Five Cities Repair Café had its inaugural event, October 6, 2019, in Grover Beach, CA. The idea of a community wide event where volunteers fix their neighbors broken items for free and keep them out of the landfill is not new. The initiative began 10 years ago in Amsterdam when a young woman, Martine Postma, was troubled by the amount of trash that was filling landfills. Instead of throwing broken items away, she started a movement in the lobby of her local cinema where handy neighbors would fix broken items at regularly scheduled events. Word of mouth spread the idea and soon Repair Cafés were popping up around Amsterdam, then The Netherlands, and around Europe. Now there are close to 2000 worldwide. Learn more about the Repair Café Foundation.
When the movement came to the US the first Repair Café was held in Palo Alto. One of our Central Coast residents lived nearby and was committed to living as sustainably as possible, She latched onto the Repair Café philosophy quickly and, over the course of several sessions, had a lamp, fan, vacuum cleaner, blender, and necklace repaired and her garden pruners sharpened many times.
But perhaps the most benefit to her was engaging with her neighbors as they awaited the invitation to meet their 'Fixer' and then spending time with a volunteer who invariably taught her something about the item she'd brought to be evaluated. Whether it was how to pry apart a vacuum cleaner or how to rewire a lamp, it inspired her to look at broken stuff around home with a new perspective. She loved just visiting the Palo Alto Repair Café because the vibe was so electric. This short video of a 2016 event gives you a sense of the energy and fun at their events.
A small group of Central Coast residents, concerned about the unsustainable amount of waste being generated, decided to try to counter the habit of tossing stuff away instead of repairing and reusing it. Five Cities Repair Café was born. Mentored by the Palo Alto Repair Café founder, Peter Skinner, organizational support was provided by the Repair Café Foundation.
It only took a few months to gather 42 pioneers who repaired small appliances, lamps, cameras, computers, tablets, jewelry, clothing, bikes, toys, and our tool sharpening station was busy non-stop. The support team provided organization, hospitality, refreshments, and outreach.