Repair Café Leads The Change!

Repair Café maintained our steady growth in 2017. The grassroots change we initiated not only resonated with many individuals, but is now being recognized by governments.

Run completely by volunteers, Repair Café set out four and a half years ago to change the throwaway culture of our society through empowering people to learn how to repair and reduce needless waste. We believed we were offering something important and unique to Toronto and we have been working hard towards these goals.

We are now glad to say that we are starting to see some lasting impact of our work after 50 full Repair Cafés. In many ways, we are really only just beginning, and we look forward to more cafés in the new year and developing more partnerships.

Our first café in 2018 will be held on January 20. We will be back at Toronto Reference Library. Click here for details. Visit the Upcoming Events page for the next cafés.

Below are highlights of 2017.

1. Growing Volunteer Team

We have built a strong, diverse team of over 100 active volunteers. They share our values and enjoy helping others. Each of them makes a valuable contribution through their roles as fixer, greeter, baker, social media specialist, photographer, or other roles that are developing as we grow. Many of our volunteers have been with us for a long time.

We offer our monthly café with a team of fixers who can fix a wide range of household items. Our fixers frequently tell us how much they enjoy the experience volunteering at the café, where they work one on one with visitors repairing items while collaborating with each other.

Below is the Albert Campbell Library Repair Café that was held in November.

The Albert Campbell Library event was our 50th monthly café!

Our bakers are an indispensable part of our team.

Sadly this year, one of our beloved bakers, Sheila, passed away. Our co-founder and organizer, Fern, told us how much her dear friend Sheila, on the left, loved Repair Café.

Sheila was an enthusiastic and devoted baker, never missing a contribution to our RCs. Since November marked our 50th full-scale event, this means she’d supplied 50 delicious home-baked goods to our appreciative crowds. Something to salute.
Every month she expressed to me her thrill and love of baking for the RC. And then, she packaged her contributions with wonderful creativity, e.g. collaged signage to label the contents of her item or a few New Yorker comics mounted on cardboard just to amuse volunteers and visitors. She was a generous all-round supporter through her unwavering interest, unsolicited financial donations and full-out love of the RC.”

We were pleased to welcome more young volunteers joining us this year.

Among them, Oleg has been supporting every big and small café since he joined us a year ago. He is always among the first group of volunteers arriving to set up and the last one leaving after cleanup is complete. He also volunteers every Sunday at our smaller weekly storefront cafes we are now holding with Toronto Tool Library.

In the video below, Oleg tells us what Repair Café means to him.

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Because this is a year-end post, we can’t resist adding another video featuring one of our fixers working her magic. Here’s Pauline in action:

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2. Increasing Waste Diversion

Throughout the year, we reached out in different neighbourhoods and offered full and mini cafés in 22 locations across Toronto. We have been tracking the numbers from the full cafés. There were real results.

  • We helped more than 800 visitors learn how to repair
  • We fixed 845 items
  • We diverted 948 items from landfill

Since we launched in 2013, we have diverted 4,072 items from landfill!

Below is our mini café held at Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church in November.










Below is our mini café at Dufferin Grove Farmers Market in September. Paul, our co-founder and fixer, is examining a broken fan that the visitor has brought in.

3. New Initiatives, Partnerships & Promotion

This year, we launched new initiatives and partnerships, and the Repair Café continues to generate positive media coverage.

  • We opened a storefront location at Toronto Tool Library on St. Clair West that is being supported by a small team of volunteers almost every Sunday.
  • We offered six events for children at Evergreen Brickworks and elementary schools.
  • We supported the Region of Peel’s first Repair Café in Brampton as well as Sheridan College’s Repair Café.
  • We provided two training workshops for volunteers, one on how to repair broken zippers and the other on how to maintain sewing machines.
  • We organized a year-end volunteer appreciation dinner in December.
  • We shared our experience and resources on how to organize a repair café with different groups, including Region of Peel, City of Oshawa, Repair Café Guelph, and most recently City of Fort Worth in Texas.
  • We participated in a study requested by City of Eugene in Oregon, US, on the common and best practices of organizing community repair events; they published their study report in the white paper below.
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  • We provided our promotion flyer in different languages as resources available to download on our website.
  • We are featured in the documentary Fixed! (produced by Cat Mills) that has been screened in different film festivals within and outside Canada (see our October post).
  • Repair Café and our volunteers have been covered by various media: Yahoo Finance, Sing Tao Daily, Canadian Living magazine, Volunteer Toronto website and Facebook page, RBC corporate publication, Pensioner; see Media Coverage page for details.

4. Broader Impact

Repair Café supports Ontario’s vision of reducing waste through building a circular economy. We spoke to a senior policy advisor from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change during his visit to one of our cafés and we subsequently submitted our comment in response to the consultation on the draft of Strategy for a Waste-free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy.

We were thrilled to see that repair and repair events are now part of Ontario’s strategy to reduce waste as the province works towards diverting more waste from landfills.

Through the work of our volunteers, we are supporting civil society and helping others do good. We have proved there are people who are able to repair items, and we are able to encourage people to counter our society’s throwaway mindset. We are building not just a community but a culture of caring and sustainability.

See you at the Repair Café!

Below is our fixer Faith helping a visitor to repair his book in a monthly café at Albion Library in October.

Below is our fixer Sera showing a young visitor how to fix his clothing item.

Videos by Lon Appleby

Photographs by Julie Trinh, Imai Madridejos, Lon Appleby and Wai Chu Cheng