located at the recycling depot, that makes my heart swell. I discovered it on my first trip there many years ago when I was caught in an unexpected bout of rain for days on end. We were running low on dry towels, missing a frying pan left at home on the kitchen counter, and my daughter had become barefoot after losing her shoes at the beach.

Islanders pointed us to the free store, and when we arrived we couldn’t believe our eyes. 

Virtually unattended, aside from volunteers periodically showing up to put out new items and tidy things up, the free store remains unlocked and looks like a small Value Village without all the annoying price tags. Anything and everything is there for the taking – 365 days a year, day or night and, thankfully, rain or shine. 

It’s hard to feel a sense of lack in one’s life when there is an easily accessible resource like this at your fingertips. 

It also makes holding onto items out of a sense of (misplaced) value seem utterly ridiculous. “But I paid $89 for that printer! I can’t just give it away!” Yes, yes, you can. Because a) you don’t have a computer that works with it any longer and b) someone else can use it. 

Plus, that sweet set of stereo speakers you picked up last year and listen to every day more than compensates for the feeling that you’ve not gotten your money’s worth out of a printer that is just collecting dust in the corner.
That bag of clothes that no longer fit? Easily replaced with ones that do. Need a gorgeous new coffee mug because you dropped yours? Done. 

I just wonder why we don’t have a free store in Squamish, or everywhere for that matter – a Reuse-It Fair every day of the year? 

I’m a huge fan of supporting Pearl’s Value and Vintage, which directs proceeds to the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, but frankly I could just as easily – and gleefully – write them a generous cheque every year with the money I’d save from buying retail. 

Maybe it’s not an either-or scenario. Could both exist and thrive? 

If not that, perhaps we could do the Reuse-It Fair more often? 

And open it up for a few consecutive days versus just one. Because – I heard it from a few people discovering it for the first time – that after popping in and picking up a few items, the idea of heading home to bring back some of their own superfluous household items, clothes and books, was looking a lot more doable all of a sudden. 

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief

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