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541 Barton Eatery and Exchange
This is 541 Barton. It is a cafe in Hamilton, Ontario. Meals and coffee are sold at cost, and the cafe is staffed by volunteers. When you pay, you have the option of paying it forward by purchasing $1 buttons that get added to a large jar on the counter. Other people may use these buttons to buy food if they can't afford it. No one knows who used buttons. Everyone eats in the same space, side by side. Also, they have kick-ass gf brownies.
The Livingroom Community Art Studio
This beautiful soul is Mary. Mary is founder of The Livingroom Community Art Studio in Oshawa, Ontario. At the LRCAS anyone can come in to use the studio space and art materials (and man, oh man, are there ever art materials!) for free. There is a bustling spirit of community, inclusivity, and love here, which you can feel as soon as you walk in the door. Children, the elderly, teens, established artists, the marginalized, the broken, the rich...all share this safe space. "If someone criticizes your work, we will help mediate," says Mary. "If it's your own inner critic that criticizes your work, we can help mediate that too."
The LCAS is open all day Wed-Sat. The frequent workshops and programs are low or no cost. Almost all of the art materials are donated.
The space operates on grants, donations, and volunteer work.
Check out their fantastically beautiful website at www.livingroomcommunityartstudio.org
The LRCAS is part of the Art Hives movement: www.arthives.org
Neighborgoods to the Rescue (or How I Learned There Are Trustworthy Strangers on the Internet)
Last week, after suddenly realizing I needed a dehydrator to finish a recipe, I did a search on Neighborgoods, an online sharing platform where people offer to share items that they own but don't often use (eg a ladder, snowblower, electric mixer). Didn't think the odds were good, but worth a try, right? Low and behold, a dehydrator available right in hamilton! And to my surprise, guy responded right away. Even said he'd wash it for me first. We arranged for me to pick it up from his work later that week.
Then i began to bake sourdough bread. That is, until I realized my sister didn't have the required enamel cast iron pot. I thought about buying one till I discovered they're hundreds of dollars. Bolstered by my success on Neighborgoods, I ran a quick search for cast iron. Nothing. Not even in Toronto. So I halfheartedly posted it using Neighborgoods' wish list feature. Next day, a message from same guy: "By the way, I have an enamel cast iron pot too."
So two days later I'm dehydrating nuts AND baking sourdough bread.
"Keep them as long as you need," said Generous Guy. "Text me when you're done."
NOTE: Neighbourhoods seems to be offline and no longer operating until further notice. There are many similar sharing platforms that you can explore, and more starting up all the time!
The Sharing Depot
Here I am at...the Toronto Sharing Depot! An offshoot of the TO Tool Library, The Sharing Depot is a community hub where members have access to a wide range of things without owning or storing them. It opened in April of this year and has already garnered much attention. There are yearly membership fees at the Depot (from $25-100)...and once you've paid you have unlimited access to a vast inventory of sports equipment, toys, games, camping equipment, tools, garden equipment, and house party supplies. Items can be loaned for 3-7 days. Inventory is all online, including photos of each item and availability.
While I was there checking out The
Sharing Depot's Danforth location, 2 women came in to see if there was a wheelbarrow available (there was). A dad was supervising 2 small children who were returning some ride-on toys and deciding which new ones to borrow. And I was drooling over high end camping equipment. Almost all the things at the Depot have been donated, and some of the higher quality merchandise is purchased using donations.
You can see their inventory at https://sharingdepot.ca/browse-our-inventory/
This is Bike Pirates. They are a small DIY bike repair shop in downtown Toronto that doesn't charge. Instead, there's a PWYC donation box.
Sound familiar? That's right...same concept as Bike Sauce! TWO of these fantastic PWYC bike repair shops in Toronto!
When you arrive at Bike Pirates you are added to a waiting list and can hang out in the living room area until there's a spot for you. Bike Pirates won't fix your bike for you, but they provide the space, tools, workstands, volunteer help, and some consumables for a donation of your choice. You can also buy new and used parts at reasonable rates. Fill out a form detailing what parts you need, the cost, how much you're donating, and put it in the box with your donation.
Not just conveniently affordable...
you're also learning to take care of your own bike!
This is what it's all based on, people!...all the sharing platforms, the gifting websites, PWYC, pay it forward, the little free libraries, the barter sites, NeighbourGoods, Shareable, the Food Is Free movement... We in the cities and towns and suburbs realize that, on some level, we do long for something that has always existed in smaller tight-knit communities around the world and throughout history.
This is a Thursday in Sointula...the only town on Malcolm Island, BC. Population 600. I am here for the summer. The one grocery store is out of coconut oil. So I go to my 84 year old neighbour. "Of course you can have some, my dear...take as much as you want! And take some kale from my garden. And here's a cucumber. And a beet. And some peaches." I come away with an armload of free produce and a promise of more.
The day I arrived here in Sointula, my van broke down on the ferry. I arrived 'sans vehicle', and as a result the remote cabin I'd planned to stay in was out of the question. No fears...that week I had 12 people offer me a place to stay. Without me even asking! And 3 people offering the use of their vehicles.
"The great thing here," said one townsperson, "is you never have to worry about your immediate needs being met. You could knock on the door of anyone you know and they'd give you a bed to sleep in. Hell...you could knock on the door of people you DON'T know and they'd give you a bed to sleep in."
And that's the gifting economy.
That's the sharing economy.
I find it inspiring to see all the ways that people are trying to reproduce this in big cities right now. Can it be done? It will inevitably look different. The desire to give and to share and to help is the same.
It's what connects us to others.
That's our real wealth.
This is Yoga Village in Toronto. Its model is Pay-What-You-Choose (pay-what-you-can with a slight mental shift!). Their values: radical inclusion, trust, transparency, community, generosity. Their model includes allowing you to see what their costs are and where all the money goes. You decide how much to pay. All donations are anonymous.
Those are my feet at a Flow Restorative class. And my co-dancers at a Yoga Groove class. Go and try it out!
Guisepi and Edna Lu the Free Tea Bus
I have not met them yet. But I love them.
From video editor to traveling-connector-of-people, Guisepi has been traveling the US now for 8+ years in his sustainable "green" bus serving free tea and sharing conversation with strangers. "The tea bus is about connection - to strangers, to oneself, to the things we interact with. It is about sharing - knowledge, stories, and cups of tea. It is about following your passion - finding your strengths and interests, and figuring out how to cultivate and share them. The tea bus is about community."
He also leads workshops and teaches about resource sharing, alternative economics, community building, resource reclamation, and mobile permaculture, as well as working with other groups and people to create space for dialogue, readings, film screenings, and music.
To learn more about the Tea Bus, Guisepi's story, the Gift and Take Box philosophy, green bus building, and all the interesting events and characters on their journeys, check out the amazing website:http://freeteaparty.org
And for Guisepi's inspiring story of how he got into this:http://freeteaparty.org/blog/10-years-of-free-tea-durham-nc/
This is Ian. Ian is fixing his own bike (“I actually don’t know what I’m doing!” he tells me.)
Ian is fixing his own bike at Bike Sauce, a DIY bike repair shop in Toronto that runs solely on a donation-box model.
Bike Sauce is 100% volunteer run. They offer a community space where people can fix their own bicycles using Bike Sauce’s repair stands, tools, and parts while receiving help from volunteers.
“What if I know nothing at all about bikes,” I asked. “Can I still come in and get help?”
"YES!" said John, who was manning the desk. “We won’t do it for you, but we’ll show you how to do it and coach you through.”
From all the tool boards with labels and hand-painted silhouettes of each tool, to the friendly guys offering help, Bike Sauce is clearly a place where amateurs to experts feel welcome. If you need a part for your bike, you can buy recycled or inexpensive new parts. When you check out, you pay for your parts, and then have the opportunity to make a donation towards the time, help, and space. “People generally donate anywhere between a few cents and $20,” said John. “It helps keep us going.”
On Wednesdays, volunteers come in to strip down donated bikes and rebuild them. Ian is one of the volunteers. He speaks fondly of this community, the learning experience, and the chance to help others. Not only are the rebuilt bikes sold in the shop, Ian tells me, but they are also donated to those who can’t afford them, such as refugees, and to the shelter down the street.
To learn more about this fantastic space, visit www.bikesauce.org, or visit them on Facebook, on instagram…or better yet, in person! And bring your bike.
The Toronto Tool Library
This is Paul Servos. One day, when Paul was wondering about where he might volunteer in the city, he saw a CBC report on the Tool Library. He signed up immediately. Today was his first day and I was his first tour.
The Tool Library loans out specialized tools for construction, renovation, plumbing, electrical, drywalling, painting and more.
But wait for it...this is not just a library! Paul and I descended the stairs to a large area underneath the Sharing Depot. Here I was surprised to discover a meeting area and several workshops and makerspaces housing every kind of power tool, gadget and machine you can imagine...including a laser cutter and 3D printer!
Have a hankering to use a laser cutter at midnight? No problem! Members have 24/7 access to the workshops and tools through a back door that leads to a driveway where you can pull up and load your projects and materials behind the shop.
There are also workshops and training sessions so you can learn how to make things, even if you've never touched a tool.
Yearly memberships range from $50-100 a year and allow you workshop access as well as 3 to 7 day tool loans.
Tool libraries and maker spaces are becoming common in many cities around the world. Check to see to see if there's one near you - it's an inexpensive way to get access to equipment and space, and to learn some new skills!
This is ArtsJunktion (aka Wonderland of Free Stuff!), which I had the opportunity to visit while traveling through Winnipeg. #artsjunktion is a community-based, charitable organization committed to redistributing reusable materials at no charge to the public. It works on the premise that businesses frequently have materials that they need to get rid of, which can be costly and a pain for the businesses, and that there are hundreds of people in the city who #lovetocreate but don't always have access to#inspiringmaterials. ArtsJunktion bridges the gap. Inside their building there is a warehouse-sized room which is filled, floor to ceiling, with sorted and#repurposed art/craft/design materials. And here's the amazing part...you can go in, browse, choose as much stuff as you want, weigh it, mark down the weight of what you're taking on a clipboard, leave a money donation if you're able, and take it all home to make stuff with. It's almost overwhelming. There were chunks of plaster, old cassettes, fabric, all kinds of paper, bottle caps, industrial cardboard tubes, magazines, antique postcards, old office supplies, yarn, plastics, cardboard, and more bits and pieces to spark your imagination than you can even conceive of...all sorted and organized into bins.
Pressed for time and overwhelmed by choice, I quickly grabbed some junk that looked interesting. The result...a water bottle holder for the front of my van (remarkably useful and still going strong) and a collage that is waiting to happen!
Thank you, Julie, for taking time to give me a tour.
The ArtsJunktion also does art workshops and accepts donations. Check them out at www.artsjunktion.mb.ca or on Facebook.
Karma Teachers Yoga
This is Karma Teachers Yoga in Vancouver... the park version. Truth be told, I don't usually enjoy yoga - it's just something I feel I should do - until I attend a Karma Teachers class. After attending this class in Dude Chilling Park on my way through Vancouver, I came away actually wanting to do more yoga, and feeling happier. There is an amazing energy of goodwill, love, cheerfulness, inclusiveness, gentleness and humour that permeates the studio and radiates through the teachers and students here.
Karma Teachers operates on a donation-based, pay-it-forward model. Located in a small studio in an alley in Gastown, their staff of over 90 teachers all offer their time and love to teach yoga, work with street youth, and run a yoga college. "If someone can't pay, we ask them to just smile at everyone for the rest of the day. Pay it forward, show people how yoga is changing your life by smiling."
Karma Teachers has opened a community yoga studio in Toronto as well...their new flock of graduates is ready to show you some peace and love!
Check them out at www.karmateachers.com
Wild Woods Yoga & Wellness
This is Jolene at Wild Woods Yoga & Wellness in Nelson BC, being a trouper and posing for me. She led the lovely yoga class I took this morning. Wild Woods Yoga has just moved to a smaller location a few streets away from their original studio so that they can afford to offer their yoga by donation, making it more accessible to all people. While I was waiting to talk to Jolene, two bartering situations were also being discussed - trades of yoga for massage and yoga for Thai massage. Barter, donation, PWYC...thank you Brittanya, Jolene, and the rest of Wild Woods for offering your gifts in this way! You can check out the fantastic Wild Woods Yoga atwww.wildwoodswellness.com or on their Facebook page.
Gore Street Cafe
This is Nicole. She runs The Gore Street Cafe in Sault Ste Marie. The tiny cafe is attached to a laundromat in a less-than-posh area of town. When I walked in and asked if they took debit or only cash, I was told "Just cash....and barter!"
Two years ago Nicole and her partner made the move from Toronto to the Sault for school. Living in this stretch of downtown they saw a need for accessible healthy food and a community space. When the storefront came up for rent, they decided to give it a shot. Currently Nicole is running everything solo. She provides 2 meal options every day, plus breakfast and grilled cheese. At the moment everything is being offered on a PWYW basis. She always accepts barter. There is a weekly open mic and frequent concerts. This kind of venture is not without challenges...such as the 6 months of massive road construction right outside the Cafe's door. Though she loves what she does, Nicole envisions that at some point there will have to be some changes. "One hundred Instagram likes don't help when only 4 people come to a concert!" she says with a wry grin. When asked what would help support the cafe she responds, "Tell people to come!!"
I got to trade my homemade greeting cards for an omelette and potatoes. And next time I'm in the Sault I'll definitely be checking this place out...and hopefully catching a concert!
To see their menu and upcoming concert info go to the Gore Street Cafe Facebook page (https://m.facebook.com/gorestreetcafe/) or check them out on Instagram @gorestreetcafe.
This is Credo Coffee. Credo is a coffee shop, community hub, and network cultivator in Orlando, Florida. Their menu is based on sliding-scale donation.
Credo's credo: "Life is worth living. I refuse to merely exist. I pursue a life of meaning and purpose, fulfillment and joy. The world is not yet as it ought to be. Neither is my city. Neither am I. Yet, I reject apathy and despair. I engage the world, my city, and myself to make an impact for good. I am not alone. I press through narcissism, isolation and self-sufficiency, striving to live in authentic community." Credo not only sells direct trade coffee but also works closely with partner charities and helps support creative endeavours that engage people in lives of meaning.
By asking people to name their price, they hope to engage the public in thinking about where their money goes and what impact it makes.
See founder Ben Hoyer's TedX Talk: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iOEHU9doKtA
For more on the philosophies of Credo's three streams of community building (Coffee, Rally, Conduit), go to www.downtowncredo.com.
Zero Waste Sunday
I was in Toronto to visit a friend for the day. It turned out that it was also the large farewell celebration for the closing of Honest Ed’s. AND (as I happened to find out through a random Facebook post) Zero-Waste Sunday was piggybacking off that celebration to have their own zero-waste fair on-site. So we checked it out!
Among other things, we found:
- a book/cd/dvd/art swap
- food trucks where you have to bring your own cup, plate, and cutlery
- a repair station to bring in your broken equipment and get expert volunteers to show you what’s wrong with it and how to fix it
- a beer garden
I happened to have a box of good quality books in my van that I was trying to get rid of, so…TADAH! I became the proud owner of 36 swap tickets - tickets I could use to ‘purchase’ other books, cds, or pieces of art.
Sadly, we arrived too late to get anything good. Romance novels and old National Geographics.
But at least I offloaded mine. And witnessed some very happy people exiting with my super-duper books tucked under their arms.
"TOGETHER WE WANT TO CO-CREATE A PLACE WHERE CONVERSATION, EDUCATION, TRADE AND CELEBRATION OF THE COLLABORATIVE ECONOMY HAPPEN." (-Zero Waste Sunday)
The Sharing Depot https://sharingdepot.ca/
The Toronto Tool Library http://torontotoollibrary.com/
Repair Cafe Toronto http://repaircafetoronto.ca/
These are greeting cards that are being sold at Ward IV Coffee in Hamilton, Ontario. The twist? You buy them using a PWYC trust system.
I started using this system after selling cards at festivals one summer where I started to notice how different ways of charging led to different experiences. What I love is that it allows me to FEEL my connection with money...at times I have felt generosity, scarcity, fear, resentment, abundance, love, and irritation. By feeling it, I can maybe start to let it go and allow money to just be money. And by allowing customers to actively engage in the process, we all start to experience money a little differently.
This is also a shout-out to all the amazing, beautiful coffee shop owners who are receiving no cash (except from my coffee habit), but are generously allowing for me to be part of their space.
Also in the works is a percentage-to-a-local-charity plan so that these cards can help benefit the neighbourhoods they're in and do a little giving back.
...Vintage Coffee, Finch on Locke, Ward IV, and Pyrus, it gives me so much joy to be able to do this. Thank you!
“Collective Being started with one simple intention: Love.”
This is the opening statement on Collective Being’s Facebook page. It succinctly sums up the mission of this inspiring group of holistic wellness practitioners whose goal is to make practices of self-care and self-love accessible to everyone. Their workshops and classes currently range from reiki to yoga to meditation and nutrition, and take place in Toronto, Ontario. Everything is PWYC.
This week I had the pleasure of meeting the inspiring woman behind Collective Being, Cachelle Legada-Buenafe. Cachelle is an artist who not only works as a full time graphic designer but also teaches yoga and reiki in her spare time. We talked about the role of money, following one’s heart, neuroplasticity, ego, health, generosity, attachment, and how her passion and heart nudged her to create a space for practitioners to share their skills in an accessible way. “I can’t understand why we charge so much for these practices,” she mused. “These skills should be available to everyone!”
Like many others I’ve talked to, once Cachelle made the decision to follow her heart’s leading, the rest began to serendipitously fall into place. A studio space in Kensington Market was offered up, other practitioners joined in. Though still in its beginning stages, this collective is growing by word of mouth and by the love and care that these beautiful women are spreading throughout their community.
Follow their inspiring posts on Facebook or instagram, and if you pass through Toronto, please check out one of their classes or workshops!
Inland Island Community Health Centre
This is Inland Island, a sliding-scale community wellness centre in Hamilton’s west end. And this is Emily Bennett, the naturopathic doctor who began it all.
Emily sat down with me last week to talk about her vision, her experiences, and why she uses sliding scale in her work.
Sliding scale is common in community acupuncture. It’s a viable way for practitioners to offer more affordable services by treating multiple people at one time. Inland Island, however, is rather unique in offering not only sliding scale acupuncture, but sliding scale naturopathic medicine, manual therapies, classes, and workshops. It’s all part of Emily’s goal to make complementary medicine more accessible.
Back when Emily was a student, on her way to becoming a naturopath, she soon realized that her student’s meagre budget did not allow her to actually see the type of practitioner she was learning to be. At the same time that she was beginning to ponder the enigma of the inaccessibility of alternative medicine, she met Chris Pickrell, an ND in Toronto who was passionate about options such as sliding scale that could help people from all economic classes to access care.
The seed was planted.
Fast forward to today.
‘Our intent,’ states Inland Island’s mission statement, ‘is to improve access to preventative and holistic medicines by decreasing financial, physical, and social barriers to care.’
“I encourage all the therapists who work here to think about this model,” says Emily. “Some began by doing it just a little bit, uncertain of how it would go, but they are expanding and implementing it more and more all the time.” Each of the doctors at Inland Island offers some form of sliding scale, PWYC, or barter for those who cannot afford the regular fees.
Emily notes that clients are encouraged to ‘pay-as-much-as-you-can’, rather than ‘pay-what-you-can’, creating a consciousness around fairness and worth while still honouring patients’ economic realities.
The business is doing well, hoping to expand sometime in the future.
And as for the people of Hamilton, well, we’ve got access to some amazing natural health care…all of us.
For more information about this wellness centre and the generous and caring professionals who offer their services there, go to www.inlandisland.ca, or follow them on Facebook (Inland Island Community Wellness Centre) or Instagram (@inland.island).
Feed It Forward
This is Feed It Forward, Ontario’s first PWYC grocery store and cafe. Slightly blemished produce is displayed beautifully in wooden crates. Baked goods and coffee are available as you shop. When you’ve taken what you need, you put your money in a donation box...no one looks to see what you put in, there is no sliding scale, and there are no suggested amounts. You may give as much or as little as you are able and deem appropriate. I visited the store with the intent of only taking a few photos, but instead came out with a backpack of food and a lot of gratitude.
Feed It Forward was started by chef Jagger Gordon, a food security warrior working to change Canada’s food waste laws and to make a difference in Toronto’s food security scene: “One in four children in Toronto are going hungry. How is that possible, when we are one of the richest countries in the world?”
In addition to the PWYC grocery store, Feed It Forward has a Feed Families freezer program, a Feed the Future food delivery program (ready-to-cook meals made with discarded food brought to university campuses using a pay-it-forward model), a PWYC soup shop, and is developing a mobile app for people and businesses to legally donate discarded and leftover food. Chef Gordon is currently campaigning to have the government change its laws around food waste.
As I write this, Feed It Forward has served around 40000 PWYC meals and saved an estimated 67200 lbs of food from going to landfill.
To volunteer, donate money, or sign the government petition, go to www.feeditforward.ca.
Family Car Club
This is Mike. I met him on a road trip in British Columbia. After knowing me for only a couple hours, he welcomed me into his home, did some free work on my van, and helped me buy parts.
Mike runs The Family Car Club. He accepts donations of broken vehicles, fixes them, and then sells them as cheaply as he can to people who desperately need a vehicle but can't afford one.
This is from his website:
"Here at FamilyCar.club we are all about helping people stay on the road. We may need money in today’s systems in order to provide these vehicles and support services, but profit is not our goal.
We promise to provide:
- The truth, and everything we know about the vehicle.
- The best prices we can possibly provide.
- Options for funding if you cannot afford our extremely low prices.
- Continuous customer support “warranty”.
Trade-ins welcome, working or not."
Mike is helping to make the world a better place. I speak from first-hand experience. :)
If you need a car, or have an old or broken vehicle that you would like to donate, contact him at http://www.familycar.club or through facebook (Family Car Club).
Elastic Mind - Tara Joyce
This is Tara Joyce, the intelligent, heart-centred, and energetic director of Elastic Mind - a communication design business in Toronto - with whom I had the pleasure of having a three hour lunch last week. Tara’s business approach is considered unorthodox by many: she operates using a Pay-What-It’s-Worth system of exchange.
Pay-What-It’s-Worth means that the client and the seller are both involved in together determining fair value. Key to this exchange are the open sharing of information, accountability, and clear boundaries. PWIW is different from PWYC or PWYW. "I do not ask for my customers to pay whatever they want nor what they can,” says Tara. “ Rather I ask for them to determine the worth of the experience they’ve received and my contribution to it and to return this value."
Tara grew up with a conventional approach to money. After getting a degree in Business Administration and Marketing and then working in the corporate sector for several years, she became disillusioned. In 2009, at the age of 26, Tara decided to set out on her own and experiment with a new way of doing business…a way that focused on relationship, trust, abundance, and empowerment.
Tara’s business/philosophy blog, The Rise of the Innerpreneur, is listed on Forbes’ 100 best websites for entrepreneurs, and her book “Pay What It’s Worth” is coming out later this year. She has been interviewed on CBC, and featured in multiple podcasts, articles, books, and talks.
Unorthodox, yes…but people are clearly looking for change.
You can check out Tara’s blog, writings, and business at www.elasticmind.ca.
Vita Luna Cafe
This is Vita Luna Cafe, also in Orlando, Florida. It's a pop-up coffee shop inside a...wait for it...local neighbourhood bar! That's right. Coffee from 9am-6pm, bar from 4pm-2am, and a combined Happy Hour from 4-6!
When I walked in and asked how much the coffee was, the owner, Danny, asked me how much I wanted to pay. Danny has a passion for making craft coffee accessible to everyone. "I've been homeless many times," he says. "When I had to drink terrible coffee, I felt terrible. Sometimes all I wanted was an amazing cup of coffee." Vita Luna uses local, fresh ingredients and follows eco-friendly principals. The emphasis is on community, the love of coffee, and slowing down.
Setting up a coffee bar with heart is not without its challenges. Until a month ago, Danny was working multiple jobs to fund this dream. Now he's jumping in with both feet. Some days are hard. People love the cafe, but traffic doesn't always reflect that support...maybe because it's a place that forces us to slow down and engage when we're used to grabbing our coffee and running.
I asked Danny what most people pay when given a choice. "It's funny," he mused. "Usually the ones who can afford it are the ones who pay the least. The people who have little can be the most generous."
"Does anyone ever come in who can't pay anything?"
"Oh yeah. But if someone offers me 50c because that's all they have, I say 'Keep your 50c man. Have the coffee on me. Use your money for something else.'" Vita Luna is located in Lil Indies Bar, 1036 N Mills Ave, Orlando. Danny will make you the best coffee you've ever had.
You can read more of the café's beautiful philosophies here: www.vitalunacafe.com
A friend brought the concept of 'suspended coffees' to my attention a month ago.
We're all familiar with the idea - you buy yourself a coffee and decide, in a gesture of goodwill, to pay it forward and buy two...one for the next person in line, or for someone in need. Some cafés (like http://fivefortyone.ca or www.rosasfreshpizza.com) facilitate this by having programs geared to paying it forward.
What I didn't realize was that the tradition (as well as the term 'suspended coffee') originated in the working class cafés of Naples where people who were feeling particularly fortunate would purchase a 'caffe sospeso' ...two coffees bought, but one consumed.
There is a whole website dedicated to encouraging this practice and highlighting cafés across North America who put it into action:www.suspendedcoffees.com.
And then (and here's the impetus for this article)...I was in the Kitchener Main Library last week, sitting in the lobby where Hacienda Coffee has a small cafe for patrons to grab a coffee while reading their books, and I noticed a string of round tags hanging by the cash register. I went up to buy a tea and discovered that Hacienda now provides patrons the opportunity to pay $2 extra and get a tag which others can use to buy coffee, soup, or cookies.
Combined with the free library programs and the warm, open commons area, it seems the KPL is providing some much needed support for the many homeless and needy people in the downtown core.
Thanks Hacienda and KPL!
It's the Really, Really Free Market!
RRFMs exist all over the world. The term was coined in the US in 2003; the markets were originally held in conjunction with the Food Not Bombs movement. The British version, begun in the 80s, is the Give and Take. The South American equivalent is the Gratiferia.
This one takes place in Toronto on the first Saturday of every month in a small community centre located in a nondescript park by The Junction. Staffed fully by volunteers and open from 10 to 4, the market is a place you can drop off your unused items and clothes for others to take.
It's not barter...there are no tokens and no keeping track. Take what you need - give as much as you want. But beware if you proudly think you're downsizing...you're likely to walk out with more than you came with. I dropped off some books. I left with Tibetan prayer flags, a down vest, and lots of gratitude.
"What do you do with all the things that are still here at the end of the day?" I asked the woman in charge.
Volunteers pack everything up and drive it to various charities such as Salvation Army, she told me.
I asked if people try to offload their junk and garbage.
"At first some people did. But hardly ever now. We really emphasize that you should only bring things that you would want yourself. Anything that's not in good shape we put in the garbage or recycling. But look...it's 3pm and we only have this tiny bit of garbage."
As I left, people were still happily picking through tables of items, books, and racks of clothing. "This isn't a charity," said a volunteer. "We're trying to provide an opportunity for people to do things differently without using money."
For more info: www.rrfm.blogspot.ca
Food Is Free Project
"Please help yourself to our veggies" says the sign outside the house.
It stands in the middle of an older residential street in the industrial area of Hamilton. Factories and a wrecking yard rise up on either end of the small stretch of houses. "My husband built me all these raised beds along the fence when we moved in because there was nowhere to grow plants at the front," says Christine Gordon, mother of three. We stand on the concrete surface of her front yard, children circling us gleefully on their bikes.
"Where I grew up, everyone shared everything. People don't do that as much in the city." Christine came across the #foodisfree movement online a few years ago. "It's something I've always done naturally," she says. "Now it just has a hashtag."
The #foodisfreeproject provides resources, ideas, and open source garden designs to encourage people around the world to grow extra food and share it at no cost.
Here on Christine's street, the garbage man regularly helps himself to the heirloom tomatoes which spill over the fence in beautiful abundance, but she says that generally people are hesitant to pick the produce themselves. She regularly offers food to her neighbours as they walk by, or brings it to their doors. "There's actually a real community feel here," she tells me. "There are older people who have lived on this street their whole lives. I love this area."
I head off with some cherry tomatoes in my pocket, abundance in my heart, and an invitation to come back sometime to sample Christine's baking.
If you're interested in the #foodisfree movement, check them out on Facebook where you can see posts from people around the world who are sharing their produce, or go to www.foodisfreeproject.org.
Chris Pickrell - Naturopath
This is Chris Pickrell. Chris is a Naturopathic Doctor, Registered Herbalist, and teacher in Toronto whose mission is to make holistic medicine accessible to all.
He’s the out-of-the-box guy, the alternative voice on panels, the one championing an approach that many practitioners appreciate but find difficult to commit to themselves.
And he’s making it work.
To see just how it works you can stop by The Herbal Clinic and Dispensary - a full service alternative health clinic, community acupuncture clinic, herbal store, and PWYC naturopathic walk-in clinic that he runs in the Roncesvalles area of Toronto. When clients come in, Chris explains to them that they need pay only what they currently feel able to give...no guilt, no pressure. A sliding scale is provided as a suggestion, but if clients feel unable to pay the sliding scale fees they are welcome to pay a lower amount or even none at all. Although the clinic does have bills to pay and rent to cover, Chris’ first priority is on people...helping them, healing them, making connections with them, making time for them. He doesn’t want fees to get in the way. Yet so far this hasn’t stopped him from making ends meet and his clinic from thriving.
“I know businesses that try to do this but fail”, I said to Chris. “What do you think is the key that makes this work?”
“You have to be genuine. You have to be committed to it. People can tell when you’re not.”
Which is why people keep coming back to see him...because you can tell when someone is being genuine.
And you can tell when someone cares.
If this approach resonates with you, or you’d like more information, visit www.chrispickrell.com or www.theherbalclinicanddispensary.com.
Chris’ commitment extends beyond his patients. He is equally passionate about spreading these ideas, and in supporting and encouraging those practitioners who want to make holistic medicine accessible to everyone. If this is you and you need some support, please don’t hesitate to give Chris a shout!
Also check out his amazing and humourous naturopathic podcast, ‘Health Happens’.