November 29, 2018: Where Does It All Go; Lessons from leftovers.

November 29, 2018: Where Does It All Go;
Lessons from leftovers.

By Carol Card.

Whew! The First Unitarian Fall Fair, held on November 17, is over for another year. This is the largest church bazaar in the city, with over 12,000 sq. ft. of sales space, 16 different shopping areas and some 300 volunteers. As always, it was a great event, with fun and bargains for all.

For Katherine Gunn and her team, the next phase has already begun. Their challenging task is to reduce waste by diverting material from the dumpster and giving it a new purpose. The fundraiser’s success depends on the tons of clothing, linens, computer equipment, books and other household goods brought in by church members and friends. That quantity of donations, however, creates the potential for large amounts of discards going to the landfill, including good-quality items that just didn’t find the right buyer on sale day. In response, and in keeping with Unitarian principles of protecting the environment and helping those in need, the “Site Services” team has found many innovative ways to recycle, reuse and redistribute everything possible from the fair.

These efforts were initiated some years ago when Katherine, a Westboro resident and longtime volunteer, spotted a large pile of blue recycling bags full of paper, plastics, etc. sitting beside the church. Given her deep involvement in community and environmental organizations, she wondered what else could be redirected from the fundraiser’s many unaccepted and leftover donated goods. Today, as a result, everything from scrap paper to torn linens and stuffed toys, is put to further use somehow.

Here are just a few examples. Paper, plastics and other recyclables are scrupulously separated for recycling. Metal goes to a scrap dealer who assists First Unitarian’s Poverty Action Working Group in moving furniture for the Minwaashin Indigenous Women’s support centre. Sewing and craft materials, including fur and leather from damaged coats, are sent to Inuit crafters in Arctic fly-in communities. For leftover electronics, it’s off to the Ottawa chapter of World Computer Exchange, for distribution in underdeveloped countries. The Good Companions Seniors Centre receives decorative items for their thrift shop. Unsold clothes are divided among various charities, such as drop-in centres, refugee support groups, clothing banks and organizations like Suits His Style, which provides business clothes to help low-income men find employment. Winter boots find appreciative new wearers at men’s and women’s shelters. And the 100-plus boxes of surplus books are shared among a number of local community organizations.

In this way, more than a dozen charities are supported, and waste from the Fall Fair is greatly reduced. As Katherine comments, “By the time we are done, my old van is ready for a tune-up, and so am I!” But the work is worth it.

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Photo Caption: Katherine Gunn sorting recyclables after the First Unitarian Congregation’s November Fall Fair. Careful waste-reduction and diversion serves to protect the environment while helping to the greatest possible extent, those in need both locally and nationally. Photo by Carol Card.

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