A Culture of Repair : Sophie Unwin | Sustainable : The Podcast

A Culture of Repair

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How can repair bring about sustainability?

Inspired by living in a household in Nepal which created less than a dustbin of rubbish in a year, Sophie Unwin returned to her native Brixton to co-found Remade in Brixton and then moved to Scotland and founded Remade in Edinburgh, a social enterprise which teaches repair skills and campaigns for zero waste.

Both social enterprises are rooted in their local communities and the product of many others talented people’s hard work. Sophie has a master’s degree in sustainable development from charity Forum for the Future and has also worked as a journalist, waste campaigner, business consultant, medical secretary, receptionist and doing telesales.

Sophie Unwin for Sustainable : The Podcast

Business Model

Remade in Edinburgh teaches computer repair, sewing and mending and furniture repair to help generate different income sources for business. They also repair and refurbish computers and furniture. The commitment is to making the services affordable and servicing thrown out or soon to be thrown out stuff, specifically computers and furniture and making them re-usable again.

Remade in Edinburgh runs courses to different groups – from individuals to organisations.  Their prices vary per audience and according to people’s budgets.

Most people who go for servicing the laptop are told a prohibitive price or told to upgrade. With Remade in Edinburgh, repair is the ultimate solution as opposed to buying and Sophie’s team has had a whopping 99% success rate so far in repairing laptops.

Going by experience, most laptops need simple fixes that not only repairs the devices but also makes them last for another 3-4 years.

Statistics reveal that repair creates 10 times as many jobs as recycling. Remade in Edinburgh itself is a proof of this, having gone from a 3-man to a 10-man organization in the last year.

The Remade in Edinburgh is a replicable business model. It is built on the idea of a circular economy and creates jobs for the local community.

Collaboration

Remade in Edinburgh created partnerships with other organisations, namely the Edinburgh City Council and a charity called Chive, that works with homeless people. The partnerships have been a win-win scenario with everyone noticing the efficiency gain.

The benefits were extended to everyone, especially the poor people who needed help the most. The collaborations made by Remade in Edinburgh have included the socially and traditionally excluded like the homeless into the main stream of the society and community.

Big Vision

To continue to form collaborations with organisations that are interested in working with Remade, and to grow “Remakery”.

Sophie’s aim is to see a Remakery in every city in the UK.

Impact on Daily Life

The biggest impact for Sophie, personally, has been the sense of community running through her work and her everyday life. It makes her feel more connected with the people and projects she is working on. This, in turn, has made her happier overall.

On a deeper personal level, her dad’s early death, and her stay in the beautiful highlands of Nepal taught her to find more meaning and purpose in everyday life.  This also taught her the possibility of creating more balance in the environment surrounding us.

Nature Memory

Sophie’s stay in the highlands of rural Nepal.  She lived surrounded by cardamom trees in the middle of a pine forest.  Working as a teacher in the tiny community, resources were shared.  Repair was a way of life.  This influenced the person she has become and formed the core of the work she does today.

Sophie Most Admires

A friend of hers who is a gardener.  She lives a simple life, connected to the soil, taking pleasure in her work, life and friends.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP.

Resources Recommended

Ifixit.com – a website with free guides and useful statistics on repair
Zero Waste Scotland
Greenpeace
St. Zavier’s NGO
Fairphone

We’re not saying it has to be behaviour change, we’re saying it has to be culture change. We need to change the whole way we structure things to make it possible to be able to repair rather than to making it the last resort. Let’s make it the first resort.Sophie Unwin
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