By Munira Yusuf
We interview Resource Worker, Alaa Mohamed, to discuss sustainability, Repair Café, and how the pandemic has impacted The Corner @240.
1) Can you please tell us about the current programs/workshops that are happening at the 240 and how residents can join?
At the 240, there are different domains which include the Earn-A-Bike program, Repair Café, and Sewing Program. One program that has been happening all throughout this summer is to earn a bike by fixing it. We teach residents on how to maintain a bike and at the same time they will earn a bike. We check the safety and height of the resident to match them with a bike.
We also do partnerships as well with Repair Café where we hold electronic repair workshops. If someone is interested in learning about electronics and has some experience, I can connect them with Repair Café to start a workshop. Currently we are doing it over zoom and if you know anyone who is interested in electronics we can arrange with Repair Café to conduct a workshop. During the workshops participants learn how to fix small appliances and will receive a tool kit to practice.
Lastly, we have the sewing program which is the biggest part. We have different workshops through zoom and one of them is the easy clothing transformation. It is a fun workshop where we started our first session on learning how to change old t-shirts into reusable bags to encourage residents to limit the use of plastic bags. It is very easy and does not require a sewing machine. Residents also learn how to make their own masks with easy steps that does not require a sewing machine. We also have knitting through zoom where we provide the yarn to keep and needles for lending which is also a part of the tool library. There are many more programs coming and residents can join by following our social media or coming to The Corner @ 240. Whoever comes to The Corner @ 240 I usually give them an orientation to let them know all about the programs that are happening.
2) In what ways does The Corner@240 try to promote sustainability?
Since the pandemic started, fixing has become the main focus at the 240. Although I can not provide a specific number, the 240 has prevented many items from going into the landfill. We help residents repurpose and repair a lot of the items that would have been thrown away. We also collect electronic and digital items that are not being used.
3) There has been an accumulation of waste as a result of the pandemic which has also made environmental initiatives more complicated. Has the pandemic changed the way that the 240 operates?
It has changed the way we operate where every item we receive has to be sanitized and quarantined for 3 days. The 240 has become more popular because of the pandemic and since most stores are closed more items are being brought in.
We also catered the way we operate to provide more support to residents during the pandemic. As part of the city’s climate change initiative, we have received support from our Eco Champions who have created 900 reusable masks in just 2 months. All of the masks made were donated to the community which has helped reduce the amount of waste from disposable masks.
4) How do you minimize waste at the 240 and can you provide helpful tips on how residents can minimize waste in their own homes and promote sustainability?
One of the things we noticed was that many residents are not aware of how to sort waste. During the fall we created a workshop where residents could participate to sort out random items in the correct bin for a prize. The workshop was created as a fun way to teach residents on how to sort waste. We also coordinated the same workshop for staff as well. We are working on future plans to create more workshops on teaching residents on how to create their own reusable bags.
5) With all of the work that the 240 does in terms of promoting sustainability, what important message do you want residents to know?
An important message that I want residents to know is that oftentimes we tend to throw out items that are not working without figuring out what the problem is. One statement that stands out to me that was said by the Co-Founder of Repair Café was that a large percentage of items that are broken, can be fixed. Please do not give up on your item, do not get into the habit of just throwing items away, be conscious of where it ends up, and minimize plastic bag use.