This month sustainability columnist Jo Heneker is handing over her column to Angela Bell of Letchworth Garden Shed.

The founders got together because we all believed a library of things (LOT) would make a real, positive difference to our community.

Two years, several PowerPoint presentations and one bracing learning curve later, ‘the Shed’ is now up and running.

We have nearly 500 items in our lending stock - people are borrowing bubble machines, cake tins, hedge trimmers and more every week.

Mentored by the wonderful people at Hitchin’s Repair Cafe, we’re also running regular free repair events. But is any of this making a difference?

Specifically, since this is Jo’s sustainability column (thanks Jo!), is the Shed having an environmental impact? How do you even start measuring these things?

Luckily for us, these are questions that established LOTs have already tackled. Following their lead, our wonderful volunteers Fran and Jeremy have been tracking the data and using sector-standard equations to get a sense of the Shed’s impact.

The inspirational Edinburgh Tool Library created a calculator that shows how much carbon is prevented from entering the atmosphere by things being shared instead of bought (check it out here )

According to this formula, in our first 20 weeks we saved 11 tonnes of carbon as a community, simply by borrowing items rather than buying new. It’s early days, but this is a really exciting start.

If you take the average efficiency of a British car (and why would we use anything except a British car?), that’s the same as driving around the world, twice.

The repair days are also making a change. The Fixometer Tool, devised by Restarters (, shows that our first two Big Fix events prevented 113 kg of waste, and 536 kg of CO2 emissions.

A longer-term goal is to shift people’s habits to encourage thinking about ‘access over excess’, as the ETL’s founder, Chris Hellawell puts it.

We surveyed our borrowers at that same 20-week mark, just before Christmas. Fifteen respondents is a very small group to draw conclusions from, but the trends are heartening.

Most said since joining up, they consider borrowing more, not just from us, but from friends, family and neighbours.

They’re more likely to consider repairing or recycling their things. And they feel that by using the Shed, they’re doing something positive towards climate change.

This last figure means a lot to us. Living more sustainably can feel like something you can only do if you’re able to afford big investments like solar panels or a hybrid car.

We’re thrilled our members consider borrowing a real option, think more about repairing and recycling what they own, and feel more positive about taking steps to live more sustainably.

All while, we’re assuming, having loads of fun with our waffle maker, silent disco, router or scarifier. If you’d like to join them, check us out on or on instagram or Facebook@letchworthgardenshed.