The Borrow Box

Make reusability accessible to all by creating a lending library of tools, equipment, and recreational items that people can borrow for free

Photo of Aditi
3 7

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Additional categories (optional)

  • Education

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Overconsumption is destroying the earth. In American society, we buy items that we rarely use, and end up throwing them away. Wastage is so normalized that we don’t think about how our everyday products impact our planet. From resource extraction to disposal, the products we buy take away from the earth’s finite natural resources, produce greenhouse gas emissions, and contribute to the climate crisis. We need to change our consumption habits.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our venture, “The Borrow Box”, provides a way for community members to share household products and extend the lifetimes of pre-owned goods that are often underutilized or thrown away. We will pool resources via in-kind donations from the community to create a lending library of tools, equipment, and recreational items. Members will be able to borrow anything from a guitar to a pasta maker to a power drill from the library of things for free, which could be housed in local public libraries or community centers. Our goal is to make the process as simple as borrowing a book, to cultivate a “borrow instead of buy” mindset. If people in our neighborhood start to borrow, they will buy less “stuff” and therefore make less waste. If this model is replicated on a large scale—in communities across the country—we could reduce demand enough to make a serious reduction in industrial pollution. We’d like to reignite a sense of community involvement that many feel they lack in this age of individualistic materialism by creating a supportive space in which people can get to know their neighbors while also learning how to lead a more sustainable lifestyle.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

I remember one particular moment sitting in my bedroom, surrounded by cheap paraphernalia and clothes I never wore. I felt suffocated by all the unnecessary stuff around me and wanted to just get rid of all of it. But then I realized that to throw something away is to put it in a landfill, to contribute to the growing pile of decomposing, methane-emitting waste we produce. I felt empty because our society’s disregard for what we buy has made the experience of owning something meaningless. I knew that I had to create a space where people could borrow the products that they need and use, but also do their part to combat the consumer culture that is destroying the earth. I also wanted for people who wouldn't normally have access to certain items to be able to engage with their hobbies and interests through The Borrow Box.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When someone walks into the library of things (LOT), they are able to search from a catalog of items that they can borrow, just like how they would search for books and check out the item that they want to borrow. After their loan period is over, they can return the item to the LOT and borrow anything else they’d like. Hopefully through this process and interactions with librarians and volunteers, they’ll have learned more about the workshops offered and want to attend one. After attending a workshop, for example about composting, this person would take back what they have learned to their home and have the tools, knowledge, and support to create a compost pit in their backyard. They’d talk about the money they saved, people they met, and skills they learned through The Borrow Box, and tell their friends to check it out! This way, we'll be able to reach everyone in our community.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Firstly, the concept of a “library of things” doesn’t really exist yet in Northern Virginia. Our approach emphasizes the integration of education and action, as both are crucial to create a lasting culture of sustainability in a community. When stocking items, we will survey the community to ensure that items available to borrow are actually what our constituency wants. We will also have sustainability talks and workshops that teach people how to repair their broken items, mend clothing, etc. Our goal with “The Borrow Box” is really to create a hub in the community for sustainability.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Initially, we surveyed 25 people to gauge their interest in a lending library and understand their needs. We’ve educated people about the sharing economy by giving presentations at an environmental conference and panel, as well as our school. We also published a website with relevant information to educate the community. We are working with the Fairfax County Public Library system by creating a pilot program at Oakton library that could later be implemented at other libraries. We’ll measure impact by surveying and gathering testimonials from borrowers and tracking the number of borrowers, items borrowed, and workshop attendees. Currently, we are researching ways to quantify the environmental and financial savings that our service will provide. We’ll know we are making a difference when we can see people making simple sustainable lifestyle changes and actively using the library of things.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the coming year, we plan to open up our “library of things” to borrowers at our local public library. We are currently creating a survey to gather information from the community about what items they are interested in borrowing, and after that we will source donations, stock the lending library, and have a kickoff event. While this process is going on, we plan to start holding sustainability workshops, repair cafes, and mending meetups, where people can learn how to repair old technology, mend clothing, and even compost. We hope to find professionals to volunteer to lead these workshops. We also plan to renovate our website and publish articles about the sharing economy, the importance of reuse, and other sustainability related topics.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Plan & Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • In-person event
  • Email
  • Word of mouth

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 66.7%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 50%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ethan Ocasio

We completely agree with everything you've said and have often felt the same way. We are also in Northern Virginia. If you'd like more people involved in your mission we'd be willing to help. I just added you to our applauds.

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