COURTESY: CITY OF PORTLAND BPS - Marie Corell (right) is a volunteer sewer for Repair PDX, where she helps people mend their favorite items -- from purses to jeans. If you could borrow reusable dishware for 80 guests, would you make a special trip to the big-box store for a megaload of paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils?

How about a place to check out — rather than buy — the latest toys for your tot, saving them from their fate in the giveaway pile in a few months’ time when the novelty wears off?

In Portland, dozens of these free or low-cost resources — kitchen shares, toy swaps, tool libraries, bike fix-it-yourself shops and more — are just around the corner, for the taking. To some, they may seem like a secret society, not necessarily easy to find unless you already know someone who participates.

But now, the city has issued an easy-to-use map of 30 to 40 of these resources — a one-stop hub for sustainable living at the neighborhood level — on its Resourceful PDX program site.

“This is about upstream conservation — resource conservation,” says Alicia Polacok, program coordinator for Resourceful PDX, a partnership between the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Chinook Book and the nonprofit Reuse Alliance. “We’re just pointing people to these resources. We want to elevate what already exists.”

Reducing waste upstream means before the point of purchase, essentially rendering a purchase unnecessary. It's a more impactful way to reduce waste than recycling, because by definition it means using fewer resources.

For ease of use, the services on the map are organized by stages in peoples’ lives: Moving, Growing Family, Home Improvement, and Kids in School.

"Research shows people don't need to be told why to do this, but how and where," Polacok says. "And we're normalizing it. It's cool to be a member of a tool library. There are lines out the door every weekend."

Some of the resources listed:

COURTESY: CITY OF PORTLAND BPS - Chris Hertel, a longtime volunteer and board member of the Northeast Portland Tool Library, helps neighbors check out equipment to use rather than buy items new at the store.  • PDX Time Bank ( lets people trade a service (such as dog walking or mending a shoe) for "time dollars," which they can cash in for someone else's talent, such as a haircut or a homemade cake. More than 120 members are using the trade platform for services like babysitting, legal services, gardening, crafts, cooking and furniture repair.

• Since May 2013, Repair PDX ( has organized about one free "repair cafe" per month throughout the city to bring people together with items that need repairing. Inspired by the global Repair Cafe Foundation, neighbors meet up, share some food and drink, and experts are on hand to fix items and to teach people how to fix their own items — from bicycles to electronics to small appliances.

• Whether it's a juicer, bread maker, canning equipment, partyware or another food-related item you don't necessarily want to purchase, Kitchen Share ( lets members borrow items in the same fashion as a tool library. Now with Southeast and Northeast locations opened in 2012 and 2013, respectively, hundreds of residents are borrowing hundreds of items to promote sustainability, equity and self-sufficiency.

COURTESY: CITY OF PORTLAND BPS - Ellie Lum, a Repair PDX volunteer, helps neighbors learn to mend their own clothes and other items so they can be more resourceful at home. Resourceful PDX started as an initiative called Be Resourceful in 2010, as a way to meet many of the waste-reduction goals in the city’s 2007 Portland Recycles! Plan.

Those goals were reinforced in 2015 through the updated Portland/Multnomah County Climate Action Plan, which seeks to reduce consumption-related carbon emissions by helping local businesses minimize their supply chain.

The plan aims to reduce food scraps sent to landfills by 90 percent, reduce solid waste per capita by 33 percent, and recover 90 percent of all waste generated.

It's that second goal that Resourceful PDX is aiming to tackle, with the map feature on the website along with new videos, blog posts (with tips like how to declutter a space or make a funky DIY Halloween costume), as well as sustainable event listings to better engage users.


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