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Netherlands’ Repair Cafes Curb Consumerism

| Friday May 25th, 2012 | 1 Comment

How awesome is the idea of a repair cafe? Very simply, it is a place you take your old, broken-down items, buy a cup of coffee and get your things fixed so that you can continue using them.

The Repair Cafe which debuted  in Amsterdam two years ago does just that. According to the New York Times, “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”.

Repair Cafes started as a way to curb consumerism. Martine Postma, a former journalist came up with the concept after the birth of her second child, which made her think about environmental issues differently.

She said: In Europe, we throw out so many things. 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. But I 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 design and recycling, she decided on the idea Repair Cafes to help people fix things. For most people, possessions have a sentimental value and they don’t want to part with them. Some others would rather fix a broken item than buy a new one. Although the Netherlands only puts less than 3 percent of its municipal waste into landfill, according to Joop Astma,  the state secretary for infrastructure and the environment, there is still room for improvement. With Repair Cafes, people get together to share repair tips and foster an environment that supports sustainability.

These Repair Cafes cater to people who find it too expensive to replace their broken items and at the same time, they also do not try to compete with existing repair shops. The Repair Cafe Foundation provides interested groups with information to help get them started, including lists of tools, tips for raising money and marketing materials. So far thirty groups have started Repair Cafes across the Netherlands, where neighbours pool their skills and labour for a few hours a month to rectify holey clothing or broken appliances. Postma has received inquiries from France, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, South Africa, and Australia.

If this idea gets traction, it could be fantastic way to meet people who are interested in DIY, discourage consumerism whilst fostering an environment of creativity.

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  • tony falconitin

    Great Idea! am interested to start this concept to third world countries especially the Philippines. my email address: tonyfalconitin@yahoo.com thanks a lot.