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
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.
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. 🙂
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:
46 Standard coffee mugs
13 Tiny adorable mini mugs
3 martini glasses
3 wine glasses
1 glass cup
48 Large dinner plates
17 Medium plates
45 Dessert plates
26 Soup/dessert bowls
3 big spoons
7 little spoons
2 dinner napkins
2 metal small tiffins
11 Assorted serving plates and bowls
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
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.
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!!
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.
Have other lending resources that I should add to this list? Let me know!