Repair Cafes are the international environmental movement that, as of the first week of Semester 2, are hitting the University of Canberra grounds every Wednesday.

Don’t get too stuck on the idea of the ‘café’ part of the title, though. The goal of this Repair Café is not to compete with Coffee Grounds for the best pour or to challenge Oscar’s on who does a better pastry. The options are simple: be greeted with a cup of coffee or tea and some light snacks.

The objective of a Repair Café is for skilled volunteers to get together with community members who have some items that need repairing. While this is a social event as well as an opportunity to take advantage of a freebie and an unconditional favour from a stranger, it’s also an attempt to keep almost perfectly good items – aside from a small hole in a pair of jeans or a pair of glasses that needs a screw tightened – from ending up in landfill.

The UC Repair Café is brought to our Bruce campus by PhD student, Monica Andrew, who’s research focus is clothing and textile sustainability.

Sally Burford (left) and Monica Andrew (right) at the UC Repair Cafe launch 08/08/18.

Repair Cafes first started in 2009 in Amsterdam and now there is over 1,300 worldwide. For Ms Andrew, her passion for the movement started with the Canberra Environment Centre’s once a month Repair Cafe.

“People are losing skills to repair things. Through a Repair Café, we can share those skills and also build a more cohesive society,” Ms Andrew said.

While the UC Repair Café is a hobby of Ms Andrews, she will also use the opportunity to perform primary research on the potential contribution of needle craft skills to clothing and textile sustainability.

“When people come along to the café, if they choose to participate in the research, I will interview them while we mend their clothes and learn about mending at the same time,” said Ms Andrew.

Canberra is home to people with some of the highest disposable incomes in Australia, but the ACT also has one of the most ambitious waste management targets in the country.

The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Design, Professor Sally Burford, helped launch the café and said that the event is a fascinating space that brings up lots of community dimensions and perspectives.

“We’ve got students here that don’t earn a lot of money, so this is a great initiative for them. We’ve got our concern for the environment and the landfill from people who actually throw their clothes in the bin is enormous. We’ve got lots of concerns for our society intersecting in this café,” said Professor Burford.

Clothing and textile waste is a particular issue of landfill as synthetic fabrics such as polyester taking up to 200 years to break down.

UC Repair Cafe cake.

Ms Andrew says that while it’s a benefit to the whole society to keep things out of landfill, the Repair Café will also benefit the individuals that participate.

“They are going to save money on clothes, but I also hope that they are going to learn a good basic skill that will last them for the rest of their lives.

For those that already do have those skills, to come along and share them with others and that will contribute to a cohesive society and community-building on campus,” said Ms Andrew.

Ms Andrew also encouraged people to repurpose old clothing that won’t be worn anymore and pointed to some pillows she had made from a pair of jeans as an example.

This Wednesday, the 15th of August, the Repair Cafe will be teaming up with a new SRC initiative, HowToAdult101, by leading a How to Sew for Beginners masterclass. The collaboration aims to teach students invaluable skills that will not only lead to them using more sustainable methods, but save some hard earned cash in the long run.

The UC Repair Café will be held every Wednesday from 12-2pm in the UC Engage Space (Building 1, Level C) until November 28. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.