By Lorna Van Straaten
I just watched an amazing short on “stuff”. Things you buy to wear or use in your house. On the website storyofstuff.org, a cute animated picture educates you on some pretty scary statistics. The short looks at the story of stuff, from extraction of raw materials from the earth to the end disposal of these materials, and looks at a system in crisis. For example, in the US, after six months only 1% of the good purchased in that time are still in use. This means that 99% of purchased goods make their way to the landfill every six months. This got me thinking about the story of “Whistler’s stuff”, and where it ends up!
Whistler is perceived as a place with wealth. The outside world thinks of Whistler as a playground for the rich, a ski resort with big fancy houses and lots of material goods. The big question facing Whistler is what to do with things when they are no longer desired by the owner.
Up until about 15 years ago, everything went to the landfill. It was located then where the town centre now exists. Locals who lived here tell me the dump was the best picking in town, as EVERYTHING went into it. Then about 13 years ago, the RMOW, Whistler Community Services and some local service groups like Rotary and the Lions got together to help build a thrift store that could take donations of used goods.
Right now the new management team at the WCSS Re-Use-It Centre in Function Junction are starting to drop that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look that most employees get in May. There is a lot of STUFF at the store! It is the time of year that most of our seasonal workers leave and locals spring clean their closets. If you ever want to see what happens to things people are getting rid of, the receiving area of the store is an interesting place to observe for an hour or so. It is a testament to our team’s constitution that they don’t just throw in the towel and walk away from the job; or rather crawl out from under hundreds of black garbage bags donated every day. At the store every single bag is opened, any of that Whistler stuff that is clean enough, and still useable is sorted, priced and put out onto the shelves. Most of us have never physically worked as hard as many of the staff at that store. And the items coming from those bags are amazing! It turns out that Whistler has good STUFF.
But the story would come to an unhappy ending there if the stuff just sat on shelves. There always has been a strong contingent in Whistler that understand that they can bypass the material economy, help the environment and save themselves a lot of money by shopping second hand. In Whistler, is has almost become chic to tell your friend that the new designer shirt you are wearing was found at the Re-Use-It Centre. Last year there were 49,000 purchases made at the store. And over 300 metric tonnes of good were saved from the landfill. That shows that Whistler’s stuff can be used again. If you have stuff that you no longer want, and it is still in clean, unbroken and useable condition, we want your Stuff! And if you have a friend that doesn’t know where to take their old stuff, tell them about the Re-Use-It C entre and Re-Build-It Centre.
Finally, if you want to get rid of bigger STUFF like furniture or appliances that still work, arrange for a pick up at the Re-Build-It Centre at 604-932-1125 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Watch for the first ever Community Clean Care Day Saturday, June 16, where we will be picking up donations of used furniture and household goods in Bayshores. For more information contact the Re-Build-It Centre.