Good vibes, great turnout for debut Repair Cafe

A report from ZWS coordinator Wendy O’Connor, who organized our first Repair Cafe with Bernie Klassen

“If you could harness all the positive energy and good vibrations in the room at the Repair Cafe, I’m sure it would have powered my sewing machine.  Once again, the people of Sooke fill me with joy.  A call was put out by Zero Waste Sooke on social media that brought out volunteers of all ages, each one eager to help in some way, from the fixers to the water boy (who did much more than that).

A heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers that helped make this event so special. Check out the photo gallery here

You could hear Elgin’s drill, or the thud of a chair leg returning to it’s snug socket, the clacking of knitting needles as Paula and Sarah waited for customers to bring them their darning or woolen mending.  Garrath working his magic over kids as they raptly watched him pull apart their parents mixer and then get it to work again.  Garrath’s dad Chris worked cheerfully beside him on other electrical or small engine repairs.  Jeremy from Cast Iron Farm was busy getting radios and clocks working again, while outside the Russell family provided a group effort in getting bicycles into better running shape than how they came in.  At a station beside them Forest worked with kids at helping them use tools to assemble mini bat houses for them to take home.

Nick and Triston from the EMCS Robotics team fielded questions on the 3D printer they had set up and running, Marion gave a great little workshop on how to save tons of money while taking care of your probiotic health in the making of homemade kombucha.  Bernie came up with an awesome design of a raised fist holding a screwdriver — “DIY or Die” is the theme — and was silkscreening  t-shirts that people brought along. 

Sookies brought the sunshine in through the door with them along with their broken items. The day was a huge success, 28 people filled out registration forms, but we estimate that about 40 people brought multiple items for repair.  At least 21 items were repaired and kept out of the landfill. The list included several chairs, a chainsaw, sweat pants, hairdryer, picture frame, purse, electric drill, alarm clocks, pressure cooker, two lamps and a steady series of bikes. Inevitably, some items couldn’t be repaired, but others were diagnosed for further work. 


There are over 1300 Repairs Cafes throughout the world today, and more being added each month. This is a gathering movement of people wanting manufacturers to build better products that last longer, and are repairable, and of people recapturing the skills of their parents and grandparents.

I would love to see more senior citizens sharing their skills with us at the next Repair Cafe Sooke!  Coming to you again in October.”

Zero Waste Sooke is a working group of Transition Sooke, both are always on the lookout for more volunteers or team members. If you’re interested in helping Sooke become a more sustainable community, please get in touch via and/or

Sooke’s First Repair Cafe

Bring your tired, your huddled, your broken masses* of stuff to the Sooke Community Hall on Saturday, May 27 as we kickstart what we intend to be a Repair Cafe tradition in Sooke.

Local volunteer repair experts will gather downstairs at the hall that day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Their mission: To ensure that as many malfunctioning local household items as possible are repaired and returned to productive use. Bonus: The service is free of charge.

The family friendly event welcomes everyone in town to bring items for repair. Anything that is broken is fair game — lamps, hair dryers, clothes, electronic appliances, furniture, bikes, toys, teapots and crockery included. No guarantees, but more than likely these items can be repaired by the specialists. And if not, well, no harm, no foul, no cost in making the effort.

“We trash mountains of stuff on this planet and it’s got to stop,” says our Wendy O’Connor. “Many people have forgotten that they can have things repaired or have been convinced by manufacturers that it’s somehow easier to buy the latest, greatest models. These cafes are a fantastic reminder that we can maintain our possessions over the long term.”

Volunteers confirmed so far include Wendy and Paula Johanson (fabrics), Bernie Klassen and Elgin Ambrose (wood products), Garrath Morgan and his dad Chris (small appliances), and Cast Iron Farm‘s Jeremy Newell.

Additional volunteer fixers are welcome! If you’d like to participate in this cafe or a future one, please check in with our team leads Bernie and Wendy at

Other attractions on May 27: “Community Mike” Russell and his 10-year-old son Kasian will host bike repair clinics for adults and kids respectively. Marion Pettinger will demonstrate how to create healthy batches of kombucha. Bernie will demonstrate silk-screening techniques. And Triston Line from the EMCS Robotics team (and the EMCS Society Programs’ Makerspace work group) will introduce 3D printing.

There will also be a fun work station where youngsters can safely participate in building their own takeaway bat houses. As the Habitat Aquisition Trust has noted, bat populations on southern Vancouver Island are in decline for a variety of reasons and they need our help desperately.

Repair Cafes have become increasingly popular around the world since the first was held in Amsterdam in 2009. They now take place regularly in Victoria and occasionally elsewhere on Vancouver Island.  This will be the debut cafe in Sooke. Operating with a license from Repair Cafe International, ZWS is also planning a follow-up at the Makerspace once it opens at EMCS in the fall. 

O’Connor notes that the cafes promote skill training as experts share their know-how with those keen to learn. “It’s an ongoing learning process for everyone involved,” she says. “If you have nothing to repair, you’re still welcome to drop in, check things out and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Better still, you might be handy enough that you can help out with someone else’s repair job!”

Repair Cafes elsewhere are known for creating community connections as strangers become friends. “If you repair a bike, a CD player or a pair of trousers together with another resident, you look at that person in a new light when next you run into them on the street,” explains Wendy.

It almost goes without saying that repairing items rather than junking them saves money and resources while also minimizing the CO2 emissions that result from the manufacturing their replacements. “But above all,” says Wendy, “we just want to show how much fun repairing things can be and how easy it often is.”

*”masses of stuff” … this is a pun and paraphrase of a famous line etched onto the Statue of Liberty. You’re welcome to bring a selection of malfunctioning items that you can carry with you — no large appliances or automobiles, please. (yes, someone asked!) We’ll operate on a first-come, first-served basis, one item at a time.  You’ll be greeted at the door, assigned a number putting you in the queue for the appropriate work station. Coffee, tea, baked goods and some healthy snacks will be available by small donation.  You’re welcome to gather around our fixers as they work, picking up valuable insights into DIY repairs in the process. We’ll also have a table of repair how-to books to browse. And by all means say hello to whoever’s in your proximity and get to know your fellow Sookies! 🙂 

Earth Day Cleanup in Sooke

The weather is warming up (at last) and blossoms & buds are bursting out all over, so it’s a perfect time to give our town a thorough spring clean.

In honour of Earth Day 2017, we’re organizing a community cleanup of roadsides, ditches, green spaces and playgrounds on the morning and early afternoon of Saturday, April 22.

Please email if you’d like to volunteer for an hour or more as part a neighbourhood litter-busting team. Sifu Moonfist and our crew of Zero Wastrels will be pleased to welcome one and all. Gloves and bags will be supplied, and you’ll walk away with a renewed sense of pride in our amazing seaside town.

Bonus: This is a family friendly event and kids can get busy with special litter scavenger hunts created in the spirit of this year’s Earth Day theme, namely “Earth Play,” a call for everyone to unplug and enjoy outdoor activities.

Our sincere hat-tips to the District of Sooke and the CRD for the funding support. Learn more at the ZWS Facebook page.


Winter 2016 Update

Clean-ups, surveys, meetings + a few ideas for a merry Zero Waste Christmas

Busy times for the Zero Waste Sooke team.  Our Wendy O’Connor, Jo Phillips and Jeff Bateman presented the “Talk Trash” Open Space report to District of Sooke council last month, in the process identifying three requests for municipal action: i) Staff investigation of the possibilities for a full-service Resource Recovery Centre in Sooke; ii) A plastic reduction and/or ban-the-bag initiative; and iii) the installation of drinking water fountains in key spots around town. We were pleased with the response, and are excited to see how things develop (while also doing our part to move these ideas forward as best we can and keep them on the District’s radar).

On the plastic front, Jo has been surveying Sooke retailers for their thoughts on a possible local ban-the-bag bylaw. Chain outlets couldn’t comment given that major decisions of this kind are made in head office, however a number of locally owned retailers (including Home Hardware, Village Foods and A Sea of Bloom) would favour a ban on single-use plastic bags provided it applied to all retailers in the District. Given that it has a sister store in Langford, Western Foods would like to see a CRD-wide ban, while several retailers are fine with the status quo. A key piece in this process is public education, and ZWS designer Zach Ogilvie is now working on BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) signage that could be hung outside Sooke stores.


October started with our second (maybe annual considering how much fun it is) ProjectServe day of volunteerism in Sooke. We again welcomed a squad of University of Victoria students to town for a roadside clean-up that netted ten bags of litter, some large items tossed into the Wadams Way forest and countless cigarette butts; special thanks to Sifu Moonfist and the District’s Jessica Boquist (back row right in this gleeful photo) and Laura Hooper for their help. After lunch, we escorted our volunteers to Sunriver Community Garden for a different but no less essential kind of clean-up.

At our request, Mayor Maja Tait declared the week of Oct. 17 “Waste Reduction Week in Sooke.”  Wendy worked with staff and students at John Muir Elementary School to set up a litter-less lunch and a waste audit.  And at that week’s regular Zero Waste meet-up at the Sooke library, she demoed the Queen of Green laundry soap recipe. It’s simple and effective, no Borax is involved and the cost is just seven cents a load.

Looking ahead, the November 17 meeting at the library will feature a presentation on electronics reuse and recycling by Triston Line, a Grade 12 EMCS student involved with the school’s award-winning Robotics team.  And at a zero-waste Christmas workshop at the library on Dec. 14 (6-7 p.m.), Wendy will demo a Japanese practice known as “furoshiki” that allows you to wrap objects of various shapes and sizes in a single piece of cloth. No need at all for glittery, glitzy throwaway gift paper.

As ever, ZWS events are free of charge and everyone with an interest in turning Sooke into a model zero waste community is most welcome to attend. Please join us on the third Wednesday of almost (check our Facebook page for updates) every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Sooke library (thank you, Adrienne Wass). Nearly two years since our first meeting, we’re making encouraging progress. With more community interest and volunteer support, we’re excited to explore other initiatives and directions in the year ahead (for instance, we’d like to follow the lead of the Otter Point, Shirley and Jordan River Resident and Ratepayers Association, which has done some awesome work this year in posting signs and cleaning-up notorious illegal dumping spots in their region). Thank you Debb, Bill, Brenda, Marika, Rosemary, Meg and other good Sooke region neighbours for the effort and inspiration.