A student-led co-operative is helping young people to reduce waste, share skills and promote a more sustainable way of meeting material needs. Edinburgh’s SHRUB — the Swap and Reuse Hub — is open to students and non-students, inviting them to take part in re-use initiatives, while at the same time challenging the culture of consumption and disposal.
Through the co-operative, people can swap, buy, fix and build objects. And by taking part in various workshops they can learn how to fix clothes, install open source software or build DIY solar panels.
Although SHRUB was set up this year, Edinburgh University students have been swapping and redistributing 30 tonnes of things since 2008 through a ‘freeshop’. The idea to start up a swap and reuse centre was put forward by People Planet Project, which is the largest student network in Britain campaigning to end world poverty, defend human rights and protect the environment.
The initiative also enables new students to take unwanted items from those moving out of university accommodation at the beginning of the academic year.
Francesco Benvenuti, who has been coordinating volunteers involved in the freeshop, said they soon realised they needed a structure and decided to start a co-operative. They chose the model since they wanted volunteers to take ownership of the project.
“We want to encourage students to be involved and decide how the place will be run,” he says, adding that the co-op will help to empower students.
Francesco, who studied Ecology at Edinburgh University, won the Edinburgh Sustainability Award for his outstanding contribution in promoting Social Responsibility and Sustainability during 2011/2012. He is now one of the directors of SHRUB.
The co-op moved into its premises in April. Volunteers continue to play an important role in making the project become reality. As a reward they get discounted membership fees and swap tokens, which they can then use in the shop. Through tokens people get to swap things of similar values.
Members attend biannual general meetings, and help to shape the co-operative’s future strategy. The co-op is a social hub as well; while swapping and re-using things, students also get to share ideas and experiences.
“It allows us to engage more with people and explain more about the new ethos, changing the culture of consumption”, says Francesco.
This year’s fresher’s week proved to be a great success for SHRUB. It recruited 40 new members and 15 volunteers, they are optimistic about the future of the co-operative, hoping it will make a positive difference to the environment.
For more details, visit: www.shrubcoop.org