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Episode 52 Elizabeth Knight – Repair Revolution

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 52 Elizabeth Knight – Repair Revolution

Elizabeth Knight is an author, sustainability activist and founder of the first Repair Café in Orange County, NY, and is the co-author (with John Wackman) of Repair Revolution: How Fixers Are Transforming Our Throwaway Culture.

In the book, John and Elizabeth explore repairing in the broadest sense of the word. They focus on the community repair experience, the wisdom of repair, the sustainable aspects of repairing, the adventure of opening a device and seeing what’s inside, the right to repair that is gaining attention worldwide – and much more!

We hear how repair cafes can bridge across social divides, and how they help people of all ages and backgrounds build new connections and develop their social confidence levels. We find out that you don’t need to be a repair geek, and hear about the wide range of volunteer roles available. Elizabeth explains what visible mending is, tells us inspiring stories about the rewards of being involved in a Repair Café, and how you can find one, or start your own.

Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer.  Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started.  Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).

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Read on for a summary of the podcast and links to the people, organisations and other resources we mention.

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About Elizabeth Knight

Circular Economy Podcast Episode 52 Elizabeth Knight – Repair RevolutionElizabeth Knight, became a sustainability activist when she discovered that Orange County hadn’t had a Recycling Coordinator for more than 12 years. For nearly 2 years, she and her husband lobbied county legislators who finally re-funded the position in 2016. That same year she started her County’s first Repair Cafe – 4 years on it enjoys the support of 30 volunteers from 9 different towns and attracts visitors from 13-19 towns in 3 states. Her team has received certificates of appreciation from county, town, and village officials.

Dismayed by the amount of useful goods kicked to the curb for the Village of Warwick’s annual bulk trash pickup, and to celebrate Earth Day, Elizabeth founded Too Good Toss, an annual free community swap visited by hundreds of people. In October 2018, she organized a pop-up Repair Café at the international Reuse Conex convention held in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Martine Postma, founder of Repair Café International, was the keynote speaker.

Interview Transcript

Provided by AI – add ~3:15 mins for the finished episode

Elizabeth Knight  00:00 – Where to put this??

I’m the co author of repair revolution. John Wackman, my friend, and I’m one of the right to repair heroes had invited me to write write a book with him. In January, john died very, very suddenly, it was a huge shock been a huge loss not just to his family and friends, but for all of us in the repair community. John was a generous and cheerful, as he said, the communicator and cheerleader for the repair cafes in the Hudson Valley region of the US, which is about almost 30 of them. But John was the kind of person who had connections all over the world. He thought it was great fun, discovered a new contact on Instagram in Indonesia to talk about repair projects john had. JOHN had a very big heart and a very bright vision for a brighter world. And the light is dimmed, but the rest of us are committed to carrying on in his name.

Catherine Weetman  01:48

Elizabeth, I’m seeing more in the media about repairing things. And in Europe in the UK, right to repair legislation is being rolled out. Perhaps you could tell us more about the culture of repair, and why repairing in community is so powerful.

Elizabeth Knight  02:05

One of the reasons is because of the right to repair movement, when people have discovered that they although you may own a device, it’s practically impossible based in the design process for you to get out the battery or if you can get out the battery is glued in or you need a special five point a screwdriver to get x. It used to be that people repair things at home. Many people grew up in a household where mom, dad, the man down the street, Mr. Fix it, everybody could take the broken blender to that person, or you know how to sew on a button. A lot of that kind of hands on what they call now agency the know the actual practical know how a lot of that’s been gone by the wayside. Part of it is because of after two world wars, America had built up its manufacturing and it became part of being a good citizen to become a consumer. But but that’s not based on a sustainable model. You can’t keep replacing things. And Neil Proctor who’s the head of the writer repair campaign for the USA said the average American household throws out about $330 worth of goods per household, because they can’t get out to repair it. But part of it is people don’t know how anymore. When I was in high school we were taught there was shop class for the boys, and sewing and cooking for the girls. That’s all gone by the wayside. It became just easier. And it was supported by the manufacturers to become a consumer. I can remember as a young teenager seeing television commercials about do you live in an under phone home with only one telephone when everybody’s got one in their pocket? So the sense of it was tragically, also we became consumers, not citizens. We didn’t think about what we were buying and what the true cost to manufacture it is and what do you do with it when it’s not working anymore? When I first move to the village of work, New York, which is the way in America analysis it I asked the realtor when we were driving around looking for a place to live. I said So when did we put out all their stuff for the bulk pickup and she said Oh, they don’t do that here. Well, they do. Every place does it and I was stunned by the amount of great stuff. kicked to the curb. I was at the time volunteering to teach English as a second language. A lot of the people I was working with wanted to be able to read to the children the books that the kids were learning in school, but they didn’t have enough money to buy the books. The books were stacked out on the sidewalk belong to a dresser along To a child’s toys, I started scraping this stuff up. And then I thought, I don’t have any place to put this. I don’t own a barn. We don’t have a materials exchange. So I called the Department of Public Works at the village hall and said, how much stuff do you pick up? Where does it go? What does that cost? What do you do with it after you pick it up? The answer was a great deal of it went to a landfill. And I thought this is crazy. The landfill it that’s not sustainable. The landfills around here, the one in Ulster County is going to be full in five years. And that’s where john lived.

Elizabeth Knight  05:37

So I began to think that there has to be a better way to do this. And I was invited, not not invited, I read an article in a local magazine about a repair cafe in a nearby town. And I thought what on earth is that. And I read that you could, it was a free community working space where you could bring something that wasn’t working and people who have the skills to try to help fix it. So I walked in the door with a lamp that the switch didn’t work. And it was like a beehive of happy people. People were that was a young Asian American men college students are sitting there with a woman who is showing them how to take the hem out of a pair of plaid trousers that look like they would have been worn. In a 1920s movie about golfing. There were teenage boys working on an electric keyboard, there was a woman showing a little girl how to sew a button I on a teddy bear. And I thought, this is the way the world ought to be. People were my lamp, as it turned out, there was a problem that the man who was looking at a console, he called over fixing code from another table and they conferred on it. No, it needed this kind of a switch, not that kind of switch. So I began to realise this is a place where it’s more than about thing. It’s about the connection that you have to the thing. And how that connections connects the person who’s fixing it, people don’t just sit there with the lamp, or the teddy bear with the tornado. They tell you the story behind it, why it matters. I walked out of there and thought we need one in my county, there’s got to be one. And there was it. So I decided to start it. And when I was trying to figure out how to do this, I had someone come up to me and say you haven’t lived here very long, Elizabeth. This is a bedroom community among other things for New York City. People can afford to just replace it. But you can’t replace something that has meaning you can always get another lamp. But you can’t get the one like at our very first repair cafe. a nine year old girl walked through the door carrying a lamp that had belonged to her grandmother and grandma had passed away. And the lamp didn’t work and a little girl wanted the one that grandma had given her You can’t walk down the street and buy that. So fix it Bob, who is a retired CB Navy CB and retired from a utilities company sat down with a mom a little girl and showed her how to diagnose the problem and what could be fixed and how to do it. Because there was a matching lamp at home and the other nightstand. So it’s the larger sense of as Martine Postma, who founded the first repair cafe in Amsterdam in 2009 likes to say the repair cafe can’t solve the whole problem of tossing things away into a landfill. But it sends this signal that there is a better way to deal with the things that you need or love. And by coming together as a community to fix that the signal gets stronger. And also it strengthens the bonds between the people who are doing the fixing and the people who need it. When I was going to start our first repair cafe, john said to me, You think you’re going to keep things out of the landfill? Because I belong to a local sustainability organisation. And he said an annual that will happen, he said, but it’s not going to be on a scale that is going to make a massive global change. He said what you’re really going to see is the connection to community. And I thought, I have no idea what you’re talking about. But the first time I did it and we opened the door, you literally see the connections across all divides happening in front of your face. And it just feels great and the coaches feel it too. And the people waiting in line. Start talking to each other. I’ve never seen that thing. What is that? Where did you get that? What’s wrong with it and then it turns out the guy sitting in two rows Access. I know how to fix that. And he gets up and sits down next to the coach and they confer everybody feels good as Gabrielle Griffiths, who ran a fixit clinic in Massachusetts said, you know, fixing things isn’t guaranteed, but learning about it is that happens to that’s why libraries are so supportive of that. So to answer your question is it sends a signal that you don’t have to throw something out, you ought to at least try to fix it, because that’s responsible. There are limited supplies, limited resources, and what kind of a world you want to leave your kid. You can’t just keep throwing stuff out.

Catherine Weetman  10:39

It’s more and more for people, you know, new things are becoming unaffordable. And the rest of product obsolescence seems to be speeding up ever, ever faster. You know, we see more and more particularly tech companies that seem to be adopting this as a planned model. You know, exactly Apple got fined for deliberately slowing down older models. They brought out a new one, you know, doing a supposed software upgrade that actually slowed, slowed your iPhone down

Elizabeth Knight  11:12

on purpose of

Catherine Weetman  11:13

Yeah, exactly. Quite a bit of reputation damage from that, and people are getting really fed up of being, you know, persuaded in inverted commas to upgrade to the latest latest model. So I’m interested to know what kind of people volunteer to fix things. people they don’t even know.

Elizabeth Knight  11:32

Well, a lot of teachers, a lot of engineers. But let me back up the kind of person who does that is generally a friendly, outgoing person who nine times out of 10 volunteers for at least one other organisation like the family visitors programme. They’ve all volunteer to drive people to doctor’s appointments, they, they’re babysitters, they are out there on the school board. They’re people who care about people other than just themselves. They are also people who tend to have grown up in a very hands on oriented household where people did not just throw things out. They also tend to have been curious gets, I can’t tell you how many times I hear the story of Yeah, I used to sit underneath the dining room table when we were having dinner with a screwdriver and pretended to unscrew the chairs. Now the kinds of people like one mother said, she brought us on to her kids take it apart table. She said she came down from to make breakfast one morning and her four year old had taken apart the vacuum cleaner and spread it all over the floor. So they’re the curious people, they’re already engaged in community. They like to learn they’re lifelong learners. They love the aspect of problem solving. They think it keeps their brains active, but they also think it’s fun. And the interesting thing about it is once you’ve gotten someone to volunteer, at least half the time, sooner or later, they bring a friend, a co worker, a neighbour or a spouse who ends up volunteering to they. And I wanted to read you in their own words, a couple of things about why they do it. This is from Tom and mark and he said I like the idea of keeping useful things useful and out of landfills. And it seems there are lots of people who love ugly lamps.

Elizabeth Knight  13:31

Someone else said I could afford to spend more throw things away and buy something new, but repairing is the way to go. So this one, I said we get a lot of teachers we get everybody from pre K teachers who love working with youngsters and teaching them how much fun it is to take things apart and learn to people with a PhD. This is Wendy MAHANEY, who started a repair cafe in Saratoga Springs. Having young kids inspired me to be more involved in local actions to improve their world. As a scientist with a PhD in ecology, I felt that I was not making a tangible difference in the world. I wanted to do something, something more directly impacting my community. I want hands on someone else. Michelle, the woman who sat underneath the table as a kid and unscrewed the chairs. I love marrying the philosophy of creating community with the practicality of fixing things. Often we get people who have their own their own small scale business. Naomi has her own furniture repair business. The community energy is so strong when people get together to keep a fair family heirloom going for another 50 years or fix a vacuum that keeps the floor clean. And I love this one. Volunteering is more rewarding than just donating money to a cause. This is hands on.

Catherine Weetman  15:01

Yeah. And I think a lot of people have found that, as we’ve all done different things during lockdown huddling in the UK, there was a call for volunteers to help, you know, deliver shopping to people who were isolating or do errands, that kind of thing. And then I think they were looking for a couple of 100,000 people, and within a few days, something like 2 million people signed up to volunteer. Yeah, we kind of, you know, saw saw what the NHS and other people were, were doing and wanted to kind of play their part in helping the community through this. And so, you know, you’ve, you’ve said that one hands on way to repair our frayed connections to each other is to repair, beloved, but broken things in community in a space that welcomes everyone across all divides, economic, political and racial. Could you explain a bit more how you think repair can build community connections?

Elizabeth Knight  16:04

It builds community connections, because people tend to particularly, particularly in a, in these days, it’s so easy to spend so much time on your electronic devices. People don’t tend to get outside the their own little comfort zone, they don’t tend to meet people who have have gone to different schools to do different things from work. Or if you’re, if you’re a parent of a young child, it’s harder to get out into a larger world, you’ve got so many more responsibilities, and especially if you’ve got a full time job, or you take care of an elderly parent, by providing a free community space that says everybody’s welcome. You’re not asked whether you can afford this, you’re not asked how did you vote? You’re not asked how much money do you make? You’re not asked Where do you live? All, all you’re asked is what’s wrong with this? Tell me the story of what’s wrong. And what happens is people as I said, end up sitting next to each other waiting for their turn to be served. And then they start talking to each other, either over it’s called a repair cafe, because it’s a place to serve coffee, tea and snacks. So they sit there and pour coffee for each other, or they talk about how did you hear about this? Often, often, it’s Oh, a friend came home and told me that they had repaired the vacuum cleaner, the sewing machine, the blender, the bicycle, and then they start talking about where did you get that? What’s the larger story, it’s an opportunity, it’s a public space, like that expression about a third place we have a home is the first place the second place is a place to work or school. This is the third place to come together where you know, you’ll be welcome no matter who you are. That’s how it helps to build community.

Catherine Weetman  18:01

Yeah, and I guess starting with those neutral stories, you know, how did you hear about this place? Or what’s that you’ve brought? And, and that can then lead to people sharing more information if they want to, like, you know, what the object means to them, and its history and, and all that kind of stuff. But that’s kind of optional, isn’t it? So you start with something neutral? Instead of as you say, the, you know, the usual conversation opener of what do you do for a living or exactly those kind of things?

Elizabeth Knight  18:30

And when you ask somebody, what do you do for a living that automatically pigeonholes?

Catherine Weetman  18:36

Exactly, yeah. Is that he’s the most annoying, opening, opening conversation Gambit, I think.

Elizabeth Knight  18:42

And well, you would say to me, Well, you know, that I learned how to pronounce words properly. I can remember when I first learned the London and moved to London, I was writing the tube. And I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to chat people up. I didn’t know you don’t ask, Where did you go to school? Because that automatically pigeonholes you at a certain socio economic level there. And the American version of that is what do you do for a living? Yeah, this is a place where that absolutely doesn’t matter.

Catherine Weetman  19:09

Yeah. That’s interesting. And it’s refreshing. Yeah, absolutely. And you’ve you’ve mentioned a couple of stories already in quotes. And in the book, you were you were talking about a 13 year old fn. fn. I can’t pronounce that belay. he pronounces it Ethan. Ethan is on bail or belay. Even bill if the bill. And so maybe you could tell us what he said about some, you know, his reason for going to the repair cafe.

Elizabeth Knight  19:45

One of the reasons he was going was he just a lot of students need a certain number of community. Community Involvement hours in order to graduate so Ethan had been coming rather regularly. And we were sitting out outside after the repair cafe closed for the day. And I was waiting for his father to come pick him up. And I said, so you know, what do you think about this evening? And other than the he had to do it to get your your school hours? What did you think? And what he said took my breath away. And I said, Ethan, I want you repeat that. So write it down. And I’m going to tell everybody that I got his dad’s permission to do this. So 13 year old Ethan Beale, said, and this is a direct quote two years ago, it’s nice to know that with the new saying so many sad and depressing stories, there’s a place where there are people who are willing to help you, no matter who you are, for no other reason than to help you in the best way possible. It gives me hope. To think that a 13 year old boy needed hope about community, that was heartbreaking. But to think that he had found a place where he could see it. There wasn’t just a philosophical lecture, or an example of a parable, it was real. And the other wonderful thing about it was even brought a friend to volunteer. Sometimes also, we have a kids play a significant part in this, we have a 13 year old girl who loves to bake. Whenever one of her parents would come to bring something Ellie would just show up with things that were like a chocolate cake still warm from the oven with freshly whipped whipped cream. And she was part of the community too. She had something to share.

Catherine Weetman  21:30

Yeah, that’s fantastic.

Elizabeth Knight  21:31

And everybody feels good.

Catherine Weetman  21:34

Yeah. And as you said about Ethan, it’s concrete, isn’t it? It’s not, it’s not being hopeful about the possibility of something, it’s seeing something that is in your community that you’re part of, and that he can kind of build on and, you know, grow other ideas, or the hope for ways of making a better world instead of, you know, continuing to go in, in the in the lots of the wrong directions that we we now realise that we are. And so if you’ve given a few examples of children attending repair cafes, but what’s the best way to involve children if you’re thinking about getting a repair cafe going or you already know about one locally?

Elizabeth Knight  22:18

Well, one of the one of the best ways is contact the schools, contact the churches in the synagogues in your area, and ask if they have a community service programme, and then describe what the child can achieve by volunteering at a repair cafe. That is not theory that sounds on that they can be if they would like to learn to repair things we will we will pair the child with an adult coach and the child can sit and observe until they’re at the stage where they could actually now pick up a tool and participate. So that’s hands on not theory. That’s really fun. One of the other things we do with kids it’s extremely popular in many repair cafes is what we call the kids take it apart table. putting it together is not required. There are one of the best ones was one of our regular guests. sent an email one time and said thank you What for everything you do for the planet is the super lady going to be here today. So the zipper lady who is a retired teacher was able to fix I think it was a backpack but this young woman also had a hairdryer. And the problem described with it was it shrieks and stinks and smokes when you turn it on. Okay. She took it to the small electronics team and they decided that that it is truly beyond repair and she said where’s the recycle bin and they said oh don’t take it there. Take it over to the kids take it apart table and see if Jim thinks that that’s safe for the kids to work on. Jim is as big a kid as the others are the little ones he cut off the plug. handed the little one screwdrivers showed them where to take it apart. And the woman who had brought the thing in said this isn’t the kids take it apart table she said it’s the reuse PlayStation so that so it’s a It teaches hands on the word agency that you can learn to do it yourself. I can’t doesn’t always apply you just need someone to talk you through it. We’ve had kids as young as four sit there for four hours playing at the PlayStation. So the the older kids can volunteer to be out coach or to help people carry things in and out of the car the it’s hard to manage a toddler and other one in the stroller and trying to carry in a vacuum cleaner too. They also were really good at the checking checkout table explaining the rules welcoming people they like to volunteer to help it as I said le either bring something or help set up the food table that they are valued as an actor. participant in a repair cafe, and they most of the rise of the occasion.

Catherine Weetman  25:05

Yeah, that sounds great. It sounds really inspiring.

Elizabeth Knight  25:08

And it’s fun. Yeah,

Catherine Weetman  25:10

yeah. I think I’d have been good at taking apart a bit but yeah less less confident with the putting back together they will have added used to repair while I’m build my own mountain bikes, including building wheels. Wow. But it was never a kind of natural skill. You know, it was always something that had to really apply my full concentration to to make sure I got it right and put everything back in the right order and so on. So Elizabeth in the book, he gives some examples of visible mending. And apparently that’s becoming a popular hashtag on Instagram. These days, I saw it featured in an article on sustainable fashion recently. Can you explain what visible mending is and why people use it?

Elizabeth Knight  25:56

Sure. Let me back up, maybe and give you a concrete example. My mother was what in the 50s and 60s was called a seamstress, which is now a rather dainty term. The new word now is so just a combination of the word so and artist. And but my mother was that even back then I can remember she made me a brand new brown corduroy jumper to wears to school one day, and I must have been in about third or fourth grade. And I toured on the playground the first day of work. So my mother was obviously a not pleased but she wasn’t concerned about making the repair invisible. It used to be considered by many people that if you wore clothing that the way that it was repaired was visible, it was an advertisement to the world that you couldn’t afford to buy a new one. My mother didn’t believe that she’s taught as a creative opportunity. So she repaired my torn jumper, with a patch that looked like a lily pad with a little felt for him with bright bead eyes on it. And not only that, she made it into a pocket. It was fabulous. Well, that’s what visible mending is. These days, it’s a creative opportunity to express yourself. You’re not supposed to make it look like life never happened. It’s take what you’ve got. It’s like the Japanese notion of Wabi Sabi. The perfection is in the imperfection, the create the creative opportunity. So that’s what visible mending is, we’ve got. So is and repair coaches who can teach that technique.

Elizabeth Knight  27:37

We also have the traditionalist who can make it invisible. But it also applies to things that happen between people and it goes back to the community strengthening. One of the stories that I will always remember is a mom had called me to say that she had a son, a young teen who needed some community service hours is a skill requirement, as we discussed. And she said he had been taking apart small engines from the time he was about six. And he been doing that with his dad, and could he come volunteer, and he wanted to fix things. And I said yes, but for his safety, and everyone else is gonna have to repair with an adult. And I will pair him with somebody who does small electrics and also the bicycle guy needs help. Fine. So that morning, about 45 minutes before the repair cafe opens. We’re all all of the coaches and the volunteers are unloading cars and holding doors and how’s the family? What do you think they’re going to bring in today? A truck drives up with a young teenage boy in the passenger seat and the windows are down. And when the truck is parked, the father starts this expletive laden rant at the boy and it’s so loud. Anybody in the parking lot can hear every miserable thing He called this child. Now I better not hear this about you You little blankety blank and you better not do blink. It was horrible, horrible. And the kids just staring at his feet. Finally the kid gets out and the father was out of the parking lot. One of the sewing team members who happen to have been a high school teacher, not in that area. said to the boy while the rest of the morning is going to be better than that. And he held the door. They went in. I introduced the boy we’ll call him Dave to the to adult coaches. So Dave is sitting with fixing up fixing lamps. And he looks up and there is an elderly African American woman pushing a lawnmower through the door. Her she’s got a probably a 1920 year old boy with her. The kid Dave leaps out from behind the repair table runs across the room takes the the lawnmower away from her, puts it up on the table and at that The man has the bike coach joins him. And Dave is asking the woman What happened? What doesn’t it do? What’s wrong with it? When did it work? And the adult coach rich said, That kid is a mechanical genius. He said he correctly diagnose the problem in 30 seconds. The woman is so astonished that it’s going to take a small repair and so delighted she said, she points to the older boy and said, This is my grandson. And this is what he’s doing to earn money. He needs this for work. She grabs Dave by the face, kisses him on both cheeks and says, You don’t know what you’ve done. So the kids a hero. She’s got her problem solved. She turns to her grandson and says, Why couldn’t you do that? And I pulled him aside later and said, Do you know that Dave has had his dad coach him since he was six years old? Did your grandson have that opportunity? And she said, No, he didn’t. I said, Well, it’s not everybody’s got that to grow up with. So when into story, as we were getting ready to pack up, I went to both of the coaches and said, so how did you like working with Dave? He’s a great kid. He knows a lot. When’s he going to come back? And I said, You all heard what his dad said to him this morning, when we were unloading the cars when his dad comes to pick him up, will you please, each of you give them a specific compliment of something that you saw, and make sure his dad hears it? They did. And you could see this kid visibly mended in front of his father stood up, proud of himself. And they walked out, in a sense, reconcile, I don’t know what the problem was, I don’t want to know. But you saw it fixed, at least temporarily that this was a kid who knew what he was doing, and was contributing. And the kid felt it and the community felt it and the coaches know his old man, and telling each other how much he done. And he came back the next time about another kid with him. And they both worked. So that to me,

Catherine Weetman  32:15

difference it made to the to the lady with a lawnmower and her grandson whose job depended on that lawnmower working. I that’s another brilliant story in itself, isn’t it, and that must have made him feel like you’d had a really good start and seeing the power of how people repair stuff.

Elizabeth Knight  32:37

And he enjoyed it as much as as the adults did, and then realise that he was making a real contribution. Yeah, and one that he wanted to make I had been taught to make. So that’s the community mending and the lawnmower didn’t end up in the landfill. It doesn’t get better than that.

Catherine Weetman  32:57

I have as a great story. And so for anyone listening Elizabeth and wanting to start a repair cafe in their own town, where could they go for advice and tips?

Elizabeth Knight  33:07

Well, number one repair revolution. I wrote the chapter about how do I get one of these in my town chapter seven that tells you where and how to look for sponsors and partners. You don’t have to do it alone. What kind of people are you looking for? Where do you find them? What kinds of things need to be fixed. And I wrote it from having done it all wrong. So you are you get the benefit of my mistakes and my missteps. And also, in preparation for writing this book, I had sent out a questionnaire to every repair cafe organiser I could find across the country. And I’ve got their insights and suggestions to email it, many of them are so brilliant, I’m gonna adapt them myself. It was it was really a labour of love to talk to other people who wanted to make a difference right where they live with right what they had in front of them. It wasn’t in your head, you didn’t need a government grant to do it. You just needed a couple of like minded people to try.

Catherine Weetman  34:03

Yeah, sounds amazing. And I guess although COVID forced us to, to kind of delay in person repair events, now’s the perfect time to start thinking about how you can set up a cafe in your own region and who you know, that’s good at repairing. You know, who might be a soloist exactly that who might be you know, Bob, the Bob the fixer and, and that kind of thing. And so finally, Elizabeth, how can people get in touch? We’ll find out more and of course, we’ll put the links to where people can buy the repair revolution book in the show notes, but what are the links would would you encourage people to follow up?


I would suggest repair cafe I would suggest repair cafe TV even though we can’t meet in person, as you said right now, there are a lot of zoom repairs. Google Rodeo City repair cafe. That’s in Ellensburg Washington, there is a whole list of curated repair videos on that site. Also, in our book, we have a list of Repair Cafe curated videos. And the Repair Cafe Fix it. They organiser is Don Fick in North Carolina. And he has to do a lot of international repair cafe zooms.

Catherine Weetman  35:23

So I heard that there was there was kind of an online one way you could go and watch and participate is not quite quite the right word is it but sort of, you know, be involved in a group that was helping diagnose and work out exactly things. Increasing your skills and confidence. Brilliant. Well, thank you, Elizabeth, for telling us just a few of the brilliant stories that are in the repair revolution book. It was, it was a great read, I really enjoyed it. And you know, just like the conversation with you today, listening to all those stories of people, feeling like they’re making a difference of connecting with others in their community, and in ways that would be unlikely to happen in any other scenario in the community. It’s really inspiring. And I think there’s lots in there that can, you know, help help people find optimism and hope, as Ethan said, you know, gives gives me hope. Being involved in something like the repair Cafe is a really good way to do that and start feeling like you’re being part of the solution and not part of the problem. So Exactly. Thank you very much for taking the time to tell us a few of those stories today.

Elizabeth Knight  36:36

Thank you, thank you very much for the opportunity. We’re all aching to be able to get together again and fix things and fix our small part of the world one thing at a time. Thank you.

Catherine Weetman  36:46

Thank you, Elizabeth.

Want to find out more about the circular economy?

If you’d like to learn more about the circular economy and how it could help your business, why not listen to Episode 1, or read our guide: What is the Circular Economy

To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach.  It includes lots of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy.  Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable. 

Please let us know what you think of the podcast – and we’d love it if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or wherever you find your podcasts.  Or send us an email

Podcast music

Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’.  Or, follow them on Twitter.

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