Martine Postma is a former
journalist who started the first Repair Café in the Netherlands in October
2009, after the birth of her second child got her thinking more about the
environment. Now there are 30 repair cafes throughout the country started by
people who volunteer their skills to patch, mend, rebuild and fix old clothes,
appliances, and other used items that might otherwise end up in landfills.
A New York Times story by Sally McGrane describes the Repair Café in Amsterdam,
where a retired pharmacist, an upholsterer, and an unemployed man gathered to
fix old irons, lamps, vacuums, and other assorted items that had lost their
luster or function. Postma
explained she had been looking for a way to help people fix things instead of
adding to the planet’s burgeoning supply of waste. As friends and neighbors gathered to donate their time,
ingenuity and second hand goods, the idea caught on. The Repair
Foundation has raised $525,000 through a Dutch government
grant and support from other foundations and individual donors. The
Times reports the money pays for staff, marketing, and a Repair Café bus.
The Repair Foundation also provides interested groups with information on how
to get started, including lists of tools and tips for raising money.
For many participants, the social benefits of Repair Cafes
are dominant. People who come together as strangers enjoy the camaraderie and
useful work, as many older volunteers apply craftsmanship and tinkering skills many
in younger generations never learned. The ecological mission is also compelling. William McDonough, an architect who deplores planned obsolescence and likes the collective repair
idea, tells The Times about his "cradle to cradle” design philosophy,
his belief that things should be built so that they can be taken apart and the
raw materials re-used. Listen to McDonough’s TED talk.
Some repair and reuse initiatives are underway in the U.S. The Missoula Urban Demonstration Project (MUD)
in Montana has a tool library, community classes and activities, and resources
for repairing, renovating, recycling, restoring and sharing.
Seattle Fixers Collective started in the summer of 2011,
and meets regularly the West Seattle Tool Library. A post by Anna Fahey at the dailysightline.org
describes an "abundance swap”
where residents of Ashland, Oregon contribute items for an alternative to
holiday shopping for new gifts. She also notes the city of Portland, Oregon,
has a Be Resourceful site with
information on tool libraries, fix-it fairs, and resources for sharing and
repairing shoes and bicycles, and Vancouver, BC, has tool library and bicycle repair program for