Northeast Los Angeles Transition launches a Repair Cafe

By Therese Brummel

Pasadena Public Works asked Northeast Los Angeles (NELA) Transition to create a Zero Waste Booth for this year's Earth and Arts Festival. That's when it all began.  We delved into the problem the shrinking landfill area at Pasadena's Scholl Canyon.  When you throw it away, there is no away.

The same month, the NY Times ran a story on the Netherlands excelling in reducing, reusing, and recycling. My own sense is that it comes as a result of their cherishing of the little land they have reclaimed from the sea and increasing economic austerity measures. "The Netherlands puts less than 3 percent of their municipal waste into landfill". Martine Postma, the Dutch founder of Repair Cafe, of which there are now thirty in the Netherlands says that "the value of the Repair Cafe is that it puts people back into relationship with material things". In other words, taking away the disposable mentality we are addicted to. 

I was personally fascinated, in part because my family is from the Netherlands and I know these values to be in the culture. Homes and appliances are small, thriftiness is common and their healthcare for all is a permaculture kind of value. My grandpa sharpened his own lawnmower blades and repaired his hand forged shovel. My Internet search turned up Dutch YouTubes on Repair Cafes in several dIfferent towns including my grandparents town, Nijmegen, Netherlands. I took that as a prompt from the ancestors to take action. 

After a feeler post on our Arroyo Time Bank to take the temperature of the community on the idea of possibly America's first Repair Cafe, we were overwhelmed by the number of folks cheering and offering to repair anything from tears in polyurethane and rubber to lamp rewiring, bikes and computer soldering. The overwhelming cry, however was for clothes mending. And interestingly the repair work the greatest number said they could offer was sewing! An easy aha moment!  Organizers and artists stepped forward.  The first meeting established a momentum for the Repair Cafe almost alive in the mere concept.

The first event July 14, 2012 had seven sewing machines humming for 3 hours and thirty clothing items repaired in a festive atmosphere.  An entity was established on the Time Bank and a Time Bank "cashier" with laptop recorded all transactions. Cash donations were made by two non-Time Bankers.  

Here's a brief intro to what Repair Café is all about, filmed at our very first event!

At the August 18th event, 29 appliances were brought in and 23 were repaired! Umpteen knives were sharpened, and the Repair Café logo was artfully stenciled on a number of tees and aprons. 
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September 16th, we had our third Repair Café event, which was a huge success as far as numbers of items repaired, number of time bank exchanges made, number of new relationships nurtured, levels of consciousness raised, and barrels of fun had!
Our mission says it all. " In the spirit of moving toward zero waste and stewardship of our planets resources, the Repair Cafe/Pasadena links local handy people to folks in need of repairs of all kinds: clothing, appliances, bikes, furniture, electronics and more.  The Repair Cafe is inspired by the philosophy of a Sharing Economy.  We share our time, skills and talents to build a more vibrant local community one repair at a time."
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Follow us on FacebookRepair Café, or Arroyo Time Bank.

Thanks to Therese for sharing this story!

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