Condominium living is, in a lot of ways, living in the heart of our modern sharing economy (share and save). Tenants and owners in every condo building across Toronto pool what they’ve got to turn it into more: an exercise room instead of a hundred gym memberships, or a theatre room instead of a hundred movie tickets.
That ethic isn’t just about living space, though. There are multiple programs across Toronto dedicated to helping you save storage space, reduce the sheer spread of stuff, and expand your ability to hammer, cook, grow, and learn without having to shell out so much cash to do it.
Today, we’ll highlight places in Toronto you can extend your sharing ethic and pay a little to get access to a lot more—including and especially the communities they’ve built.
The Toronto Tool Library
Started out of a basement in Parkdale, the Toronto Tool Library was born from the same common-sense approach that realized two people might not maintain and use a pool, but two hundred could do it just fine: two friends realizing that most of the tools people spend money on—and genuinely need about once or twice a year—spend the other 363 days sitting idle.
Four years in, the Tool Library has over 1,200 members—and 13,000 loans—between their four locations, which encompass a maker space, laser cutters, a full wood shop, and 3D printers, as well as the paint, screwdrivers, garden trowels, and bike pumps they started out with.
A standard individual membership only sets you back $50 plus HST, and gives you access to TTL’s huge tool inventory, a range of workshops from 3D printing to drywall, and their community nights and parties, where you can meet other people who are really into fixing, building, and making things new.
The Kitchen Library
Spun off of the Tool Library, Toronto’s Kitchen Library is a haven for home cooks with small storage spaces—or a small budget. Even if you can’t afford a Vitamix, stand mixer, or espresso maker, the Kitchen Library has them, and it has your back.
With an inventory of over 50 appliances, you can borrow the kinds of tools you’ll need once in a while: to throw a holiday dinner, cater a party, or just play around at home. The library stocks cake pop makers, canning pots, dehydrators, 36-cup coffee urns, tomato strainers, crepe makers, and more, right down to a cookbook swap where you can trade out your already-loved recipes for a brand new set of challenges.
With one location on Eglinton east of Yonge, and one in Regent Park, the Kitchen Library’s accessible whether you’re downtown, midtown, or uptown, and runs you an almost ridiculously affordable $9/month—or $15 for a one-time, week-long loan—including advance reservations and discounts on Kitchen Library workshops, which range from practical meal planning on a budget and meal planning for teens to topics like making homemade pet treats and freezer cooking.
The Toronto Seed Library
Unlike the tool-based libraries, the Toronto Seed Library is absolutely free.
Run on donations, the Seed Library is all about spreading the love of gardening, seed saving, and urban agricultural skills across the city. So there’s no membership requirement beyond a mailing list signup, no check-out limits—although they ask that you take only what you will definitely use—and no stringent requirements except that you use the resource in good faith.
To help you potentially contribute and pay it forward, the Seed Library holds workshops on seed saving and gardening events, seed literacy classes, and offers guidance in getting your own garden to sustain itself indefinitely rather than buying seeds every season.
With a focus on open-pollinated and organic seeds, food plants, and heritage varieties, the Toronto Seed Library can be your gateway to that balcony garden—and cutting down your grocery bill while catching some sun this summer.
Bike Share Toronto
Though it’s growing increasingly common, not every condo building has a bike room, and management companies are understandably a little gun-shy about tracking road dirt through the hallways so you can store your ride in your unit. The answer? Toronto’s Bike Share program.
Bike Share has dozens of stations around the downtown area—Dufferin to the DVP, and Bloor to the lake—and multiple plans, depending on how you ride. Winter warriors can take advantage of a year-round pass that only costs $90, while cyclists who stick to the summer months can ride with the weather at $18 a month. If you’re just pulling out a bike for an occasional ride, or to do a few errands, a daily pass is only $7—just a touch more than two TTC fares.
Bike Share’s model is very much geared to short-term trips, errands, and commutes—there’s a usage fee as well, with each trip under 30 minutes free and a small, escalating charge for every half hour beyond that—which makes it ideal for riders who need a bike here and there, and don’t want to buy their own just to watch it gather dust.