Kudos from the Glebe Zero Waste Committee

A lovely afghan throw, one of Whatman’s finds  
Photos: Hester Whatman
Hester Whatman’s dining room table after one of her trips collecting useful items from the curbs to refurbish and give away.

Keep on reusing:

Hester Whatman an outstanding example

By Katie Fice

Hester Whatman passed on an inspiring quote from Robert Swan: “The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” She shared it as we chatted recently about what she does and why with curbside garbage in the Glebe.

Whatman has always been mindful of items she sees in the trash that look to be in good functioning condition. This led her to collect things and donate them to Value Village or Canada Diabetes. When the pandemic hit, her day-to-day routine was upended, leaving her more time to find and save perfectly good and useful things from the landfill. Whatman is constantly on the lookout for garbage that is not garbage at all to bring home. She then takes the time to clean up the items and make simple fixes so they can be used again by someone else.

Whatman found the Buy Nothing – The Glebe Facebook page in the summer of 2020. It helps her give the items she finds directly to people who need them. Her supportive husband has accepted that the porch and dining-room table may at any given moment be filled with finds that his wife is preparing to gift to others.

“I remember a funny story when I first joined [Buy Nothing Group] and started gifting items,” says Whatman. “One of my neighbours was wondering why I had so many cars and people coming by at all hours. I had to assure them that I was not a drug dealer but only a member of the Buy Nothing Group.”

Her new hobby has been an amazingly positive experience in difficult times. “I haven’t felt this connected to my community in 20 years, since my children were young.” She told me it makes her feel good to be doing something helpful for her community and the environment. It keeps her busy, and she gets so much joy from being able to help others. She has found so many interesting things on her “shopping trips,” as her husband calls them. “There have been so many, from antique dressers to designer clothing,” she says. “Two things that stand out are a beautiful handmade afghan blanket that I have kept and a Macbook.”

Whatman wants to promote the idea of being mindful of what we throw away and educating others that things they do not need anymore are not necessarily trash. We agreed that if people were more mindful of their shopping habits and could understand that it is leading to the decline of our planet, then so much progress could be made toward saving it. As Whatman mentioned, there are many alternatives to throwing things away; we can give them to others through charites, consignment shops, donation centers, Facebook and other web-based groups. She would like people to consider leaving still-usable items on the curb, outside of their trash can – this allows them to be easily picked up by someone who might need them.

A recent Buy Nothing Group post from Whatman for some found cushions paints a lovely picture of her desire to see that used and dirty things are not necessarily trash. “Just thinking how much beauty there is all around us. Often you have to look beyond first appearances and delve into some places that stretch your comfort level. Everything can be washed, sometimes a few times. All this to announce that some beautiful cushions I found that were of questionable state, are now recalled to life. They are all very beautiful and very clean.” In response, another member commented: “I hope all the other BNG in Ottawa have a Hester! They don’t know what they’re missing!”

If you’ve been making efforts to reduce your waste, we may feature you in a future column. Please send a short paragraph explaining how you are reducing your household or business waste to environment@glebeca.ca, attention Katie.

Conscious of her own waste footprint, Katie Fice joined the GCA Zero Waste Committee (a subcommittee of the Environment Committee) to learn more about waste reduction and to help raise awareness of simple changes in our daily living that can have a big impact on the environment.

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