Did you know that Rotary Auction staff can use up to 600 forks in a day? That’s why they’re partnering with the Zero Waste Tableware Lending Library to borrow cutlery to reduce waste while feeding 300 volunteers a day.
Volunteers Diane Landry, manager, and Jane Martin, head librarian, manage the extensive inventory of colorful linens, glassware, flatware, crockery and a collection of zero waste lending library event items that are available free to the community through the Sustainable Bainbridge Zero Waste program.
It all started about 15 years ago when one of Landry’s friends was getting married and she discovered that it costs more to rent tablecloths than to buy them at Walmart. “So the wedding happened, then the tablecloths were stored at my house, then the Cedars Unitarian Church borrowed them for an auction, and then Yes Magazine said, ‘Oh, I heard you had tablecloths, could we borrow them?”
Because more tablecloths were purchased to match those borrowed, more were returned. And so on. “The bins got bigger and bigger” and more and more tablecloths were piling up at Landry’s because people were borrowing and giving back more than they borrowed.
When Landry volunteered during the rotating auction prep week, she didn’t want single-use plastic utensils to be used. “We started using metal utensils from Rotary’s kitchen department to serve 300 people twice a day.” Then it is used for Rotary Preparation Week. “The idea is to reuse, wash and reuse rather than using single-use plastic cutlery,” Landry said.
One year, Landry calculated that 10,000 utensils were loaned from the library and saved a lot of waste from the landfill.
The library does not buy new items, practicing its credo, “reuse is better by creating less waste”. Many of their acquisitions come from donations. They are always on the lookout for dessert and salad bowls, dessert and dinner plates. There are vintage red dishes in the collection, perfect for a holiday dinner or a private party.
With a spreadsheet, volunteers manage inventory which has 97 events booked this year for nonprofit and private gatherings ranging from weddings to book launches, a magazine party, fundraisers, a memorial service and a chili contest.
The system operates on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and all items must be cleaned before returning.
People can save a lot of money by using this service. For example, buying linens for eight guests per table would require 14 tablecloths and about 112 napkins for an average-sized wedding. Rental costs can vary, but a basic white table linen from a Seattle company starts at $14 with matching napkins up to $2 each, meaning a couple could spend upwards of $375. just for linens.
After 15 years of service at the lending library, Landry loves his job because people appreciate him so much. “All of these things celebrated lives, raised funds and honored people.”