Community repair for people and planet

Alana Sinclair, Cambridge Carbon Footprint Manager

People want to connect with others, do the right thing for the environment, and save money and Repair Cafes help them do all three. We’ve been running Repair Cafes since 2016 and we have never run anything quite as popular. We started with just 2 Cafes in 2016 and have grown into a network of 26 active Cafes. We’ve trained over 60 different groups in how to run them, and this year alone we’ve tripled our planned intake of trainees. The interest in Repair Cafes is phenomenal.

I think it’s because people hate to throw things away which are still useful, but often find it a struggle to figure out where or how to have things fixed. At a Repair Café volunteers will sit with people from the local community and fix it free of charge, teaching repair skills as they do so. Repairers and repairees alike report how joyful this can be.

I have missed everybody! I love the camaraderie of the repairers, the social interaction with repairees and the ability to convince people to have a go themselves and to not waste stuff.

— Volunteer repairer, on returning to Repair Cafes after lockdown

I was so pleased that I was able to get my hairdryer fixed at the Repair Cafe. It really made me think about the impact that getting just one thing repaired can have… The event had an amazing energy and it felt empowering coming together as a community to make a difference.

— Visitor at The Circular Festival Repair Cafe

The environmental case for repair is strong too. A briefing, published by The Community Repair Network (of which the Cambs Repair Café Network is a member) highlights that manufacturing and extracting materials, including for new products, is responsible for up to 50% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. And here in the UK we are the second biggest producer of electronic waste per capita. Per person, we create 23.9kg of electronic waste each year. Repairing instead of discarding and buying new would cut our climate impact. 

Ugo Vallauri, Co-Director at The Restart Project says “The problem is simple. The products we use everyday are getting harder and harder to fix. Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams in the world, with phone, laptops and printers manufacturers making their products harder to fix. The UK is the second highest producer of e-waste per capita on Earth, producing 24kg per person per year! And it’s not just digital devices – the amount of household appliances failing within 5 years of their purchase is also skyrocketing.

Campaigning for Right to Repair in the UK and in Europe has shown us the massive importance of creating a strong grassroots push for repair. This is the crucial work that organisations such as Cambridge Carbon Footprint do: supporting an impressive, growing network of community Repair Cafes in the Cambridge area, helping to start new ones, create opportunity for sharing skills and making repair visible and inevitable! This work is essential and usually underfunded. As we continue to push for better legislation to make repairable products the norm, we need to ensure that groups like Cambridge Carbon Footprint have the resources to continue expand the demand for repair locally, everywhere! 

We’d love everyone in Cambridgeshire wherever they are to be able to pop into a Repair Café when they need something fixing. That’s why we’re asking you to donate to our campaign. Donate now and the Big Give will double your donation.

Donate to local repair and double your impact