Why lose it if you can use it?

The Swap and Reuse HUB has grown from an event for new students to the UK's first registered student co-operative focusing on workshops and food sharing.

Motivated by the philosophy of zero-waste, Jennifer Renold and Jess Acton teach and inspire others to learn about waste and living a sustainable lifestyle in the Swap and Reuse HUB (SHRUB) at 13 Guthrie Street, Edinburgh.


What’s SHRUB?

The history of SHRUB started 6 years ago when students from the People & Planet society started working with the University's Accommodation Services to re-use the mountain of waste that students left behind in halls of residence. An annual September event called the Freshers Freeshop was established and each year between five and six tonnes of "waste" was diverted from landfill and into the hands of new students.

Following the success of the Freshers Freeshop, the Swap and Reuse HUB co-op was set up in 2013 with the help of an alumni-funded Innovation Initiative Grant, allowing students to turn their zero-waste project into a year round space.

We wanted people to learn about waste, consumption and sustainable lifestyles, not just go to an event for free stuff.

Three years of success

In March this year SHRUB celebrated its 3rd birthday and three years of success. 

Initially everyone was a volunteer, but SHRUB now employs four members of staff. Anthropology graduate Jennifer works at SHRUB as Events Programme Coordinator, and Jess, who graduated with an MSc in environmental sustainability, is the Food Sharing Coordinator.

We started with 5 founding directors and now have a board of 10. In the first year we had workshops only twice a month, in the last year we held over 230 workshops with 2400 attendees in total.

Creating a community of swappers

At the very core of SHRUB is the Swapshop; a simple effective system of barter that allows people to exchange things they no longer need for something else of equal value. Through the Swapshop, SHRUB aims to meet people's needs in a low impact and sustainable manner, and create a community of swappers.


SHRUB is not limited to exchanging items. From a wallet made out of a bicycle inner tune, hula hoops made from water piping, or chandeliers made from bicycle wheels; SHRUB also teaches the community about recycling as well as upcycling and creative reuse through its workshops and events.

One of the most successful SHRUB sub-projects is the Wee Spoke Hub's bike workshop, a free weekly DIY programme run by volunteers, offering people the opportunity to learn how to fix their bike.

Reducing food waste

Food Sharing Edinburgh was set up in late 2013 as another successful SHRUB sub-project by students looking to reduce food waste by collecting excess food from businesses and distributing it amongst the community. The project’s long term goal is to influence individual behaviour and business practices so that the redistribution services are no longer required.

We set a target to save 10 tonnes of carbon by redistributing excess food, and we successfully saved 23! We currently collect around a tonne of excess food a month, from 13 local businesses in Edinburgh.

The future

In March 2015, SHRUB was successfully awarded £87,274 from the Scottish Government's Junior Climate Challenge Fund. The grant paid for building renovations and for staff to oversee projects and workshops. This funding has recently been re-awarded for a further year.

Despite this funding, participation is still key to the success of the co-operative and alumni can lend their support by volunteering skills and time to run workshops, or help distribute excess food in the community.

SHRUB is also looking for 500 new members to support its ambitious plans for the future. Not only will members contribute financially, via a yearly membership fee, but they will also be invited to have a say in how the co-operative develops and, it is hoped, form an active community of change-makers.

Small acorns

We advertise alumni-funded Innovation Initiative Grants as small acorns that can make a big difference. When we awarded £1,984 in March 2013 to help set up the shop and buy tools, we had no idea of how true this statement would prove to be. The Swap and Reuse HUB is thriving because of the hard work and commitment of alumni such as Jennifer and Jess, but also because of your donations to the Edinburgh Fund.

Related links

Student Experience Grants replaced Innovation Initiative Grants (IIG) in summer 2018.

Student Experience Grants

SHRUB website

SHRUB Facebook page

Edinburgh Fund