NSYSU organized an international forum to celebrate the official establishment of the Southern Taiwan Repair Café Alliance and launching of its website, inviting representatives of the repair movement from southern Taiwan and the UK to share their experience and initiatives, and build a stronger connection to continue working together and ultimately establish a network of repair cafés in southern Taiwan.
Initiated in the Netherlands in 2009, the grassroots initiative of “repair cafés” is a response to the unsustainable linear model of the economy, where many products are “designed for death” and have increasingly short lifespans to make the consumers replace devices more often. The repair cafés aim at prolonging the life of electronic devices and other things with joined forces of volunteers. As many as 2100 repair cafés joined the worldwide network of repair so far and have an average repair rate of 63%. The cafés contribute to environmental sustainability by saving tons of devices that would otherwise end up on landfills, and reducing CO2 emissions, and at the same time, make consumers save money.
To realize the goal of establishing a network of repair cafés in southern Taiwan, the USR Project of NSYSU The City as Commuseum with Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology Hua-Mei Chiu as the Project’s Co-Principal Investigator, Kaohsiung First Community University, Chi-Mei Community University, and Hsin-Hwa Community College integrated their resources and the capacity of local volunteers and repairers and launched the Southern Taiwan Repair Café Alliance. The Alliance will use its social network and knowledge to establish repair cafés in the south of Taiwan in form of repair tours as well as stationary bases, while responding to two of the UN Sustainable Development Goals ‘Responsible Production and Consumption’ and ‘Partnerships revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development’.
“Social practice courses at NSYSU focus on climate change, energy transition, circular economy, and sustainability” said Associate Professor Chiu. “Repairing is obviously an important part of both the response to climate change and circular economy”. The combination of NSYSU’s courses with the practical knowledge on repairs of community colleges resulted in jointly organized repair events and related workshops, field study trips, lectures, and discussions in the community. The positive feedback from these events and inspired Chiu to propose the establishment of the Southern Taiwan Repair Café Alliance.
Professor Martin Charter – founder and director of the Centre for Sustainable Design at the University for Creative Arts in the UK, who spent 30 years working on sustainability with particular focus on electronic devices, shared his practical experience as the founder of Farnham Repair Café. He managed to establish the café as a charity organization, co-working with the university, town council and the church, which provided a free venue, and gathering practitioners with different skill sets for the work stations of the Café for clothing, electronic devices, mechanical devices, bicycles, laptops, and furniture. Charter emphasized that it is important to provide insurance for the volunteers and for the repaired electronic devices, as well as purchase testing tools to minimize the risk related to repairs. Collecting and analyzing data on the repairs can help clearly communicate the social, environmental, and economic impact of the repair café, by determining the repair rate, the emissions and money saved, as well as the weight of the devices that would otherwise end up on a landfill, said Charter. The Café also designed and launched a free carbon calculator for other cafés to use. What is more, many customers of the café got inspired to repair things by themselves as they observe the work of the volunteers.
Heads of two community colleges in southern Taiwan – long-time partners of NSYSU, presented their initiatives during the Forum. Principal Cheng-Young Chang of Chi-Mei Community College introduced the course on the repair of agricultural machines and equipment. The students – mostly farmers, bring their equipment to repair to class and learn basic principles of repair in practice, and build the community spirit. Director Chao-Nan Kuo of Hsin-Hwa Community College presented the service-learning course in form of “repair tours” that gathers students of different backgrounds to learn and share knowledge on the repairing of various everyday devices.
The website of the Southern Taiwan Repair Café Alliance includes information on upcoming events of the Alliance and reports on past events, various data, including repair events, participants, repair rate, and the total amount of equipment and emissions saved, as well as a map presenting professional repair shops in Kaohsiung.