Tag Archives: repair

Repairing the world

Who said “Waste isn’t waste until we waste it”?

Learning of this clever quote was one of many pleasing things I gained from an event in Cambridge yesterday which could legitimately be said to have a global significance. It’s not every day you can say that about spending nine hours in a church on a wet Saturday in November.

The man associated with the quote is Will.I.Am – someone I associate with a name which I regard as, er… unusual, and whose performances on ‘The Voice’ leaves me cold. In contrast, I’m impressed by his behind-the-scenes activities; the music-man-come- style-celebrity gives his name, time and money to many worthy causes. This includes an international campaign – Fashion Revolution – which aims to sew social, ethical and environmental responsibility into the fabric of the fashion industry.

The essence of the campaign is ‘telling the story’ behind the clothing items that arrive on our high streets and sell at rock bottom prices with, in many cases, scant regard for the people and processes behind their production.

For me, the story behind the product was also at the heart of my uplifting day in Cambridge. It was at an attempt on the record for the World’s Biggest Repair Café – a mass fix of pre-loved and still-wanted broken items – bikes, clothes, electricals, toys, high and low tech kitchen gadgets, gardening equipment, ornaments, phones, laptops, even an umbrella. We were seeking to mend more than 150 items – a record set in France in 2013.

I worked on eight items and was pleased with the result, though many of the fixes where a lot more straight forward than those of my fellow repairers working on more technical problems on either side of me.

There were two garden forks with broken wooden handles (with a combined age of 140 years!) and both deserved more TLC than I could give them in the time I had to work on fixing them. The older of the two was 100 years old – originally owned by the great grandmother of the little girl who attended the Repair Café with her mum. As the current owner said to me “I could get a new fork or replace the wooden handle, but it’s my mother and her mother’s hands that worked the soil with this particular handle – that’s what matters to me.”

Or the 40-year old binoculars case – a wedding present I think – the leather hinge between body and lid worn torn in two from regular use. This is now replaced with some new leather in a cack-handed repair which, while certainly not beautiful, will hopefully keep those binoculars protected for another 40 years.

Or the 25 year-old hand-crafted ornamental wooden horse and carriage from Russia. A cherished memento that needed some refurbishment – new reins for the horse, re-fixing the carriage harness, reconstructing the passenger’s parasol – it’s journey to be recalled and treasured, I hope, for generations to come.

Then there were the little food related highlights – the edible nuts and screws on some lovely biscuits, the wonderful free three-course meals served up from surplus food by Cambridge Foodcycle.

Most important for me is that yesterday was about keeping so many things in use for longer. The eight items I worked on had a combined age of over 227 years. “But did you set a new world record?” I hear you ask. It doesn’t really matter but, yes, we did – with over 200 items fixed – we well and truly broke it and so, of course, we now need to repair it…

Further photos at  https://www.facebook.com/roystonrepaircafe/photos/a.709787542553843.1073741847.168583403340929/709787559220508/?type=3&theater

Fashion Revolution http://fashionrevolution.org

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20 reads about repairing, sharing and reusing

The ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ of cutting waste, saving money and fixing the planet

If you have problems with downloading, copy and paste link in your browser

 

The Fixer’s Manifesto http://repaircafe-esslingen.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/sugru_manifesto.pdf   

How to run a Repair Café  http://circularcambridge.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/How-to-run-a-Repair-Cafe-updated-12April16.pdf and www.instructables.com/id/Host-a-Repair-Cafe

Keep the date – FixFest 2017 https://therestartproject.org/community/fixfest

Repair and Share Guide: profiles of 6 inspirational organisation keeping things in use for longer, plus with top tips for setting up your own http://cfsd.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Repair_and_Share_PRINT.pdf

 

What is a library of things?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNca7UVW6g4   

Citizen-driven repair: research sources www.cfsd.org.uk/research including a global survey of Repair Cafes

Eco guide to the repair economy www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/02/the-eco-guide-to-the-repair-economy?

A Greenpeace guide to the repair-ability of your mobile device www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/Global/eastasia/publications/reports/toxics/2017/howrepairableisyourmobiledevice.pdf  

Care and repair – your clothes http://loveyourclothes.org.uk/care-repair

Farnham Repair Café YouTube channel www.youtube.com/channel/UCkzO-v8mM-TeEf_dFqV5pCw

UK Funding for local waste reduction http://ciwm-journal.co.uk/funding-boost-councils-target-weee-reuse

Join the campaign against product obsolescence  www.rethink-it.org sign the petition and check out your product

DIY repair guides:

www.patagonia.com/worn-wear-repairs

www.wikihow.com/wikiHowTo?search=Repair

www.instructables.com/howto/repair

www.ifixit.com/Guide

 

Reduce, reuse, recycle www.epa.gov/recycle

20 Simple ways to live more lightly https://theconsciousvegan.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/20-small-ways-to-make-a-big-difference  [photo]

The forgotten R … repair https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-forgotten-r-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-repair 

 

 

List compiled August 2017 by Chris Lee. Royston Repair Café  www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe

Thanks to Prof Martin Charter www.linkedin.com/in/martin-charter-frsa-6289097/?ppe=1           http://cfsd.org.uk/events/farnham_repair_cafe

The accidental fixer

vac-inspectionIt says much about the kind of people who attend Repair Café events (and many return because they enjoy the experience so much) that Peter Howarth turned up to a recent repair session in Royston, Hertfordshire, with his broken vacuum cleaner and ended up fixing someone else’s instead!

I wanted to find out a bit about the man behind this generous act, this is what I found out…

Have you always been interested in repairs? 

No, not in repairs exactly; it’s more about being interested in finding out how things work… as well as in the general challenge of solving problems of course.

Did you have any formal training?        

No, though as a teenager growing up in Lancaster, I used to work in my dad’s farm and garden equipment business on Saturdays and during school holidays. This included machinery sales, servicing and repairs, so I had quite a lot of ‘on-the-job’ exposure to practical problem-solving, with things like lawnmowers, cultivators and milking machines. 

In general, are you a practical person? 

Yes, I guess so. However, I think my interest mainly comes from inquisitiveness. From an early age I used to take things apart to see how they worked… and (happily) I gradually got better at putting them back together again. 

This was not without a few hiccups along the way though…  I remember years ago investigating the family video recorder after a tape got stuck, which is probably an experience best forgotten… It took me the best part of the weekend to get it back in working order, and tapes still stuck afterwards!

Also of course, when growing up, I had to service and repair my own bikes and cars to save some cash, so you learn as you go along. I must admit though, that today’s cars have many more electronic ‘black boxes’ and computerised engine management components under the bonnet, so they are not as straightforward to repair for the interested ‘home mechanic.’

vac-fix-success

At the recent Royston Repair Café session, how did you end up helping someone else fix their vacuum cleaner, but not your own?! 

I brought along my machine after starting to repair it because I realised it had a clutch problem and thought there may be someone there with more experience of the servicing routine.

However, while I was waiting my turn, I saw a chap with another vacuum cleaner who had been waiting for a while and asked if he’d like me to take a look at it for him. He was happy for me to take it apart to run some tests and happily we managed to find the cause of his problem and get it up and running again. I enjoyed doing something practical and he was able to return a working machine to his daughter – a good result all round!

Has the experience whetted your appetite to be a volunteer repairer at the next Royston Repair Café on February 5th?

Yes, there’s a lot of satisfaction in making something work that has previously been a ‘dead duck’ and it’s great to keep things out of landfill if they can be mended. 

Also, during the working week I’m a freelance marketing consultant who helps people to grow their businesses, so the Repair Cafe was a complete change from the day job and it was really good fun to be a member of the team.

Further information:

Royston Repair Cafe: http://www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe                                              Peter Howarth and his business: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/peterhowarth

Keeping the past alive

Guest blog from Kathy Wilson, Royston Repair Cafe volunteer

IMG_0051Sometimes items arriving for repair at the Royston Repair Café are from a bygone era. This was certainly the case on Sunday 24th April 2016, when Naomi Wallen brought her grandfather’s 50-year-old Ekco Transistor Radio, which didn’t seem to tune into any modern radio stations.

Naomi fondly remembers the radio always on whenever she visited her grandfather’s house as a child, and expressed how lovely it would be to have it working again.

The volunteer repairers were clearly excited with the prospect of taking apart something so old and doing their best to get it working again. Because there are usually lots of owners bringing in broken goods, normally only one volunteer repairer can look at each item. But this was special, so next thing at least three repairers were eagerly bent over the partially dismantled radio, all giving their views on what the problem could be.

IMG_0050Most of the volunteers remember happily taking apart and putting back together all manner of items when they were young, which gave them a good grounding in ‘how things work’. After approximately 90 minutes, they managed to fix the radio to the point of picking up stations, but not completely clearly. They realised it was a matter of replacing one part, and the radio would work fully again!

There’s definitely a sense of satisfaction in repairing something, or at least attempting to do so. It’s not just that repairers feel a sense of personal satisfaction, but having fixed something, we feel we’re helping, in our little way, to overcome manufacturer planned-obsolescence and the concept of the ‘throw-away society’. And in the case of the transistor radio, we’ve given Naomi new memories to make.

Radio Fix success

Get updates on the Royston Repair Café at www.facebook.com/roystonrepaircafe 

Learning to be Mr Fixit at a Repair Cafe

Charlie Hull Mr FixitGuest blog from charliejuggler

While I was growing up my father would try to fix almost anything (I have happy memories of stripping down and rebuilding an elderly Suffolk Punch lawnmower with him, aged about 7) and at home I try to do the same. In the last few months I’ve replaced the heater elements on our cooker, patched up a few toys and rebuilt a greenhouse.

I’ve been looking into how I might help at a Repair Cafe – an event where people can bring anything that needs fixing, from lawnmowers to ornaments to cameras, to a community hall where volunteers will have a go at a repair. The idea is to reduce landfill and re-use items where possible, and help those who don’t have the confidence, skills or experience to have a go themselves.

This Sunday I went to Royston to help out at their event. My score card reads as follows:

  • Black and Decker mains power drill – replaced the brushes, tested the switch, got it running but only slowly and noisily, discovered the motor armature was missing a piece which was happily trashing the new brushes, deemed it unrepairable. FAIL.
  • Digital camera which had been dropped, distorting the lens so it wouldn’t retract – took it to pieces (many, many teeny tiny screws) but it seems the lens unit is a single piece and hard to disassemble (not that I could remove it from the camera). FAIL. (note the same chap brought in both these items but seemed happy with the results, as at least he can get rid of the items now!)
  • Small lava lamp. Stupid moulded un-rewirable plug and inline switch (when I’m President of the World I shall legislate that everything should be held together with screws so you can take it apart). Tested and seemed that power was getting to the bulb holder, but neither bulb the owner had would work, so advised her to buy another. SUCCESS (if she gets a bulb that works).
  • Cast-iron clothes iron, used as an ornament. The handle had been damaged and many repairs attempted with Superglue but this hadn’t worked, so I cleaned off all the old glue, replaced a pin holding the metal and wooden parts of the handle together and re-glued it with two-part epoxy resin then strapped up with tape for drying: SUCCESS (if it held together all the way home).
  • I also consulted (which means hovered over other people’s repairs, making hopefully useful suggestions) – the most impressive repair was an old radio which needed a potentiometer taking apart and cleaning, the young lady was very pleased her grandpa’s radio was making a noise again.

I didn’t have my own toolkit, so had to borrow the cafe’s own donated one – it’s always difficult when you don’t have quite the tools you need but I got by. It was a fun morning and well organised – if not, these events could easily turn into a bunch of (generally) middle-aged men talking about their favourite spanners – not that I wouldn’t join in I suspect!

Hopefully I’ll be involved in a more local event soon – there’s talk of a roving event for the villages south of Cambridge.

With thanks to https://charliejugglerblog.wordpress.com

Words to cut waste

Words to cut wasteLast Thursday I was asked to comment on local radio about the report that we throw away the same weight as 90,000 elephants [makes a change from double-decker buses and football pitches, I suppose] of perfectly good items every year.

I thought I was going to talk about re-use and instead I was asked to talk about repair – a subtle but important difference. I managed to gather my thoughts for a 5-minute plug for our Royston Repair Cafe but it meant my notes about re-use became redundant. So I’m re-recycling them (geddit?) now.

It got me thinking about the need to learn a new lexicon to change attitudes to consumption and waste. Normally I’d advise against anything that smacks of jargon but I’m making an exception here because the goal – a healthier planet – is worth it (not to mention helping people to save money in hard times).

My marketing background has long advocated using ‘affordable’ or ‘good-value’ instead of ‘cheap’ when you’re selling. Even £1 shop customers don’t want to be regarded as cheapskates.

So what words can nudge people to reduce waste if used carefully?

An earlier guest blog talks about ‘repair’ as the forgotten ‘r’ alongside the ‘reduce, re-use, recycle’ trinity, so I won’t dwell on those words. Enough to say you should recycle as a last resort – because it reduces our carbon footprint the least of the three.

Just one more ‘r word’ to include here – restore – which I like because it could equally be applied to our health as well as inanimate objects, showing how the wellbeing of people, products and planet are inextricably linked.

Here’s your homework for today. Learn to re-use the following ten words/phrases in your everyday conversation and together we can cut waste.

Recycling centre – instead of local tip. Our’s changed its image almost overnight (and sounded less smelly) by changing its name.

Pre-loved – instead of second-hand or cast-off. Quite a number of furniture re-use schemes/projects/facilities having been using this term for some years. And while we’re on the subject of furniture…

Shabby chic – makes a fashion statement by being old and…er… well worn. In an earlier blog I mentioned my appreciation of the Magpie Co-op’s cleverly-named re-use facility in Brighton – Shabitat

Austerity chic – 60’s and 70’s money-saving gadgets (Sodastream – DIY fizzy drinks, and Hostess trolley – for entertaining at home etc) making a comeback – harking back to the good-old-bad-old-days.

Retro-chic – see the other ‘chics’ above – appeal to people’s nostalgia for a simpler past life. Think of my ten year old mobile that I can use for making phone calls but little else.

Antique – confers quality and value on something; both of which are so subjective you shouldn’t end up in court under the Trades Descriptions Act. My wife’s wedding ring was described as ‘antique’ – sounds better than ‘second-hand’ (which it literally was!) and, to continue the bodily associations, it cost me an arm and a leg.

Vintage – see ‘antique’ but I tend to associate it with clothing (and Wayne Hemingway – one of my heroes)

Thrift – making a virtue out of getting or making something at no/low-cost. Even Kirstie Allsopp is at it (and ‘respect’ to the wonderful Max McMurdo  @maxreestore). And talking of Wayne Hemingway, did you know that 25,000 people visited ‘his’ free Festival of Thrift in Darlington last year? Look out for the 2014 Festival on 27-28 September.

Up-cycle – a somewhat ugly word for something much more attractive. The textbook example is turning a man’s shirt into a woman’s skirt, but my favourite is turning old jeans into an apron (suitable for woodworkers – Men’s Sheds rule) but it doesn’t have to be clothing.

My champion up-cyclers are your final ‘r’ word for today…

Recover – I keep banging on about these folk in Welwyn Garden City so I’ll just refer you to my earlier ‘experts by experience’ blog about them https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-art-of-adding-value/

Other references….

Royston Repair Cafe  www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe

Local Government Association waste reportwww.local.gov.uk/documents/10180/5854661/LGA+Routes+to+Reuse+FINAL+FINAL.PDF/5edd19ba-7c13-47c5-b019-97a352846863

The forgotten ‘r’ https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/the-forgotten-r-reduce-reuse-recycle-and-repair/

Festival of Thrift http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/sep/28/festival-thrift-austerity-chic-real-help

The Forgotten R – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Repair

The Repair Cafe – a free event to enable people to repair, rather than replace, their broken possessions – comes from the Netherlands. In the UK there are currently eight Repair Cafes; this first guest blog from Katherine Lee [Chris Lee’s daughter] sets the scene for the February launch of a ninth – the Royston Repair Cafe in North Hertfordshire.

*     *     *     *     *

The 4 RsEvery hour this country produces enough waste to fill the Royal Albert Hall. Since this quantity is clearly unsustainable, the importance of changing attitudes towards consumption and waste management has never been greater. Most of us are familiar with the waste minimisation strategies of reduce, reuse and recycle, but there is an important omission, which warrants greater attention: repair.

Repair is an approach recently advocated by Professor David Mackay, the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. In our current throwaway culture, there is often a perception that repair requires more effort and is more costly than replacement.  In fact, the opposite may be true. Consumers stand to gain much more than a working item by getting involved in the repair process; they may save money, develop skills, a sense of ownership, and a greater understanding of what makes a good product that is built to last. Often it may seem we have forgotten how to repair, or even that it’s a viable option, but the availability of low/no-cost repair support and expertise is actually increasing.

One example is the Repair Café, a free community initiative where participants learn how to mend their broken items under specialist guidance. Since the first Repair Café in Amsterdam in 2009, many more have been set up across Europe and North America. Another international scheme is The Restart Project, aiming to tackle one of the fastest growing waste streams by specialising in the repair of electronic equipment through free Restart Parties. Repairs may also be undertaken quickly and cheaply at home as help is available online. Ifixit.com is a free, open-source repair manual for electronic items and gadgets.  All of these projects have the same aim, to bring communities together to reduce waste by teaching people how to repair.

Whilst reduce, reuse and recycle remain important waste management strategies, given its diverse social, economic and environmental benefits, it is time to recognise the importance of repair.

Further information:

20 reads on repairing, sharing and fixing the planet  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2017/08/05/20-reads-about-repairing-sharing-and-reusing/

Online repair tutorials and guides:   www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2014/jan/09/how-to-repair-your-broken-goods-from-an-iphone-to-a-washing-machine

For updates and information on repair and reuse: www.facebook.com/RoystonRepairCafe