Re-Use-It Centre powers social sustainability 

By Ted Battiston

RMOW Sustainability Initiatives

Patagonia founder, Yvon Chouinard’s recent autobiography, “Let My People Go Surfing – The Education of a Reluctant Businessman” is full of environmental philosophy, employee policy and lifestyle marketing. One of the many declarations from the book that stuck with me was this: despite everything Patagonia strives to accomplish, Yvon unequivocally asserts that the most environmentally responsible way to outfit ourselves is to “buy used clothes”.

Good advice, but in Whistler, it turns out that buying used clothes at the Re-Use-It Centre (RUIC) is about far more than just waste diversion and resource extraction — though these are meaningful angles on the story as well (more on these later).

Constructed in the fall of 1999, the RUIC opened its doors in March 2000.   Designed and built for just over $120,000 by the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), the initial building was 1,500 sq. ft. and Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) was authorized to operate the facility for the first three years. Its overwhelming success has resulted in two expansions to date, resulting in a total of 2,500 sq. ft. of indoor space and approximately 500 sq. ft of outdoor covered area for sheltering larger items. The WCSS contract to operate the facility now extends to 2008.

Located at the Function Junction compactor site, Whistler's only thrift store sells donated items ranging from sports gear and furniture to vintage clothing and books. Open seven days a week, employees and volunteers sort, price, set out and cull the donations as required. The items being sold are in great shape and working order, and the RUIC gives them a second life in a new home, thus keeping the materials out of the landfill and providing funky and affordable goods for new owners. As such, the RUIC contributes directly to achieving the Material & Solid Waste Strategy and the Resident Affordability Strategy within Whistler2020.

The RUIC goes even further to help move Whistler toward other Whistler2020 strategies, including the Recreation & Leisure Strategy, the Health & Social Strategy as well as the Economic Strategy.

The breadth of the RUIC’s positive impact in the community is further leveraged by directing the profits from the Centre to fund a full three quarters of WCSS’s programs and services, including: Community Kitchens, the Community Greenhouse project, the Counselling Assistance Fund, Emergency Financial Assistance, the Food Bank, The Food Buying Club, S.N.O.W. (Support Network of Whistler), Parent-Infant Drop-In, Santa’s Helpers Christmas Hamper Program, The Whistler Employment Resource Centre, Youth Outreach, Peer Educator Program, Whistler Welcome Week, M.A.S.H. (Meals Assistance with Seniors Help) and the Adopt-a-Young Adult program.

Most Whistlerites likely don’t even know that all of these programs exist, let alone that they are primarily fuelled by the RUIC’s steady stream of mindful donators and supportive second-hand shoppers.

And the story doesn’t stop there. Some RUIC profits and donated items are directed toward other community groups such as Zero Ceiling and the Squamish Easter Seals Camp, and to organizations in times of need, including Whistler-Blackcomb staff housing and the Mt. Currie flood and fire relief efforts.

Now back to the materials stream — the RUIC also provides a meaningful example of the municipality’s zero waste commitment, diverting tonnes of trash from a landfilled destiny — contributing to measured decreases in Whistler’s total landfilled waste for four of the last five years. Way to go RUIC!

 

 

If you’re interested, the Re-Use-It Centre is currently looking for volunteers. Call Lorna at 604-932-1121.

Once again, many thanks are due to all the community groups, businesses and individuals who are helping to make Whistler an increasingly sustainable and successful community on a daily basis.

To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward a more sustainable future, or to find out how we’re performing along our journey visit: www.whistler2020.ca , To suggest a story idea, get involved with the Whistler2020 task force process, or to suggest actions for Task Force consideration, email whistler2020@whistler.ca

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