Stuff for Days, Stuff for Years

Sharing library helps neighbors while promoting a zero-waste lifestyle

Kim Coram and John Wiseman want you to lend a hand (or a tool or a kayak or 100 settings of silverware) to your neighbors in need.
Photo by Karin Strickland

Homeowners and renters often find themselves in a dilemma: There’s a job to be done, but the tool required is too expensive, takes up too much space, or is too niche to be of further use afterward. But Transylvania Shares (their motto is:  “We’ve Got Stuff”) promotes reuse instead of one-time use in every possible situation.

The membership library, founded in 2020, is constantly changing, and features tools and garden implements, sports and outdoor gear, kitchen and dining items, and everything in between. The group charges $30 per year for membership (additional donations are accepted), is open to Transylvania County residents, and has a slick website for making reservations to borrow items. (Every member, upon joining, gets a vote in the organization.)

Camping equipment and garden tools will be popular lending items as the weather warms. Heavy-duty tools like chop saws (top right) are also much sought after.
Photo by Karin Strickland

Having a backyard barbecue and don’t want to use plastic plates? Got a new project that requires a specialized tool? Need to cut up a fallen tree? Transylvania Shares has these situations covered. The idea is simple and was born out of a zero-waste philosophy, but it has roots buried deep.

Kim Coram and John Wiseman, founding board members of Transylvania Shares and owners of Cedar Mountain Canteen, relocated to WNC in 2014 from West Virginia. They say their sole reason for moving was the amount of fracking done near their previous home. 

Photo by Karin Strickland

“We watched what it did to our environment, how it polluted our water, how it drained our watershed. A lot of that gas was drilled to make plastic,” says Coram. 

The experience awakened a desire in them to move to a zero-waste lifestyle. They say they only produce about one garbage bag full of trash each year, and are constantly looking into ways to reduce further.

“When we moved here, we knew we could not continue our consumption habits. We were able to leave a community that was decimated by our habits. A lot of people can’t leave,” she points out. 

Photo by Karin Strickland

They met up regularly with a group of friends who shared similar goals, eventually turning the gatherings into a grassroots mailing list called Moving to Conservers. They got their hands into many conservation events in the area, hosting movie nights and an essay contest. Oskar Blues even brewed a beer for the group, using leftover bread from Bracken Mountain Bakery in Brevard. The eight-person mailing list grew to 300. 

In 2019, the group took their zero-waste idea to the organizers of the annual Rise & Shine fundraiser in Brevard, a 125-person sit-down dinner which typically used disposable plastic cutlery and plates. (The nonprofit serves local minority and economically disadvantaged students in grades K-12.) Filled with doubt about how to pull it off, Coram made her pitch anyway, and the goal was set. 

Photo by Karin Strickland

“We started hitting thrift stores, we put e-mails out asking for extra plates, napkins, wine glasses, whatever it [would take] to seat this dinner [without plastic],” she says. 

Everything was reusable, from the centerpieces to the tablecloths. The event was a huge success — “gorgeous and eclectic,” remembers Wiseman. It produced no waste, and, incidentally, very little compost, either. “People were in that mindset,” he explains, “so they cleaned their plates.”

Word got out, and the reusable table settings were now being requested for other events. “We found there’s a culture here for sharing, and a culture here that wants to reuse,” says Corman. 

A call was put out in the conservers’ group to see if anyone wanted to sit on a board to create a sharing library, and after members attended training through Mountain BizWorks, Transylvania Shares was established. The group is hoping to expand its philosophy into the wider community. 

“I saw a sign that said whoever came up with the word ‘disposable’ is an evil genius,” says Corman, “because there is no such thing. It’s a façade. People say, ‘I’m done with this; here, you take it, put it in the ground and bury it, I don’t want it anymore’ … [but] since we’ve started tracking where stuff goes” — plastic into the ocean, for instance — “we realize it’s violent.

“Disposing of stuff is violent. It’s violent on the front end as to what has to happen to replenish it, and it’s violent as to where it ends up.”

On a lighter note, the tool library can also serve as inspiration for craft, adventure, or home-improvement projects. Current items in inventory include a sign cutter, a sewing machine, and wooden kayak paddles. 

Corman notes: “You look at the library and you think, ‘I always wanted to try that.’”

Transylvania Shares: We’ve Got Stuff, Cedar Mountain. For more information, check out the Facebook page or the website: transylvaniashares.myturn.com. 

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