Cara is a member of ECO AmeriCorps currently serving at the CVSWMD as the Community Zero Waste Assistant. She graduated from the University of Vermont in May of 2017 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. In her free time she likes to bake, snowboard, and spend time with family.
by Cara Stapleford
As a brand-new Eco AmeriCorps service member at the Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District, my first task is to start organizing Repair Cafes throughout the district. I wasn’t totally familiar with the concept of a Repair Café, so I did some research. What I found was not only exciting, but impressive in its scope and mission.
Repair Cafés are community gatherings where people bring broken items to be repaired for free. According to the “Repair Café Organisation” based out of the Netherlands, “Very few people even think about the possibility of repairing the old product. Most people no longer know how to repair things. This type of knowledge is noticeably on the decline.” Repair Cafés want to change that.
At these gatherings skills information is shared, acknowledged and given new value. Not only that, but the very existence of these events promotes reuse and waste reduction.
As great as it sounded, the task at hand seemed somewhat daunting. How was I going to put this kind of event together? Would people even be interested in something like this? I continued my research and started to make some phone calls. The first call I made was to the Onion River Exchange (ORE). I connected with Eric Bachman, an ORE board member and my very first cold-call to the general public about Repair Cafes. It turned out that Eric has wanted to organize a Repair Café in Vermont for years. I could not believe that the very first person I contacted was just as excited as I was!
After talking to Eric for the first time, I realized not only the need for an event like this in our community, but the desire that already exists. In a time and culture where we are so used to throwing things away, I was thrilled to find that other people also encourage repair.
The ORE is a unique organization in that they operate as a timebank, exchanging skills and talents, using time instead of money, to increase the sustainability and well-being of communities. Here at the CVSWMD our main goal is waste reduction. It seemed clear that our two organizations shared some common goals, particularly around repair and reuse. Because of this, and Eric’s enthusiasm, it became a no-brainer to collaborate. We quickly started a partnership between CVSWMD and ORE in order to work together to bring Repair Cafés to central Vermont.
What seemed like an overwhelming feat was suddenly put in perspective. Our community is ripe for an opportunity like this. The community already engages in other projects for the benefit of all. Organizations like the CVSWMD and ORE have been laying the groundwork for years for an event like this to occur. The timing is right, and the people are ready.
Our first Repair Café will take place on January 20th at the Unitarian Universalist First Church in Barre. If you would like to get involved, either by providing a skill or bringing an item, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cassandra Hemenway, CVSWMD Outreach Manager, Charlotte Low, Outreach Coordinator, Cara Stapleford CVSWMD Eco-Americorps Service Member and Jan Lloyd, Zero Waste Events Coordinator all contribute to this blog.