This non-profit organisation has been around since the mid 1970s arranging 'resource re-use'. They:
make available industrial and commercial discards, off-cuts and over-runs to creative and practical people, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.Essentially the shops contain random, reasonably priced bits and pieces that would otherwise be thrown out that many people use in art, DIY and other creative projects.
I've heard a lot of hype from fellow greenies about this amazing reuse shop, and headed there with a specific goal in mind - fabric to recover my kitchen chairs (bought secondhand from a coworker a couple years ago and looking more shabby than chic). I've looked into eco-fabrics, but wanted to see what off-cuts were available before committing to purchasing lovely (but pricey) organic fabric I found at Thea and Sami.
Because of the nature of Reverse Garbage you never know what's going to be in stock, so I tried to manage my own expectations as I excitedly approached the Taylor Square shop (with mannequin legs appropriately sprawled in the arched window of the old T2 building). My initial impression after stepping into to the shop was not good, and I felt it was more like a garage sale than art store. The ground floor was dimly lit, smelled a bit musty and was filled with disparate piles of crayons, mannequin pieces, beads, mounting board off-cuts and even promotional notepads and toys. My senses quickly adjusted, though, and as I saw a method to the apparent madness I could also see why this place has been so popular with creatives for decades with its affordable and unexpected goodies stashed in every possible corner of the shop.
Then I wandered into the fabric room and my heart dropped - they certainly weren't making it easy for me!
The huge pile of fabric rolls was quite difficult to look through, and at one stage I rolled one off the pile and it thudded quite loudly on the ground - luckily my hubby was there to help me pick it back up, it was really heavy! The pile contained a lot white and off white cotton, jersey and polyester blends, but nothing suitable for covering chairs, and the few rolls of upholstery-like material weren't really my taste (there were a few corduroy-like rolls in pale green, blue and golden shades if anyone's interested). There were also hundreds of swatches hanging on a rack, but nothing large enough to cover my chairs. Although I'd tried not to expect much, I was still disappointed after all the buzz I'd heard.
I headed up the stairs into the lofty-second floor just to have a peek, and the lovely light streaming through the windows perked my mood immediately. There were Mardi Gras costume extras, dresses and belts, containers and art boards of all shapes and sizes, and cute wooden stencils with Aussie animals - the potential was amazing!
Then I saw some hessian coffee sacks and my creative wheels started spinning - could these fun pieces of fabric be used to cover my chairs? The sacks were not as scratchy as I thought they'd be, they need a bit of a wash and have potential to shed, but at $3 a piece it's a very low-risk investment - sold!
This green fling reminded me that when shopping sustainably, I'm not shopping conveniently. The shop will not always have exactly what I want when I want it, and I may have to change my expectations - like being open to the possibility of recovering kitchen chairs with coffee bags instead of fabric. Watch this space in the coming weeks as I recover the chairs with reused hessian coffee bags.
Thanks Reverse Garbage for this lesson, for my cool bags, for all your efforts in keeping rubbish out of landfill, for helping artists, teachers and other creative folks in the process and for really being the experts in reuse. I do understand what the buzz is all about now.