Stooping Toronto: Turning One’s Garbage Into Another’s Treasures

This article was penned by Saige Friedman, and includes a Q&A session with the managers of the Toronto Instagram account, Stooping Toronto.

Earlier this year, a friend told me about this Instagram account she loved called Stooping Toronto. I had never heard of it before, nor did I know what “stooping” meant. She explained to me that “stooping” refers to someone leaving items on their stoop for others to take – usually until garbage day – when left over items will make their way to the landfill.

So, having a vested interest in local initiatives, programs, and social media accounts working to divert waste from our landfills, I began following their account on Instagram. Soon after, I saw some interesting items being shared, and eventually found my first “stoop” of my own! (see below).

Figure 1 – Saige’s Stooping Success

After this, I became very interested in the idea and the account, and reached out to the accounts managers. While they want to remain anonymous, they were kind enough to carry out a Q&A session with me, answering some questions about how they started, how it works, and some of the benefits associated with stooping.

Q & A with Stooping Toronto

Q: How did the idea for Stooping Toronto first come about?

A: We’ve been familiar with picking up curbside furniture for a long time. My parents told me many stories about how they took and upcycled furniture from the street. When my boyfriend came to Canada, his roommate introduced him to the idea of “stooping”.

We live in a small apartment so when Covid-19 hit we started taking walks to get some exercise and fresh air and to see new parts of the city. While walking we would see a lot of furniture and other items being given away on the curb. It was a bit surprising to think about everything being thrown out.

One day we came across @stoopingnyc on Instagram which is a successful stooping account based in New York City. We were excited to see the account and it inspired us to check if there was already a similar account in Toronto that we could submit our finds to. We didn’t find one so we decided to start it ourselves. We also contacted @stoopingnyc after we started our account and they were supportive.

Q: When did you actually end up launching the Instagram account?

A: We started the @stooping_toronto Instagram account in December 2020 and posted a few times in mid-December. While walking in the snow on Christmas Day we saw a very cute Toronto Blue Jays birdhouse on the curb which inspired us to start posting more while we had some time off from work. Since December 25 we have been posting regularly. Our first stooping success (where someone takes an item they found through @stooping_toronto home and sends us a picture of the item in its new home) was on January 1, 2021. It was very exciting because it was an item a follower had submitted to us and another follower had taken home – it was great to see proof that our small community was already working.

Q: Did the account automatically become the success it is today? Or did it take some time for you to get a following and have locals send in posts?

A: We received quite a lot of love from people from the very early days. The first few months most of the items that we would post were the ones we found. Once we reached around 2,000 followers this changed and now we rarely have time to search for the items ourselves and we just try to keep up with the submissions.

Q: How do you manage the posts and what people send in? Do you have a full-time member?

A: We’ve been getting lots of submissions from followers which is amazing because it allows us to get items from all around the city and gets people involved in the community. Stooping works better with more people involved and we’ve been lucky to have some great and supportive followers. Sometimes people will send us stooping success pictures of an item they’ve picked up once it’s cleaned up and in their home which we love to see. Otherwise, we typically don’t know whether an item has been picked up or not.

Q: Is Stooping Toronto a business? Or more of a community page for enjoyment?

A: We have not received any money for running this account but it is pretty rewarding as it is. Each day we are amazed of how many great items are left on the street (just yesterday somebody submitted a bassoon!). Also, the community is really creative and inspires us and our followers to upholster and reuse things.

Q: While we know you want to stay anonymous, we were wondering if you would share how many people are behind the account, and how old they are?

A: We are a couple in our early 30s who live and work in downtown Toronto. One of us is from Canada and the other moved here a few years ago. We both work full time (in law and engineering). We’d like to remain anonymous for now to keep the focus on the account but maybe we will change that in the future!

Q: So that’s all our questions for today, do you have any information you would like to share with readers?

A: We’d like to tell people about the benefits of stooping! It’s sustainable and helps the environment: stuff doesn’t end up in landfills, no packaging is used (as opposed to a new item) and it embraces the “reuse/recycle & fix” mentality. Also, stooping is very rewarding for both the people who submit items and for the people who take them. Stooping can be like a fun treasure hunt even if you don’t take the items because it feels great to get a message that somebody picked up an item you submitted. Also, it helps with being active and getting exercise, and is a great way to join a virtual community. Finding free items on the street saves money and you can furnish your home more cheaply which is very helpful in an expensive city like Toronto. We moved to a new apartment recently and stooping has been a great way to furnish it while saving money and helping the environment!

It’s shocking to see how much great stuff gets thrown out every day and it’s amazing to know that some of these items will have a second life in someone else’s home (one person’s trash is another’s treasure!).

Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow Stooping Toronto on Instagram to find some great local items, help divert waste, and avoid purchasing new items!

To find more interviews like this, see here.

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