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Community & Circular Economy beating at the heart of Sustainable Cities

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at the National Sustainability Conference for 2020 and addressed the topic of ‘Community & Circular Economy beating at the heart of Sustainable Cities’. My focus was on communicating the vital place that the circular economy model has in our city and country’s future. I also shared insights into World’s Biggest Garage Sale’s journey so far, as well as the many lessons learned along the way. 

Founded by the Association for Sustainability in Business, the National Sustainability Conference is a wonderful platform for World’s Biggest Garage Sale and our message of creating a more sustainable future for all. Like many large-scale gatherings, the conference stepped outside the box and delivered the entirety of its event online. However, this did not stop a range of highly skilled and visionary speakers from presenting their visions and proactive plans for a brighter and cleaner future.

World’s Biggest Garage Sale was born from an overabundance of ‘stuff’. The household items no longer used or needed, relegated to a dark and dingy cupboard. Out of sight, out of mind. Sometimes people take these items to a local charity shop or ‘dare we say it’, pop them in the bin. As a society, we’re often after the fastest outcome with the least hassle. It’s precisely this behaviour that has led to approximately $43 billion worth of under utilised ‘stuff’ in Australian homes and $500 billion (USD) in lost revenue per year due to underutilisation and a lack of recycling. Our solution was to reclaim dormant goods so that we could renew their potential –  to shift from linear economy norm to a revolutionary circular model. And it all started with a question of ‘how do we solve this ‘donor fatigue’?’. 

Since then, it’s been our mission to make repurposing as easy as it can possibly be. Partnering with big corporations so that we can do the groundwork and make sure that their ‘waste’ is transformed into something much more. On a larger scale, it’s about how we as an organisation can do our small part within the big landscape of the circular economy. A buzzword we use is ‘glocal’, meaning a global focus with local heart. These partnerships between big corporation, small corporation, charity and community are so essential because no one can do this all on their own. 

Our philosophy is to execute first and then learn on the job. 

We ran our Retail Rescue popup earlier this year which saw 40 pallets of dormant goods be sorted for renewal and repurposing. Revitalising these items for resale enabled us to divert from landfill and earn a profit for charitable causes. Not only that, but it helped us to envision a scaleable version of this ‘makerspace’ in which dormant goods are regularly received and renewed to reclaim a place in the current economy. Now with our new home at the Rivermakers The Depot in Morningside, this dream is starting to become a reality.

Our vision of a circular economy shopping precinct and the sublimation of resale into retail is a concept bigger than just our organisation. We are focused on activating dormant goods in a way which creates financial viability and the creation of jobs in our community. It’s long been a belief of mine that the future of our economy is ultimately relational, not transactional. Our work is always aligned with achieving as many of the Sustainable Development Goals as possible, and it’s exciting to these become part of the vernacular.

Social connections are an important part of our growth – it’s not ‘us’ and them’ but ‘us’ and ‘we’. 

If you’re equally passionate about a circular economy future or are interested in further education about our purpose, please get in touch with us via our website or social media! If you have dormant goods looking for a new home, we would love to see you at our Makerspace at The Depot, Morningside. 

Kintsugi: everything old is new again!


Kintsugi literally means ‘to join with gold’.

kin = golden  tsugi = joinery

Belonging to the Zen ideals of wabi-sabi, it dates back to the 1300s in Japan when a Japanese Shogon broke his favourite tea bowl and sent it off for repair, only to have it come back with unattractive staples. And so was born Kinstugi, the art of repairing broken ceramics with lacquer inflected with a very luxuriant gold powder.

Rather than disguise the damage or wear and tear of an item, Kintsugi embraces the life of an object and breathes new life into it by making it’s repair a work of art. In a time that worships youth and newness, it’s refreshing to find an approach that honours an object or products journey, valuing the resources that went into making it and creating something of beauty.

Everything old can be new again – we like!

Wabi-Sabi: It’s not perfect and it’s ok!

It’s not perfect and it’s ok. Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Something we really subscribe to at World’s Biggest Garage Sale.

Another Japanese term that is difficult to translate, it can be comforting in a time when many things don’t seem perfect. The timeless wisdom of Japanese term Wabi-Sabi is more relevant than ever right now.

Making the most of life and accepting imperfections is at the heart of Wabi-Sabi. There is beauty and value in nature and items in their imperfect form. It helps us all breathe a sigh, steering us away from the western concept of manufactured beauty and the increasingly unattainable state of perfection. 

The conscious consumer understands the energy, depth and creativity that has gone into an item and honours & respects that. Their focus is not on imperfection, but the value in the totality of that item & the story of it’s journey. A scratch here and a dent there is ok – there is still a huge amount of value in that item! Take this laptop table below – it came to us not quite perfect, but still fully functional. Some minor repairs and it’s good to go.

Pick the imperfection on this laptop table.

Wabi-sabi reminds us to be more accepting of flaws and rawness, looking at something more deeply and to embrace superficial imperfections.

Relax, take a breath – it’s not perfect and it’s ok! 

#wbgs #circulareconomy #resourcerecovery #dormantgoods #mottainai #wabisabi #respect #reduce #reuse #renew

Mottainai one Guiding Philosophy to Inspire Our View on ‘Stuff’:

When dealing with and handling dormant goods, as an organisation we’re constantly reflecting on our relationship with resources and ‘stuff’. Our accumulation of new, bright, shiny things, has us a little out whack with nature. Some guiding philosophies around ‘stuff’ that we find helpful and inspiring are 3 Japanese terms – Mottainai, Wabi-Sabi and Kintsugi.. Over the next few weeks we’ll talk a little bit more about these terms, what they mean and how you can incorporate them into your life.

To kick things off, let’s start with Mottainai.


The Japanese concept of mottainai is to respect the resources that come to you, use those resources wisely and be grateful for that resource. 

Loosely translated as both “what a waste” and “don’t be wasteful”, it reminds us to respect the items that come our way, take good care of our things, repair things when they are broken & rehome what we no longer use. At World’s Biggest Garage Sale we take all goods that come to us through a comprehensive resource recovery process. In line with the circular economy, we want to avoid comments like “what a waste” and keep products and materials in use for as long as possible.

We don’t yet have an equivalent word in the English language for mottainai, but we’re probably overdue! Only then can we move from ‘what a waste’ to ‘What? No waste!’. 

To help moving toward ‘what? no waste’, rehome your unwanted items through our makerspace!

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we talk about Wabi-Sabi. 

#wbgs #circulareconomy #resourcerecovery

#dormantgoods #mottainai #respect #reduce #reuse #renew #repurpose #recycle #sustainability #positivechange #noplanetb #climateaction #impact #sdgs #wastediversion #waste #zerowaste

Doughnut Economics: the sweet zone for all!

As questions of GDP, economic growth and job stimulation fly around during the slow easing of COVID-19 restrictions, a new model for economics is gaining exposure – Doughnut Economics. Developed by Kate Raworth considers it to be “like a compass for humanity in the 21st century” and extends economics beyond what we have traditionally known, posing the the following question:

How do we ensure we all have the resources we need to meet our human rights, but within the means of the planet?

Kate Raworth

Origin of Economics

The term economics is thought to have originated in Greece in relation to household management, but it didn’t really appear as know it, until the late 1700s and is generally credited to the publication of Scottish philosopher Adam Smith’s 1776 book, An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.[1] 

The industrial revolution is when economics and the mentality that our society is currently run by, really took flight. It’s also the time that we started to separate more distinctly from nature and planet earth – it’s any wonder we’re in the state we’re in.

Economic Shortcomings

Kate Raworth, has analysed economics as we currently define it and found a number of shortcomings – the economy does not take the environment into account, the monetized economy is heavily supported by the unpaid care economy and the distribution of prosperity is unequal.

Doughnut Economics

As long as someone has been making, supplying and distributing goods or services, there has been some sort of economy. Doughnut Economics challenges the status quo and flips economics as we know it on it’s head – what if economics didn’t start with money, but instead started with human wellbeing? It asks us to tackle the 21st century challenge of meeting the needs of all within the means of the planet. 

Circular Economy, SDGs and Doughnuts

Through strong visuals, it demonstrates that a doughnut is the sweet zone for all, bounded within by a social foundation and outward by an ecological ceiling. We see the circular economy as a fundamental principle ensuring we stay on the doughnut when making, supplying and distributing goods.

We highly recommend Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth. Let’s strip the term economics back to basics and redefine it moving forward for a better world for all.