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Tool-lending library offers free-to-borrow dinnerware |

Tool-lending library offers free-to-borrow dinnerware

NORTHFIELD — Northfield resident Laura Kaye lives her life by the motto “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” It was in that mindset that she pioneered a new idea to reduce waste at parties, picnics and other social gatherings.

Through the Northfield tool-lending library, for which Kaye is a volunteer, Northfield residents can take advantage of a free-to-borrow dinnerware collection that includes plates, cutlery, glasses, mugs, bowls, serving utensils, napkins, hot drink carafes and pitchers.


Kaye said she’s been collecting dinnerware for the “Northfield Collection of Fine Dining” for about three years, cleaning out her own cupboards, picking up items at Goodwill, accepting donations and gathering dishes from the Transfer Station’s reuse shed. Now Kaye said she has just the right amount, accumulating 50 place settings.

Though she hasn’t heard of any other town offering free-to-borrow dinnerware, Kaye decided to implement a program in Northfield in hopes of reducing the amount of plastic and paper plates, cups and utensils that are routinely thrown out following large gatherings.

“I just said ‘There’s gotta be something better than disposable stuff,’” Kaye explained.

Kaye brought her idea to her fellow volunteers at the tool-lending library, which offers an extensive variety of construction, yard, gardening and automotive hand and power tools for residents to borrow at no cost.

The tool-lending library was first organized by Shirley Keech five years ago “so that people aren’t getting in their cars and driving to Keene, Brattleboro or Greenfield (to buy) something they’ll only use twice a year,” Keech explained, thus reducing vehicle emissions and encouraging reuse of tools. The dinnerware collection, Keech thought, expands on the idea of tool reuse with a different type of tool.

“The idea of sharing tools has been around for a while, but dishware is a whole new twist,” Keech said.

Plus, Kaye enjoys simply giving the dishes a new purpose.

“This is stuff somebody didn’t want,” she said. “We’re making a new life for it.”

To borrow the dinnerware — or anything in the tool-lending library — Northfield residents should go to the Transfer Station, located at 31 Caldwell Road, where the tool-lending library operates from 9 a.m. to noon every Saturday. Keech said they must provide proof of residency and sign a waiver.

Though the tool collection is kept at the Transfer Station, for cleanliness reasons the dinnerware is stored at Kaye’s home. She said she inspects the items for cleanliness before they are checked out and when they return.

Residents can check out as much or as little dinnerware as they need, Kaye said, and have done so for birthday parties, Seders, graduation celebrations and weddings.

It seems almost too good to be true, Keech said, that the whole service is free.

“People come to the library and say ‘I want to rent a rototiller this week,” she said. “It’s a hard concept for people to grasp.”

However, Kaye warns residents holding out for a matching collection are out of luck. Though the dishes are all similar in size, their color and design vary, with mugs featuring holiday, birthday, sports and location-based designs.

“It’s funky and fun,” Keech said.

Perhaps the idea of borrowing dishes might be more popular, Kaye said, if it didn’t require cleanup.

“It’s just getting over the idea that somehow doing dishes after a party is a burden,” Kaye said. But she and Keech agreed there’s simply something pleasing about eating off dishes, as opposed to using paper or plastic, that make cleanup but a small chore.

“It’s a small expression of gratitude after having good food to wash a dish,” Keech said.

The two hope the concept of having free-to-borrow dinnerware and a tool-lending library might spread to other towns, and that people will grow into the idea.

“It’s an idea whose time has not yet come,” Kaye said. “In my mother’s time, this is just how it was done.”

Reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257

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