Austin Dish Lending Library

The Austin Dish Lending Library is a library.

Except, rather than books, you can borrow cups, plates, utensils, serving bowls, and other items you might need to host a party or dinner at home, an event at the office, or a cookout in the park.

Whatever sparks your fancy. 🙂

Frequently Asked Questions

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Cost to borrow

Library location

Library history

Why use the library?

Items available

Donate

Support

Library Wish List

Past experiences

Additional resources

Cost to borrow

You can borrow dishes and items from the library for free. After use, you clean the dishes and return them to the library for the next person to use.

There is a $20 fully refundable deposit which you will get back as soon as you return the clean dishes. If any dish is broken while in use, simply replace it with something comparable.

Library history

I started the Austin Dish Lending Library on August 3rd, 2019.

(Yes, it is brand new!)

On that day, I was working with a friend to host a breakfast for 100+ people for a non-profit organization. We wanted to make it a zero waste event, but we didn’t have a budget for supplies or 100’s of re-usable cups and plates to use.

We couldn’t find a catering company that was willing to waive the dish rental fee.

We really didn’t have the money to spend on purchasing compostable plates and cups.

It was starting to look like cheap dollar store single-use plastics were our only option….

But just to be sure, I turned to Google for some inspiration.

And I found the most amazing concept—a dish lending library!

Unfortunately, the closest dish library was in Canada—quite a drive from Texas!

So I thought, why not start a library here in Austin?

And the Austin Dish Lending Library came to be.

Where is the library located?

The Austin Dish Lending Library is currently housed in my spare bedroom. 🙂

However, I’d love to find a community center such as a local church, book library, or non-profit that could house the library and make pick-up and drop-off easier. I promise, it is only a few crates of dishes!

My hope is that the library grows to several branches throughout the Austin area so that there are dishes available to you wherever you are and whenever you need them.

Dish lending is available in north and south Austin and surrounding areas.

Why use the library?

Have you ever attended a meeting, conference, or cookout where food was offered? How was it served? Were single-use plastic cups, plates, and utensils involved?

I bet they were.

Here’s a scary statistic.

We use and throw away six million tons of single-use plastics every year.

Six million tons! How is that even possible?!

Here’s another scary statistic.

Only 9% of these single-use plastics get recycled. This means, the remaining 81% is going to landfills or the ocean.

In the landfills, these plastics mix with the toxic landfill stew, get sealed off, and become inaccessible to us as resources.

They will no longer be part of the “circle of life.”

(Unless we dig through the landfill and extract them out again. But who wants to do that??)

In the ocean, things are even worse. Fish mistake the plastic for food and eat it—usually dying of malnutrition as a result.

Yet, it is not surprising that we turn to single use plastics for most of our events. Do you keep 100s of ceramic cups and plates and metal forks, knives, and spoons for the few events you might host throughout the year?

I certainly don’t.

I have enough for my family and for two visitors, but that is it! And as a minimalist, I don’t want to keep more.

So, what to do if you want to host an environmentally responsible event that avoids using single-use plastic throw away cups, plates, and utensils?

Yes, you could rent these dishes and utensils from a catering place.

But…. Not everyone has a budget for something like that.

Yes, you could purchase some compostable cups, plates, and utensils.

But…. These will be more costly than single use plastics. And again, you might not have a budget for that.

(You’ll also need to dispose of them in a commercial composting facility after using to get the full benefit.)

I personally don’t like to use compostable products if re-usables exist. We use a ton of resources to produce the compostables, all so that I can use them for a few minutes? Not ideal.

This is where the Austin Dish Lending Library comes in.

It will provide you with the dishes you need for whatever event you are hosting, while helping to keep single-use plastics out of the oceans and landfill.

And it helps the City of Austin achieve it’s goal to be a zero waste city by 2040. 🙂

Some of the dishes currently available in the library.

Items available for borrowing

As of August 13, 2019, thanks to your donations, we have the following eclectic collection of items available for you to borrow:

DRINK

46 Standard coffee mugs

13 Tiny adorable mini mugs

3 martini glasses

3 wine glasses

1 glass cup

EAT

48 Large dinner plates

17 Medium plates

45 Dessert plates

26 Soup/dessert bowls

HOLD

5 knives

4 forks

3 big spoons

7 little spoons

2 dinner napkins

OTHER

2 metal small tiffins

3 pitchers

11 Assorted serving plates and bowls

Wish List

(Updated 8/15/2019)

The library still needs a few items. Do you have any of the following items that you don’t use and would like to give them a second life?

See below for what the Austin Dish Lending Library still needs before we are up and loaning on September 1, 2019.

0 Coffee mugs. We have more than 50 mugs currently available! Thank you!

21 wine glasses

45 water glasses/mason jars for drinking/glassware

2 large 10 in dinner plates

33 medium plates (7 in to 8 in)

24 soup bowls

35 forks

33 butter knives

50 steak knives

35 large soup spoons

19 small dessert spoons

48 dinner napkins

2 stainless steel airpots

4 large, sturdy bins with lids for holding/transporting dishes

You can donate any used items that are in good, usable condition and fit the description above. (Dishwasher safe items are preferable.)

It doesn’t have to be a set! Loner items are welcome! This will add to the eclecticism of the collection and help us Keep Austin Weird.

Contact me if you’d like to donate something on the Wish List and we can set up a time/place in north or south Austin. Due to space restrictions, at the moment, I am only trying to complete the Wish List.

And don’t forget to tell your friends, neighbors, community groups, etc. all about it!

Other ways to support the library

Help spread the word to your friends, neighbors, co-workers, office managers, etc.

Not only do we need donations, but we need people who are interested in borrowing our dishes. They don’t just want to be stuck sitting in a box for weeks on end. They want to join your party!

Dish drop/off and pick-up for loaned dishes will be available in north and south Austin by appointment.

I will have a dish rental form available on the website soon, but until then, contact me if you have an event coming up and want to borrow something the library already has.

Nothing disposable here.

Past experiences

On August 3rd, 2019 we had a test run of the library. We held a zero waste breakfast event for 100 people using the 32 mugs I had in the library that day (plus some additional mugs, plates, and utensils we borrowed from friends).

By using reusable mugs and compostable banana leaf plates we achieved the following:

We kept 100+ cups and 100+ plates out of the Austin landfill.

Let’s grow this number to the hundreds and millions!!

Additional Resources

Austin Area

Austin Toy Lending Library

If you are looking for a tool lending library, check out Austin Creative Reuse.

For Austin’s seed library, check out Austin Seed Library.

To borrow a recycling or composting bin for your event, check out Keep Austin Beautiful.

Leander Area

Leander Seed Library

Have other lending resources that I should add to this list? Let me know!

12 thoughts on “Austin Dish Lending Library

    1. Hi Arnulfo! Thank you so much for offering a donation. Since I am just starting out, I’m currently only accepting local donations at the moment. Hopefully you can find a local thrift store to donate to, or maybe consider starting your own library? 🙂

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  1. This is intriguing. I have dishes in the back of my cabinets that I need to dispose of. I just need to take time to drag them out and get them to you.

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    1. Hi Cynthia,
      The library is a growing work in progress so I have a feeling we will will be taking dish donations for quite a while. Whenever you are ready, just send me a message via the Contact tab on the site and we can schedule a pickup/delivery. In the meantime, feel free to tell others about the library–especially those who might want to use it to borrow dishes! Thank you for your support!

      Like

    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks for your support! It is great to know the community is as excited about this as I am. 🙂 If you go to the Contact tab on the site, you can send me a message with your contact info and where you are located in Austin so that we can schedule a pickup/delivery.

      Like

  2. This is an excellent idea. I’m a volunteer Zero Waste Coordinator with ARR. I’d be happy to help with one-off tasks (e.g., picking up items, itemizing, cleaning, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm. I entered a reply, but I don’t see it, so am not sure if it took through the WP login process. I think this is an excellent idea. I’m a volunteer Zero Waste Block Leader with the ARR, and would be happy to do one off-tasks to support the dish lending library (e.g., pickups in my area (north central Austin), cleaning, itemizing, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike,
      Thank you so much for offering your help. Love that you are a block leader and supporting Austin’s goal to be a zero waste city by 2040. I added your email to my list for when I need help with pickups or other dish-related duties. 🙂 Since you work with the ARR, any chance you might be able to share this library concept with the ARR staff and other volunteers? I have a feeling these are the types of people who might be interested in borrowing from the library. 🙂
      -Joanna

      Like

  4. Wow! This is simply a BRILLIANT idea! I have a tiny personal bartending service, and one of my biggest disappointments is the amount of waste!! I already do what I can to make sure anything that can be recycled is, but lending dish library is such a game changer for zero waste!!!

    Since I’m in Baton Rouge & New Orleans, may have to consider doing something myself

    Like

    1. Hi Aj,
      Great to hear that you are doing what you can to minimize waste in your bar tending service. We need more businesses and individuals that think in those terms.
      You should by all means start a library in Louisiana! If you need help, support, or want to share ideas, I’d love to connect more with you. 🙂
      -Joanna

      Like

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