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Episode 28 (revised) Chris Diplock – The Thingery

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 28 Chris Diplock - The Thingery[* updated 28 May with correct audio file and amended intro – and our apologies. If your podcast app has auto downloaded and you have Episode 27 audio, please delete the audio and refresh.  Sorry!]

In this episode, Catherine Weetman talks to Chris Diplock, in Canada. Chris is the Founder and CEO of The Thingery, the parent organization of neighbourhood Thingery branches, and a leader in Vancouver’s collaborative economy

The Thingery focuses on the development of community-owned lending libraries of things (in other words, a Thingery).

Chris has extensive experience in Vancouver’s Sharing Economy, having co-founded The Vancouver Tool Library and led a city-wide research project called The Sharing Project.

You could describe the Thingery as a ‘library in a box’ – the box being a shipping container! The containers are solar-powered and so can be sited in disused spaces near the communities that will use them. Technology allows people to access the container and then use the built-in systems to easily log what they are borrowing or returning.  That means it is less reliant on volunteers and can be open 24/7 if needed. Chris wants to make it easy for any community, worldwide, to set up their own Library of Things. We hear about the concept, the funding model, and the practicalities.

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book, includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.

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Links we mention in the episode:

Chris Diplock - The ThingeryChris Diplock

A leader in Vancouver’s collaborative economy, Chris Diplock is the Founder and CEO of The Thingery, the parent organization of neighbourhood Thingery branches.

The Thingery focuses on the development of community owned lending libraries of things (a Thingery). Chris has extensive experience in Vancouver Sharing Economy, having co-founded The Vancouver Tool Library and lead a city-wide research project called The Sharing Project.



Catherine Weetman  

Welcome to Episode 29. I’m recording this on the 21st of May 2020. And we’re still in lockdown. I’ve done a couple of webinars since the last episode, including one for economists circular Brazil, covering some of the reasons why businesses are not getting going with circular approaches. You can find it on the rethink global website, and I’ll put a link in the show notes for this episode. In the last episode, we spoke to Chris Halliwell about the Edinburgh Tool Library. Chris was inspired by the Vancouver Tool Library in Canada, which today’s guest Chris Diplock helped found. We heard last time how Edinburgh Tool Library operates in a similar way to a traditional book library with volunteer librarians, helping people borrow and return what they need. Today we’ll hear about a different approach to operating a library or a sharing system using technology to reduce the workload. Chris deadlock is set up a new concept, the theory, which I describe as a library in a box, the box being a shipping container. The containers are solar powered, and so it can be sited in disused spaces near the communities that will use them. Technology allows people to access the container, and then use the built in systems to easily log what they’re borrowing or returning. That means it’s less reliant on volunteers, and can be open 24 seven if needed. Chris wants to make it easy for any community worldwide to set up their own library of things using the Thingery concept. Let’s hear more about the concept, the funding model and the practicalities. In today’s episode, I’m talking to Chris Diplock in Canada. Chris is the founder and CEO of the theory, the parent organisation of neighbourhood theory branches and a leader in Vancouver’s collaborative economy. The Thingery focus on focuses on the development of community owned lending libraries of things. In other words, a theory. Chris has extensive experience in Vancouver’s sharing economy, having co-founded the Vancouver Tool Library and led a citywide research project called the sharing project. Chris, welcome to the Circular Economy Podcast and congratulations on coming up with such a great name for your organisation. Was that a 3am? brainwave?


Chris Diplock  03:29

Oh, well, first of all, thanks for having me on the show. I’m excited to to be tapping into this community. was the name of three m brainwave. Oh, no, no, you know what, we had a..? No, it wasn’t it was like, there was a lot of back and forth and then yeah, just like, you know, you do those lists. I don’t know if you’ve ever done branding, but usually you’re like, Okay, what am I thing and then what I’m jamming two things together. And at first, I was like, I don’t know if that name is gonna stick at all. And some of the initial feedback was like, I don’t know about that, like, great concept, but this name, but now I think we stuck to it long enough to be like, yeah, I get it.


Catherine Weetman  04:15

Yeah, good stuff. And I’m curious to know, how do you explain the theory to people who are new to the sharing economy?


Chris Diplock  04:23

Well, good question. Yeah, well, you know, if you say it’s an equipment lending library, people kind of go, I get it. I think the finer details are a little harder to stick but because the concept of a library is just so universal, right, like everyone just knows what a library is. If you put in equipment lending library people go, Okay, and then usually they go, what kind of equipment? I get the concept, what kind of equipment are we talking about here? So that’s usually the deeper dive but you know, and it’s also intergenerational. I think so many people Within, you know, my generation, the 20 to 40-45. If you say it’s an equipment lending library, they go, I get it.


Catherine Weetman  05:10

Right, that’s interesting.


Chris Diplock  05:11

Well, and we see that in checkout too, you know, if you have someone in that generation they walk in, because it’s all self-service. So they walk in, they grab a drill, or they grab a tent, and they check it out on the iPad, super simple, they get it and then leave. And then, you know, people from an older generation, like there’s no one in here ever. I hear that a lot from an older gentleman. They’re like, it’s always closed. It’s self service. So yeah, the concept lands for most people.


Catherine Weetman  05:43

That’s good. So talk us through the kinds of equipment that are in the library – you’ve got three so far is that right? Couple in Vancouver, and one somewhere else in Canada.


Chris Diplock  05:52

They’re actually all in kind of the lower mainland of BC, which is around Vancouver and there’s some surrounding municipal So we have to Vancouver and then one in North Vancouver, which is just on the other side of the bridge. And, yeah, so in terms of inventory, I mean you know, I so I started it like, you mentioned I started the Vancouver Tool Library I co-founded it, it’s a co-op so we work with an incredible group of leaders when we started it. But that was like I’m even though tools are so vast, like, you know, there’s so much different categories of tools, it was still much easier to focus and then when we went to fingery, we can Okay, we can do not just power tools, we’re working tools, gardening tools, bike tools, we’re going to do recreation equipment, so camping, backpacking, Park, recreation and sports. And then we’re also going to do like, like some home appliance stuff like Garmin steamers and food dehydrators. And, you know, so that kind of If there’s a lot so you know, we kind of drafted out these main categories and then went, Okay. Let’s draft up some items within each of those. So we’ve got a pretty good I mean, right now we’ve just like the main categories are recreation and power tools mean Yeah, we see a lot of tents. Vancouver is a very active outdoor community like people we’re surrounded by mountains so a lot of people are like, how do I get into the mountains and so we do a lot of Yeah, a lot of camping, a lot of recreation. I think there’s a lot of potential in like, the home appliance side that we haven’t, you know, explored, you know, food dehydrator sewing machines, and that kind of stuff, which is, which is exciting. We also like, I think also events and entertainment like we’ve always dreamed of having projectors. Hmm. We have tables and chairs actually go up quite a bit. bit. And, you know, like speakers and little things for events entertainment, we had a party set that was just all like reusable mugs and plates. Which was popular as well.


Catherine Weetman  08:20

Yeah, that sounds good. So how do you decide what categories to invest in? You know, if you’re kind of thinking, right, we’ve got some spare money. What should we buy next? Because it’s a community. We haven’t explained that somewhere. It’s, it’s owned by its members, isn’t it? So how does all organising and the decisions how does that all work?


Chris Diplock  08:43

So it’s an interesting model, the Vancouver tool library was a nonprofit co-op. And then we established kind of a regional Co-op that owns that containers and the equipment here in Vancouver, but there’s a company as well that kind of runs the operation. So it’s kind of a partnership between this fingering company and this association of equipment libraries locally. So they’re, you know, there’s a couple factors we go, okay, what’s gone, you know, what do we run dry on in kind of these peak times? So, you know, balancing, do we buy another tent? Or is there an item that we’re seeing requested? So there’s a way to request an item? That’s not even there.


Catherine Weetman  09:36

So is that on the app? Do people have an app or a website or how does it work?


Chris Diplock  09:41

it’s all on the website right now? Yeah, we’re  trying to figure out how to be in that app space. Right now. But yeah, so we balanced that, you know, looking at how you know, is this gonna go out is this gonna be used is this in-demand and Community requesting it.


Catherine Weetman  10:03

Yeah. And I guess some of the practicalities because when we when you were talking about kitchen equipment, I was thinking, Oh, an Apple press, you know, that’s expensive. And then I thought, Oh, no, ‘cos everybody would want to use it at the same time of year. And then and then it would sit idle for, you know, 11 months of the year. So that wouldn’t work…


Chris Diplock  10:21

well, inventory management is huge, right. And because we have limited space, so I don’t think we mentioned this, but we operate exclusively in shipping containers right now. And it’s not to say we can’t set one of these up in pre-existing builds or new builds. That is definitely something we can do. And we’ve talked to a lot of different locations about but right now it’s just in a container. So you’re right, when we see seasonal change, we have to move quickly to be like, no one’s going to take out snowshoes in June. So they’re gone.


Catherine Weetman  10:54

So yeah, you’ve got an inventory of seasonal things somewhere else. You just keep what’s current in the shipping container?


Chris Diplock  11:02

Yeah, we have an off-site storage for non-seasonal equipment. Which is, yeah. Which just has to happen. But like you said, it’s always. Yeah, I mean, I mean, if we announced for us and it was out all the time, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. I think you just got a, there’s part of that human behaviour, which is I’ve learned a lot about in equipment lending, which is, if you tell someone it’s due in three days, they’re gonna work on it the second the night of the second day, right. That’s just the way we operate. And so I think that you just got to be, you just got to give people kind of the incentive to return it and maximise how that item can serve the community. So it doesn’t sit idle in someone else’s house, which doesn’t solve any problems, right.


Catherine Weetman  11:59

So how does it work? Then with the membership and the fees and when things go wrong, you know, if something comes back broken, how does all of that work?


Chris Diplock  12:09

Yeah, so people sign up online, and they pay an annual membership fee. And then there’s also some per item fees as well. So, you know, if you went to the website, you’re like, I want to join, you can look at the inventory first and be like, Ooh, yeah, it’s got what I want. It’s got like a high-quality pressure washer, which I need. Right now. I’m gonna, I’m gonna sign up. So you sign up. You get a welcome email, and there’s little access code. So you get your own unique access code to the container. So they’re self-service. We have an access control system inside with a camera and two-way communication and stuff like that. So we know who’s going in and out. So once you get your code, you can just pop in, kind of the lights turn on, there’s a full inventory, and then you would go around and grab an item. Each item has a code on it. You would log into a little kiosk like at a grocery store and self-checkout and, and then take it home and you get a little email that says, hey, you took out the pressure washer. It’s due back on Tuesday. And you use it and then return it and then it’s you just get invoiced monthly.


Catherine Weetman  13:18

Mm-hmm. And if something goes wrong with the pressure washer while I’m using it, what happens then?


Chris Diplock  13:25

You know, one of the things because I’ve been doing this for so long, I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. Not the Thingery – The Thingery has only been active since 2008. But just in this sharing equipment lending world, people are generally not careless. And so we have a policy around we accept standard wear and tear. Hmm, right, we accept and, but we also say if you don’t know how to use it, don’t use it. Because you’re not gonna use it safely. So You know, in the example of a pressure washer, it really depends sometimes there’re things like you know, if you’re not if a pressure washer tips over or if you leave it running well like sometimes it’s like a pressure washer is a good example because it some pressure washers if you’re not spraying water, it will overheat if it’s running because it uses the water as a coolant, okay? Right for that little motor that’s pressurising the water, it uses the water as a coolant. So some people they just leave it running have a conversation go get a coffee or something and then and then it, you know, it can burn out so that’s where we go Okay, that was irresponsible. You didn’t know how to use it. You need to take responsibility for that. But you know if a blade comes back until someone used to play that’s the next user’s responsibility. We do not cover disposables, because it’s just such a nightmare. You know what I mean? And Also, it’s also I think, just in the world of like, throw away. We don’t want to be a part of that. Like, if a blade 75% Good, then use the rest of it right if it’s safe. keep using it versus I think a lot of rental places are like, new blade, new blade, new sandpaper, a new set. You know what I mean? We’re just burning through more junk. And so I mean, yeah, that’s, that’s heartbreaking.


Catherine Weetman  15:30

So if somebody does, going back to the power washer, but on the motor, is there a penalty for that? Or, you know, how’d you? Yeah, okay.


Chris Diplock  15:39

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And usually, there’s not a lot of dispute. Usually, people are like, I’m sorry. They’ll say it, you know, like, I’m sorry. There’s some things getting into recreation chrome, and I didn’t think I would see but, you know, someone packed a tent. That was wet, huh? So I go back and I check it, you know, every time it comes in, where we do a check, we check on inventory that just got checked in. And it was wet. And I was like, who in the right mind would return a wet pack? Like, how is it gonna dry? What do you think is gonna happen to this tent? You know what I mean? So we’ve encountered some stuff like that. But generally, it’s so minor. People, people always have this feeling that someone’s going to do something evil, like malicious with your stuff. And the odds are just that’s not what that’s not true. People are responsible. We used to see more often than not at the tool library. So I’m broke something they would just buy a new thing. There’s a look, I’m real sorry, but I broke the drill set, but I went bought a new one for you. Wow, that’s good. Or you know, something like that. So.


Catherine Weetman  16:49

So I guess, there are things that you can do, you know, improving on the standard instructions and thinking about the top few things that are likely to go wrong. If people are I’m familiar with it. And, you know, like with the pressure washer, you could send out instructions that say, you know, this uses the water to cool its engine, so don’t leave it running dry. Do you do that kind of stuff as well to make it easy for people? Or is that a bit nanny state?


Chris Diplock  17:15

No, I, you know, I am not against that kind of notifications and communicating that information to members. I think it’s a good idea. And I think that, I think particularly because people because we’re, when you think about a lending library, you’re often getting people that don’t own the equipment, so they’re not familiar with it. Right? And I don’t know if you have this in, you know, where you guys are in North Yorkshire but we have a like car. We have a car co-op, like like a car-to-go. Right. Okay. And what’s funny about those is, you know, on the road, sometimes I see these car-sharing, while these people don’t drive very often. Hmm, right. So there’s You don’t I mean, it’s almost like the when you drive every day, it’s such a, you know, it’s such a familiar to ask, you’re aware of you know how to turn on the lights, the amount of times I see like a car to go with. They’re not they don’t have the running lights on. Because they get in the car, they haven’t been in a car in two weeks, and they forget to turn the running lights on. But you know what I mean, like? So I think that that kind of I think we’re dealing with a lot of members that are that are not regularly using. I mean, yeah, they’re kind of getting into it. They’re like I you know, I didn’t use this enough to warrant ownership is part of the people we see. So I think those notifications are good. But I think I also have another like we had a guy came in he said, he said I love that drill. He said I have a drill at home, but that one’s way better. I thought, oh man, you already have a drill at home. But we have so there’s we’re also I think serving people with a higher quality hmm Because often if we go to the store individually, the way that capitalism works is, you know, they’ll show us the really terrible version and the really expensive version, and then we end up buying the middle version, because that’s just the way they trick us. So I think oftentimes, we’re not hitting the highest quality item. And what’s one of the real powers of equipment learning as a community is we can collectively buy the best item. Right? Because it’s, that cost is spread out amongst all of us. You know what I mean? Like there’s a common entity that’s bearing that cost and so it’s spread out. And when you buy a higher quality product, it’s more repairable. He looked at, you know, he looked at a Mastercraft drill versus, versus a higher quality like a Makita drill, you can send away for replacement parts, so we’re, you know, serving Higher, higher quality, it’s better for the member, it’s better for repair. I think it’s it’s another added perk of


Catherine Weetman  20:01

Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it? And I think through The Thingery, umbrella organisation, that kind of information is something that he could spread the word about, you know, these are the best pieces of equipment to choose because in our experience, these are the ones that are repairable. These are the ones that are too durable. These are the ones that don’t end up being out of date, a year after you bought them. So in, in theory, they’re repairable. But in practice, oh, you can’t get the parts. So all that information is really helpful in pushing the circular economy forward, isn’t it? So let’s talk about the umbrella organisation. And, you know, if somebody’s listening to this and thinks the theory sounds brilliant, I want to set one up in my town. What do they need to do? How do they get going?


Chris Diplock  20:51

Yeah, it’s a great question. We definitely see ourselves as being able to expand into Almost any community and having a powerful impact, we are really happy to work with local organisations to set these up. So existing to libraries existing maker-spaces that want to, you know, capitalise on kind of the work that we’ve done in the system that we use. So they just be in touch, you know, email us at info at the finger calm and, and we’ll kind of what we do is we kind of go, Okay, let’s talk about the space. Because one of the unique things that we’ve done here is we were able to negotiate with our municipality, the use of the street. Right, so we said, Look, this is a, we think this is a community resource, right? Yeah, this is a, you know, we, if you think about a tennis court, for example, right. So maximum, you can have four people but who plays doubles anymore. So maximum usually you have is two people, and they’re there for an hour. But we were investing this money in this piece of public infrastructure. And so I think we’re able to You are a piece of public infrastructure, we should be on the street, we’re serving the community. And, you know, I think one of the big challenges for a lot of organisations and if you’re listening and you are in that space, and you have trouble finding affordable space is that, you know, let’s have a conversation about how we can work with your local municipality, and be a case study around putting a container on the street and making you know, equipment lending libraries on the street is a real thing. And then we would, you know, we sell we’re just starting to kind of export our access control system that we’ve developed. So that check in check out process and how people get in, you know, and how it’s safe and all that kind of stuff. So, you know, we would take our understanding of the big spaces and how many people come in and etc, etc, and then be able to set them up with a system And then they can just use that with their inventory. And, and they’re off to the races. So yeah, I think if you know, there’s two big pain points for a lot of lending libraries, and one of them is volunteers. Hmm, a lot of equipment lending libraries to libraries or volunteer-run. And we’re not against that at all. I mean, I think that’s wonderful. I think it’s, you know, well, in the time of COVID, it’s a particularly acute, you know, kind of pain, because it’s nearly you’re not supposed to do face to face interactions, right, if it’s not an unnecessary service, so. But anyway, so you know, you can still have your existing volunteer pool that’s doing all this great work. But with this theory system that we’ve developed, you’re able to expand your hours of operation that you can serve your members, right so the tool library here in Vancouver operates 20 hours. Each Thingery is open 98 hours a week.


Catherine Weetman  24:03

Wow, that’s a big difference.


Chris Diplock  24:05

I get 14 hours a day, seven days a week because we don’t have to have that constant volunteer and staffing. And if some people kind of go well, what are the issues that come up out of that and they’re they’re really small we do a, we do a regular weekly maintenance and check in to kind of mitigate some of those issues. So yeah.


Catherine Weetman  24:28

And is there a way of people flagging on the system if they think something you know, it’s, it’s, it’s broken or it doesn’t seem to be operating well, so they can alert you to something that might need maintenance?


Chris Diplock  24:41

On the check-in, it’s not part of the inventory system right now. But yeah, we’re working towards that you, you can just take it and put it in repair shelf, right. You know, like, and that there’s a separate shelf, and if it, you know, we get notifications, we just move it to a not available Our inventory.


Catherine Weetman  25:02

Yeah, sounds good. So basically all you need is space for a shipping container. And some power, presumably, for all the…


Chris Diplock  25:12

Well actually we run off of solar power.


Catherine Weetman  25:13

Okay, brilliant.


Chris Diplock  25:15

Yeah. So we were we’re all renewable.


Catherine Weetman  25:18

And it runs on 4g then or 5g rather than needing internet in a broadband cable.


Chris Diplock  25:29

Yeah, we just we have a like a remote Wi-Fi.


Catherine Weetman  25:34

That’s there. So it’s all self-sufficient. Yeah. So in terms of getting this up and running Then did you have any major barriers or has it been fairly straightforward?


Chris Diplock  25:48

I think wherever you’re breaking the mould, sometimes you push up against a couple of barriers. I mean, we’re so lucky to have worked with the municipalities we work with in North Vancouver and for them to see, because, you know, I think the backstory we might have skipped over is the fact that I actually I stopped being on the Tool Library board in 2013. You know, I felt that was in a good place, I felt it was time to move on. I felt it was going to be fine without me and I stepped down. I just didn’t run for reelection. And I went on to do a bunch of research and the sharing economy, blah, blah, blah, other things. And in 2016, I was like, how is there still just one? Why isn’t there one in every name? Right. Right. Because really, at the end of the day, these serve their neighbourhoods, like we’ve mapped their, you know, postcodes, and we’re like, wow, this is a neighbourhood lending library, really. So why don’t we have one on the west side and north and etc. And what would that model look like and evolve through a lot of back and forth conversations with the city And, you know, with members and potential members, what do you want this to look like? So, you know, we have a local credit union that really believe in what we’re doing called Dancity. And they’re fantastic to work with. So we kind of approach them when you work with a municipality is really focused on zero waste, and really believed in what we did. And yeah, it took a while, right, we had to kind of go, here’s this idea, and they’re like, what, and then working through that over time, and then being very open to innovative solutions. We opened up the first one in 20, Summer 2018. So you know, and I think that since then, I’ve gotten a lot of inquiries when we were when we made it into the Guardian, which was like a lifelong dream. I’ve been subscribing to the Guardian weekly since I was 20.


Catherine Weetman  27:56



Chris Diplock  27:56

So even to be mentioned in a Guardian article… It’s a lifelong dream. Um, and we got a lot of interest from, you know, places around the world, like, I’m interested in how do I do this? So you know, and to be honest, we’re still trying to make it easier, you know, for communities to put up their hand and go, I’m interested. Because financing is is is complicated, you know, these things aren’t free. And you need to start off with like, a container and a really good access control system and you got to do some container mods and got to figure out how you’re going to tie this into power, and etc, etc. So, what we’re working on right now is kind of that standard procedure from start to finish that includes How do I finances so we’re looking at community bonds. I don’t know if you’re familiar with those. Right. So, you know, issuing community bonds to fund that and then like, Yeah from start to finish so that we can just have that outline for any community so but it, you know, so if anyone listening was interested I’m happy to walk them through that and even though we don’t have it all ironed out in a nice PDF right now,


Catherine Weetman  29:13

it sounds good sounds it definitely sounds like the way forward doesn’t it to give access to all sorts of different stuff I know the library of things in London. One of not the ranges of equipment that are most popular there are sports things that people are kind of thinking you know, I think are quite might I might like to have a go rollerblading, or some other you know, obscure sport that is going to cost you several hundred quid to go and buy the stuff for but you can go and borrow it and you know, do it a few times and see if you like it enough to borrow it to invest in the kit and the same as you’re saying with the winter sports stuff that If you only go once a month or you know, once a season even then if you buy the skis and and the boots and everything. Next time you go, they’ll have been some improvements in the kit, but you’ll still be having you’ll still be using old kit, won’t you? So not only have you invested in something, but you’re not getting the full use out of it, and it’s being surpassed by innovations in the equipment.


Chris Diplock  30:29

Yeah, I think the innovations, the equipment part is is negligible for what we focus on. And I, you know, I think that the drill of 2016 besides the battery can still be a great drill of 2020.


Catherine Weetman  30:50

Yeah, yeah.


Chris Diplock  30:51

You know, but I think that the more way you see that is in the recreation set, you know, I think that’s where these equipment libraries are really gonna thrive is that kind of like standard, like we’re that the marginal returns on the new designs are so marginal. And we just invest in really high-quality product. And then the kind of the outliers, not the outliers, but the more specific new products that are that are changing all the time. You know, you know, we might be able to, like, feature those, etc. But it’s or, you know,


Catherine Weetman  31:30

Well, they’re changing because of Planned obsolescence, aren’t they? Really, they’re changing because it’s a way of the company marketing, you know, the latest mountain bike and I notice you’ve got some tires there on the wall behind you and yeah, so um,


Chris Diplock  31:45

I don’t mountain bike.


Catherine Weetman  31:45

Oh, don’t you. Okay


Chris Diplock  31:47

It’s my roommates


Catherine Weetman  31:48

Yeah, okay. You speak massively into mountain biking. But over the last six to seven years, you know, the bike industry just keeps inventing A new standard. So, you know, we’ve gone from 26 inch wheels to 29 to 27 and a half and then you know, something slightly different, you know, 27 and a quarter or something, and, you know, eight 910 11 speed, that single speed. And the idea is that suddenly your bike is out of date and all your mates, your tribe of all got something different and new, and you have to be part of that. And now I can’t even get the parts or if I if I can get the parts for mine. It’s the cheapest rubbish, you know, most awful, heavy, appalling kit that you would never want to put on your on your bike, because that’s all available and the whole idea is to nudge you into thinking now, you know, okay, I give in. I’ll buy a whole new bike and all the compatible stuff. And, yeah, well, as you can tell, I’m highly sceptical about The tactics that brands use to keep their growth model growing.


Chris Diplock  33:07

Yeah, and I’m, you know, it’s interesting because I am so curious about, like industry’s response to this movement towards the circular economy. And, you know, there’s been this massive movement in Europe, which I follow in love, which is like the right to repair and looking at, you know, well, you sold us all the stuff here, you saw us all the stuff we needed to make a new one, you know, so I think that it’s gonna be interesting to see how, you know, can we innovate products on our own? What does that look like? And how do we really fight for the right to repair and do that? Hmm. And kind of take that back into our own domain. Which is like we’re going to be innovative, we’re going to share that innovation and those tweaks together to, yeah, to create something better.


Catherine Weetman  34:09

Yeah, I’m just making a note to include the link to the Right to Repair campaign in the show notes. So if people want to put their name to that and try and get a bit more momentum behind it, and then we can do that. So Chris, what’s your top tip for anybody aspiring to start something circular?


Chris Diplock  34:32

Oh, well, first of all, I don’t think there’s been a better time to do it. You know, we’re going to a global recession. not officially for some, but, but certainly, there’s no one that that’s going to argue that we’re not heading that direction. So, you know, if you think about 2010 is when I think it was 2011 or 12. Time Magazine was like, “we’re gonna share everything”. It was … but they were like, we’re gonna lend out everything for money. It was like this total corporate take on sharing, I think we’ve got a much more mature evolved circular economy than we did the last recession. It, it’s got good values, we’ve kind of been able to distinguish between the real and the fake, we know what we call share washing. So there’s never been a better time. I think it’s fantastic. There’s a lot of good people out there doing great things. And they’re usually willing to share it with you because they’re just so committed to seeing the movement grow. So, you know, we see ourselves as serving all the tool libraries and the libraries of things and if that’s like, you know, with our system, that’s how we want to grow. But, you know, I don’t think there’s a lot of need to reinvent the wheel


Catherine Weetman  35:59



Chris Diplock  35:59

Pick up the phone, look up someone online, shoot him an email and say, you know, I love what you’re doing in New South Wales. How do I? How do I do what you do? Can you share that workshop with me? Can you share your equipment list with me? You know, let’s grow this movement. So yeah, you know, reach out, connect with people that are also involved in what’s happening in the circular economy. Yeah, that would be my advice.


Catherine Weetman  36:31

And is there anyone you’d recommend as a future guest for the podcast who can inspire people about different aspects of the circular economy?


Chris Diplock  36:38

Well, you’ve already had you’ve had the amazing women from the library things in London already is that right?


Catherine Weetman  36:46

No, no, I’ve talked to them about doing it but they were snowed under with volunteering on the desk at the library. I might try again. Now we’ve got the lockdown. I’m suddenly finding people who you know people in startup Busy, aren’t they and people in volunteer roles are busy, but suddenly everybody’s got time to spare.


Chris Diplock  37:06

Exactly. Everyone’s got some time to spare now. Yeah, I don’t know if the right to repair, have you guys had them on?


Catherine Weetman  37:13

Yeah, I might contact them. In fact, I don’t think it’s the same people.


Chris Diplock  37:20

Have you had the guys from Precious Plastics?


Catherine Weetman  37:23

No. That’s Yeah, I think somebody else has mentioned that. I’ll follow that up. I was just thinking on the right to repair. I was asked to review a book, by John Wackman and Elizabeth Knight is coming out soon, I think, a book all about repairs and the Repair Cafe. So with loads of great stories of you know how to set one up, what kind of repairs people do how it serves a local community, you know how it’s just really got the community spirit going in places again. So um, so yeah, there’s, there’s, there’s a lot happening. And I know, John is passionate about the Right to Repair. So I’m hoping when the book comes out that I’ll be able to interview him for the podcast as well. Brilliant. Yeah. So if people want to find out more about the theory, how can they get in touch and look you up?


Chris Diplock  38:23

It’s just Or they can email me at Yeah. And then, you know, we got some time now happy to have to field some questions and help people figure out how they can have a really great library of things wherever they are


Catherine Weetman  38:40

Brilliant, and I’ll put those links in the show notes so people can look them up. Well, thank you very much, Chris. That was a really interesting tour around the theory, situated in various places around Vancouver, but hoping to scale out and go global in the very near future. Thank you.


Chris Diplock  38:59

Thank you very much, Catherine,


Catherine Weetman  39:01

Chris used his in-depth knowledge from the Vancouver Tool Library to identify one of its key operating constraints. Like most tool libraries, it relies on volunteers to staff, the library, and book items in and out of stock. That makes it hard to extend the opening hours, especially if your volunteers have other jobs as well. Chris’s solution for the theory was to automate that human element, allowing people to reserve items online and have key cards to give them secure entry to the library. This meant they could book items out and book them back in using simple technology. By avoiding the needs of staff the library, the opening hours could be extended, allowing access 24 hours a day if needed. That also makes it a more useful facility, easier for people to find a convenient time to go and less queuing. It probably also leads To short term rental periods, so you can get more rentals or use cycles from each piece of equipment. The funding model with community membership plus rental fees, engages people in taking care of the equipment. They feel motivated to keep the rental kit in good working order for the benefit of their community. If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy, why not go back and listen to Episode One, head over to rethink global dot info or buy my book a secondary economy handbook for business and supply chains, which takes you through the practicalities, including lots of real examples from around the world. You can get in touch via the website, rethink global dot info, or send us a Tweet at rethink underscore global. Please let us know what you think of the podcast. And you can help other people find it by reviewing us on iTunes. tunes are wherever you find your podcasts. See you next time.


Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook for Business and Supply Chains This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach.  It includes lots of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us a Tweet: @Rethink _Global.

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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