Conceived of as a way to help people reduce waste, the Repair Cafe concept has taken off since its debut two and a half years ago. The Repair Cafe Foundation has raised about $525,000 through a grant from the Dutch government, support from foundations and small donations, all of which pay for staffing, marketing and even a Repair Cafe bus.
Thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbors pool their skills and labor for a few hours a month to mend holey clothing and revivify old coffee makers, broken lamps, vacuum cleaners and toasters, as well as at least one electric organ, a washing machine and an orange juice press.
“In Europe, we throw out so many things,” said Martine Postma, a former journalist who came up with the concept after the birth of her second child led her to think more about the environment. “It’s a shame, because the things we throw away are usually not that broken. There are more and more people in the world, and we can’t keep handling things the way we do.
“I had the feeling I wanted to do something, not just write about it,” she said. But she was troubled by the question: “How do you try to do this as a normal person in your daily life?”
Inspired by a design exhibit about the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling, she decided that helping people fix things was a practical way to prevent unnecessary waste.
To some, the project’s social benefits are as appealing as its ecological mission. “What’s interesting for us is that it creates new places for people to meet, not just live next to each other like strangers,” said Nina Tellegen, the director of the DOEN Foundation, which provided the Repair Cafe with a grant of more than $260,000 as part of its “social cohesion” program, initiated in the wake of the political murders of Pim Fortuyn, a politician, in 2002, and Theo van Gogh, a filmmaker, in 2004. “That it’s linked to sustainability makes it even more interesting.”
Ms. Tellegen added that older people in particular find a niche at the Repair Cafe. “They have skills that have been lost,” she said. “We used to have a lot of people who worked with their hands, but our whole society has developed into something service-based.”And see: TV's hoarders show us the dark side of consumerism (Guardian)
Brooklyn's Fixer Collective: