A Blue Mountains–area charity embodies the Circular Economy. Words :: Marc Huminilowycz.
With climate change in full sharp focus these days, the way that we deal with the products we buy has come under scrutiny. Yes, single-use, disposable plastic bags are becoming a relic of the past, and many items are promising to be more sustainable by billing themselves as recyclable or compostable. That’s nice to know, but the reality is that many don’t deliver on their promise because the facilities needed to give them a second life may not exist in our blue box programs.
What about the way we use (and dispose of) other products like clothing, toys, housewares, electronics and other items that we regularly buy? It’s these items that the concept of the “Circular Economy” aims to tackle. There are many definitions out there, but this one sums them up and probably describes it best:
The circular economy is a new production and consumption model that ensures sustainable growth over time by driving the optimization of resources, reducing the consumption of raw materials, and recovering waste by recycling or giving it a second life as a new product.
In the circular economy, everything has value and everything is used, so that waste becomes a new resource, and the balance between progress and sustainability is maintained. Sounds like a good plan, doesn’t it? While the concept of the circular economy is relatively new, there’s a charity right in our neighbourhood that has been practicing it for almost forty years.
Beaver Valley Outreach (BVO) in Thornbury, Ontario, is a local, grass-roots organization made up of hundreds of volunteers and a small staff team, that operates programs and services to enhance the lives of people in The Blue Mountains. It all started back in 1983, when a small group of community-minded women decided to make a difference in their community. Working out of a residential basement in Clarksburg, they distributed warm clothing and hampers to local people in need. Today, BVO’s famous Treasure Shop sells gently-used clothing and other items donated by the community via bins on site, at low cost to eager buyers. Proceeds go towards supporting this worthwhile charity.
In 2021, BVO diverted an astounding 257,000+ lbs of donated material and goods from the landfill. “Most donated items are sold in our Treasure Shop or used in our programs,” BVO Executive Director Carolyn Letourneau explains. “Some go to other charities, organizations and families in need, both local and farther afield. Clothing that’s not sellable goes to textile recycling via Diabetes Canada, for which we are reimbursed.”
“We also divert items in other ways,” adds Letourneau. “Depending on their purpose, some items are ‘triaged’ beyond the Treasure Shop, and go to designated organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Play It Again Sports, and other locations.” Books are recycled, as are beer, wine and spirit bottles and cans via Bottles for BVO, a program that encourages people to donate their empties to BVO.
In addition to these diverted items, BVO redirects donated assistive devices, such as wheelchairs and walkers, to Thornbury Baptist Church, which makes them available to people in the community who need them. Between January and June of this year, BVO’s Treasure Shop sales alone diverted 93,730 lbs of donated goods. Another 54,833 lbs of textiles unsuitable for sale were recycled.
“BVO has been an active, local proponent of the circular economy for many years. It’s our way of helping to make our planet more sustainable,” Carolyn Letourneau observes. “Through our efforts, some products get a third, or even a fourth life. Some people buy things from our Treasure Shop, use them, then donate them back for re-sale. And, by donating and buying items from BVO, people are doing their part to ‘spare our air’ because they don’t need to travel far to come here. It’s a local activity that benefits the local economy, the local environment, and local people. And, it’s gentle on the pocketbook.
For more information about BVO and the Treasure Shop, visit www.bvo.ca or call (519)599-2577.