“When I moved here from Spain six years ago, I could not find a place to repair smaller household things (like toasters),” says Evanston Public Library Branch Assistant Bea Echeverria. It seemed no one had the interest, time or skills to tackle it. The system seems to promote tossing versus fixing. I wanted to help change that.”
That was the germination of Echeverria’s idea for the Repair Café in 2018 – two years before she even joined the Library staff. An idea borrowed from the Dutch, Repair Café happens every other Tuesday at the Robert Crown Community Center. Repair volunteers try to fix everything from small appliances to electronics and/or diagnose and recommend next steps and spare parts. Repairable items also include clothing and textiles, jewelry and bikes.
The benefits of the program include keeping material out of landfills, promoting collaboration, skill-sharing, and community self-reliance. It also supports the City of Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan.
EPL’s larger Saturday Repair Cafes, which include our full range of repairs including bike and electronics repair, happen monthly. The next Saturday Repair Cafe is Dec. 10.
The Tuesday Repair Cafe is a weekly event that only offers small appliance, jewelry and mending/sewing, but has longer timeslots to allow for more in-depth repair work. The next Tuesday Repair Cafe is Dec. 13.
The roots of Echeverria’s conservationism might come from her tendencies as a child to protect all creatures great and small.
“My mom always called me St. Francis of Assisi because I was always trying to save animals,” she says. “I didn’t realize I was an environmentalist until I came here. I became an activist by default. That is why I co-founded the D65 Climate Actions Group in 2017 and joined Citizens’ Greener Evanston in 2018.”
Echeverria has also facilitated workshops for Main-Dempster Mile and Rotary International.
After receiving the Resilient Communities: How Libraries Respond to Climate Change Grant, Echeverria decided to start the Resilient Communities Series, focusing on the intersections of climate change, race, gender, community and activism.
Interested in keeping EPL a leader in climate-related programming, Echeverria created the Going Green Series. Much of this series’ programming focuses on climate action – presentations, workshops and other events that promote awareness and the need to take action in order to reduce our carbon footprint. Along with programming led by other staff, Echeverria’s programs support the Library’s slate of activities aimed at getting neighbors of all ages excited about being more sustainable. The programs spark a curiosity and a desire to take better care of ourselves and our planet.
From the start, Echeverria says, the Library supported her interest in promoting sustainability and climate action in her programming, and she saw this as a platform to expand impact. Running the Repair Cafe as a partnership with Citizens’ Greener Evanston, she has both the avenues and relationships to leverage.
“The value of the Repair Café is how it connects us to the intrinsic beauty of our belongings and empowers us to discover and unfold our own abilities,” she says. “We start to understand the importance of being producers (active) versus mere consumers. After attending a Repair Cafe, a participant might realize, “fixing the toaster wasn’t hard; maybe next time I’ll try to repair it myself.’”’
The Going Green Series includes these upcoming event:
- Custom Couture Bring a piece of clothing that needs updating, and we’ll teach you how to customize and embellish it. Wednesday, Dec. 7, 4-5 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
- Toy Swap Swap toys and make this holiday season more sustainable, frugal and fun! Gift wrapping available. Thursday, Dec. 8, 7-8 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
- Saturday Repair Café General household item repairs, mending/sewing, jewelry, bikes, electronics. Saturday, Dec. 10, 10-1 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
- DIY Salt Dough Ornaments Make a salt dough ornament for your winter holiday decorations. Wednesday, Dec. 14, 3-4 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
- Tuesday Repair Cafe General household item repairs and mending/sewing. Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m.-12 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
- Winter Sowing Learn why winter planting makes sense in our cold climate by creating a mini greenhouse. Supplies provided. Bring your curiosity and gardening gloves. Wednesday, Dec. 14, 6-7 p.m. at EPL’s Robert Crown Branch.
(Note: Many programs require registration. Click the links above for more information.)
So what green initiatives can we look forward to in the coming year? How about borrowing common tools from EPL’s Library of Things?
“A library of things is library 2.0,” Echeverria says. “I can borrow things from the library. I don’t need a drill, I need a hole in the wall. The drill at the library gives you that ability to make one without having to own it. It is the ultimate example of community self-reliance.”
Community partnership is part of being sustainable, she says. Personal self-reliance and interdependence with others aren’t mutually exclusive. Someone might know how to grow and cook food, or fix one’s own things, but ultimately, we depend on each other.
“We must practice reciprocity, being a part of the network of people around us,” Echeverria says. “We should be gifting the group with our skills and time while knowing we will be gifted back with whatever we need.”
Importantly, one may be able to find everything needed in his/her/their community.
Environmental issues are not going away. With Going Green Series programs like the Repair Cafe, the library plays a unique role in educating people that they can make an impact. Partnerships, ideas and participation will drive that.
“Evanston has a YES mentality,” Echeverria concludes.
Learn more about all the Library’s upcoming environmental programming at epl.org/events. Just select Environment & Ecology from the Event Type menu.