Throwing a spanner in the consumerist Christmas

Just about this time of year, we are bombarded with even MORE messages to consume. The emotional blackmail underlying these messages is shocking. We are made to believe that the only way to show love for our family and friends is to give them newer things.

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Instead of going blue in the face complaining about consumerism, we made a greeting card (with a special Christmas edition!) to help you feel empowered to spread the gift of repair. Fixing is caring.

The card was letter-pressed by hand in Brixton by Rachel Stanners, hard-working owner of the charming Pricklepress, a maker who we met through Makerhood.

Cards will be on sale at our events for £3.50 each (or a higher donation), and we will take online orders soon, so watch this space.

We are the “inner circle” of the circular economy

We were privileged to get a slot at TEDx Brixton in July and we thought we would try to  say something that has been on our minds for a while.

The global conversation for sustainability in manufacturing is shifting to the “circular economy”, like at Davos, where the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has promoted the concept and the opportunities for companies in this field. Up until now, the focus of the circular economy has been primarily on design products for easier disassembling and recycling – the outer circle – which implies creating a closed loop of materials and in the case of electronics, recovering metals in our gadgets.

This is something only feasible at scale, something the big companies can profit from. The mainstream activities of the outer circle of the circular economy – shredding and melting — are very energy intensive, and the jury is out about how efficient they are. But more importantly, this kind of “outer circle” is hard for people to relate to on a human scale.

The “inner circles” of repair and reuse seem to have been fairly mute in these public discussions on the “circular economy”. For us, these are the circles where we can approach a future economy on a human scale: making sure that the products we buy are more repairable, long-lasting by focusing on creating local opportunities flourish for repair, reuse and refurbishing. This is where we can transform our reality.

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The most #ethicalmob

At The Restart Project, our favourite – and surprisingly uncommon – message is:

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We were amused to have dozens of friends and supporters sending us the Phonebloks video a few weeks ago. It is a very compelling concept for a modular, upgradeable mobile phone – inspired by Legos and very well communicated. It is a great idea, but it will remain a charming design fiction until a whole lot of things change in the electronics industry. Continue reading

Dear makers

A creative fix at Central Saint Martins

A creative fix at Central Saint Martins

We thought we would share some thoughts with you. We’ve spent a year heavily invested in building communities of repairers. During this time we’ve attended a few Makerfaires, admired your work on Instructables, supported your work on Kickstarter. And we look forward to meet many more makers at Makerfaires in Manchester this weekend and in Rome in Europe.

We noticed a couple of articles on fixing and making (most inspired by this piece in Wired), and we thought we might just go ahead and start a conversation between makers and fixers.

Making is a primal instinct – in some ways more primordial than fixing. Who doesn’t remember “making” with sticks and mud as a child, or with empty yogurt containers, used toilet paper rolls, shoe boxes, playdoh, rubber bands. We made cities, robots, space ships, animals. We made art and presents for each other. Utility was rarely our motivation. Joy and wonder seemed to drive childhood making.

Perhaps it’s so obvious it doesn’t need stating, but everybody was a maker until our rigid educational systems drubbed it out of some of us.

These systems taught us utility tied to growth – about being successful, being productive and that accumulating ever more and better stuff was the ultimate reflection of one’s worth. Now some of us did not ever really buy into this – some kept on dreaming, making and creating for the sake of it. And some of us were even able to convince others of the indirect “utility” of this, and were able to make a living off of this. Both of these groups might identify as “makers”.

Yet others found ourselves, perhaps in their late 20s, perhaps even later, scratching our heads wondering where our profound alienation with “stuff” came from.

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Building a new economy, one repair at a time

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This week the Transition Network‘s Reconomy Project featured us along with 19 other fantastic projects in their newly published report: “The New Economy in 20 Enterprises”.

We were delighted to be selected among such inspiring innovators striving to invent new meaningful local economies: reskilling and creating jobs in our communities, while developing much needed services and products truly respectful of the environment. As the Transition Town movement has been advocating for a long time, achieving real change in our communities also requires creating new livelihoods for people, in food production as well as in transport services, renewable energy and retail.

Where do we fit in this picture? Repair and reuse of small electrical and electronics have been neglected for a long time, replaced by a throw-away culture and often wasteful recycling. In just over a year, with almost no funding and no paid staff members, we have demonstrated that a different approach in not only possible, but it is necessary and a lot of fun too.

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A big thank you

Just a quick post to thank people for all of the messages of support, donations and other morale boosts we have received over recent weeks. Especially since the excellent BBC Tech coverage, which was really important for us! (We’re still having trouble responding personally to all, so please bear with us.)

We’ve received kind messages from all over the world, including requests from over 23 cities in the UK for help replicating our “Restart Parties”.

We now have a volunteer Training Coordinator, which we are super excited about. We’ll introduce him to you soon, when we’ll be announcing a workshop in September open to those who would like to start Restarting their community in the UK.

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In other news, we are also happy to announce that your support has been matched by some important institutional support. We are grateful to Unltd, who chose Janet as a social entrepreneur grantee and will be providing valuable mentoring and support to The Restart Project as well as a £2000 grant. They will help us think through how we build our network and spread our repair revolution sustainably.

Support us through Ebay-Patagonia auction

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been chosen to receive proceeds from the online auction connected to the launch of the Ebay and Patagonia Common Threads partnership in the UK.

Common threads

Common Threads is more than just an online storefront/collaboration between Ebay and Patagonia. It is an initiative that aims to boldly change the way we consume.

Participants do not just shop for second hand Patagonia clothes, they sign a pledge to really live the 4 Rs (Reduce, Repair, Reuse and Recycle). Participants pledge to “wrest the full life out of every Patagonia product by buying used when I can, and selling what I no longer wear to keep it in circulation”.

Common Threads has successfully provided a marketplace for Patagonia clothes for reuse, via individual sellers, in the US since 2011 and now it is launching now in the UK.

For the launch, Ebay and Patagonia are sponsoring an auction, with some celebrity items – including a jacket worn by adventurer Ben Fogle – and we’re really excited to have been chosen as the only recipient of funds raised. Continue reading