St Albans District Fixers first event hailed as an unqualified success

All Saints’ church hall in Harpenden was a hive of activity last Saturday (12 February 2022) when the church hosted the first Repair Fair organised by the recently formed St Albans District Fixers. Some 40 attendees brought all manner of electrical and electronic goods including toasters, lamps, audio equipment, kitchen items and laptops  on which a skilled band of 8 amateur fixers worked their magic. A good number of items were fixed, to the delight of their owners, or declared fixable with a little more work.

The results were fed into the “Fixometer” maintained by The Restart Project. This indicates that 21kg of e-waste may have been averted as well as 225kg of CO2-equivalent emissions in the manufacture of replacement items. The equivalent of driving from Harpenden, through France to Madrid!

Bike repairs and servicing, and clothing and fabric repairs were also undertaken by other volunteers, skilled in their own fields. Meanwhile two members of the All Saints’ Catering Committee plied fixers and those awaiting a fix with teas, coffees and delicious home-made cakes.

Revd James Brown, Associate Vicar at All Saints’ commented “I was delighted that the church could host the Repair Fair. All Saints’ is committed to its EcoChurch programme and to care for God’s world, and so to bring people together for this was a real joy. Huge thanks to all the fixers, hosts, and those providing refreshments.” 

 

If the highly appreciative response of all attending on Saturday is any indicator, the success of future events organised by St Albans District Fixers is in no doubt. Plans are already underway for two events during SustFest22, one in St Albans and another in Harpenden. Meanwhile, if anyone reading this would like to share or develop their electrical and electronic fixing skills; the St Albans District Fixers would be delighted to hear from you.  To know more, look at the fixers pages on the Sustainable St Albans Website or get in touch at fixers@sustainablestalbans.org 

Easy ways to wear clothes to last

Greta Thunberg went on the cover of Vogue Scandinavia in August and called out fast fashion brands. According to the UN, the fashion industry is widely believed to be the second most polluting industry in the world, accounting for more than 20% of wastewater globally and between 8 – 10% of carbon emissions. There is huge scope to reduce our carbon emissions, simply by changing the way we shop.


This is Week 13 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This blog, by Emily Southcombe of Upcycled Living, explains why wearing clothes that last is one of the most important – and simplest – things you can do to take part in Count Us In.


One of the #CountUsIn 16 highest impact steps to reduce your carbon footprint is “wear clothes to last”, whether this is buying clothes that you know are good quality and won’t fall apart after a few wears, buying second-hand, upcycling clothes or repairing what you already have. There is a lot of talk about the solutions to climate change being expensive but buying second-hand and wearing clothes to last will only have a positive impact on your pocket!

Second-hand is on trend

Since the very first “Second Hand September” campaign, run by Oxfam in 2019, a lot has changed. Lauren Bravo’s book ‘How to Break Up with Fast Fashion’ challenged us all to stop buying clothes which have a negative impact on the environment and the workers who made them. Second-hand clothes have gone from having stigma attached to them to becoming the eco-conscious and ethical thing to do. Campaigns such as ‘Slow Fashion Season’ by Slow Fashion UK have taken off and many people pledged to buy #nonew in 2021. The first Sustainable Fashion Week took place from 11th – 19th September where the organisers curated a week of community-led action encouraging people to change their clothes buying habits to protect both the planet and garment factory workers. 

“Second-hand clothes have gone from having a stigma attached to them to becoming the eco-conscious and ethical thing to do.”

Second-hand is more sustainable

If you love clothes shopping but want to reduce your impact on the planet one of the best ways to increase the lifespan of clothes is to buy second-hand. Sites like Vinted and Depop are great for online second-hand clothes although charity shops are still the best way to see what you are buying. Equally vintage markets such as Brick Lane market have a wealth of vintage treasures. Selfridges has second-hand concessions and also sells upcycled clothes including upcycled jackets from Levis.  More locally, St Albans area companies and influencers like Knickers Models Own, Luxe Leopard Lifestyle, The Preloved Edit and Twenty Outfits can help you hone your second-hand style.

Repair or upcycle your clothes

Many more people are looking at upcycling and repairing clothes themselves following the success of TV’s Great British Sewing Bee and The Repair Shop. Having holes in your clothes has often been seen as embarrassing (apart from ripped denim!) but there is no reason not to repair your clothes. It’s much preferable to throwing them away.  As the saying goes, ‘the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in your wardrobe’ and in the UK there is now a national movement of stitchers who are trying to encourage people to mend clothes to make them last longer. #stitchitdontditchit is run by a group of women who organise gatherings to promote the benefits of repairing clothes. Slow Fashion UK have also started hosting stitching parties. 

“As the saying goes, “the most sustainable clothes are the ones already in your wardrobe.”

How to get started with clothes repairs

All you usually need to do a simple repair is a needle and thread. Sometimes de-bobbling with a small hand-held gadget will give an item a new lease of life. If it is a more difficult repair job, and you don’t have a sewing machine, you can always go to a local tailor such as Stitch to Fit on Holywell Hill or A&A Tailoring on Catherine Street. At the Sustainable Markets during SustFest it was great to speak to people who were mending their own clothes and upcycling unwanted second-hand fabrics. The Repair What You Wear website is a fantastic resource which has loads of tips and advice for people who have never sewn before and are looking to do a bit of repairing. They also do mending and upcycling tutorials.

Making things last longer or repairing old things obviously isn’t limited to clothes, there is so much that can be repaired or upcycled in the home. 

Photo: Upcycled top by designer Philmore Clague
Photo: Upcycled top by designer Philmore Clague

Instagram inspiration

Have a browse of some of these Instagram feeds for inspiration.

Wearing clothes to last is an easy step

The great thing about the #CountUsIn campaign is that it encourages individuals to take steps that work for them. Not everyone can commit to making the same lifestyle changes and so it is great to sign up for the steps you are able to do and then get updates on the carbon you are saving both during the Countdown to COP and afterwards.

So for your step, why not jump off the fast fashion train and, instead, wear clothes to last. There is a saying that the world doesn’t need a small number of people doing sustainability perfectly, it needs millions of people doing it imperfectly. Next time you want to buy a new item of clothing, pause and think of the alternatives – upcycling what you own or looking at pre-loved options. Just have a go!

“..buying second-hand and wearing clothes to last will only have a positive impact on you pocket!”

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Emily’s advice to help you choose the “Wear Clothes To Last” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog “Tell your politicians” by Jess Simmons.

How to Repair and Reuse

Fixing is in my blood. It comes from an insatiable curiosity about how things work, be they black holes and the Big Bang, or why things stop working, like the kitchen drawer that suddenly won’t close. Quantum physics and General Relativity are beyond me, but I sorted out the kitchen drawer after close inspection. In between there is a huge range of things, both fascinating and (often) fixable.


This is Week 9 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week’s blog, on the step ‘Repair and Reuse’, is from expert fixer, Philip le Riche, who has run countless Restart Parties, keeping hundreds of fixed items out of landfill.


Why do I love to repair things?

It all started when, still at infant school, I was given a few batteries, bulbs, and bits of wire which I quickly learned to connect together. Not many years later I progressed to a crystal set which my father and I built. I messed with electronics throughout my teens, and unsurprisingly, took a degree in Electronic Engineering. For most of my life I’ve had some electronic project or other on the go. And if anything broke, my instinct was always to try and fix it.

“…for most of my life I’ve had some electronic project or other on the go. And if anything broke, my instinct was always to try and fix it”

Why do we have such a turnover of electrical and electronic goods?

Partly it’s because many devices are no longer built to last, but built to a price. On the other hand our toaster, a wedding present in 1979, is still giving daily service after 42 years.

Another reason is that spare parts and service manuals are often unavailable or exorbitantly priced, or essential security updates are no longer available. Some manufacturers, whilst trumpeting their green credentials in fact do all they can through legal, commercial and technical means to stifle the independent repair sector.

The Right to Repair movement was born in the US out of the frustration of farmers, often of necessity very practical folk, prevented from repairing their farm machinery. Right to repair legislation is often hotly contested by manufacturers, using specious arguments about safety and quality, indeed, recent legislation in the UK has been so watered down as to have little practical effect. The Restart Project has been at the forefront of campaigning.

St Lukes Repair Fair

The Restart Project and Restart Parties

When I retired I got more heavily into fixing. Looking around for a way to usefully employ my new found freedom, I came across the Restart Project. Their mission is to fix our relationship with electronics by enabling people to fix stuff instead of throwing it away. Watch the one minute Restart Code here. Not knowing very much what to expect, I attended my first “Restart Party” in Kentish Town Community Centre and found a real buzz: members of the public with their broken electrical and electronic items, and a dedicated group of skilled amateur fixers assisting them.

I immediately caught the bug and have since attended dozens of similar events. One of the fascinations is that you never know what challenges you’re going to be faced with. Perhaps the most unusual was a dentist who brought along his machine for filling root canals! (Unfortunately it needed a new transformer which we couldn’t help him with on the spot.) 

With more familiar items we often have a good success rate.

Table lamps and headphones we can almost always fix, or suggest where to get spare fittings. Radios, cameras, TVs and monitors, battery operated toys, musical keyboards, paper shredders and small kitchen, household or garden appliances are just a few of the many and varied items we’ve had success with. We see many laptops which, with suitable attention, could still give a number of years’ service.

As well as electricals, some repair events also cater for fabrics, bikes and furniture. The same curiosity about how things are put together will take you far with these too. Though not my speciality, I was thus able to replace the zip in my gardening anorak and repair a trouser pocket! If you want to learn how to mend clothes, Sustainable St Albans has an excellent page on Sustainable Fashion to help you get started, and YouTube is your friend!

The impact of repairs

Beyond the satisfaction of fixing something and seeing the delight on the owner’s face when you’ve done so, fixing helps reduce the mountains of e-waste produced every year, and the carbon footprint of replacing all those items.

During the 2021 lockdown, as one of a group of volunteers with local charity Computer Friendly, we refurbished many donated laptops for disadvantaged children. We estimated that manufacture of new replacement devices would have generated some 88,000kg of CO2, the equivalent of driving 460,000 miles or taking 90 return transatlantic flights!

St Lukes Repair Fair

How you can learn to make repairs

You might think that all this is beyond you, but why not have a go? There are lots of resources online to help you.

Screws are there to be undone, with just a little care and maybe an egg box to keep them organised. But you will do well to get a universal screwdriver with a good range of interchangeable bits. Just remember to unplug a mains device before starting, then be prepared to be amazed at what you find inside!

For the know-how, the Internet is your friend. Search for the make and model of your device with the problem appended, e.g. “disassembly” or “replace battery”. For hints and tips on a wide range of types of device, as well as basic theory, the Restart Wiki assumes no prior knowledge and provides a wealth of information.

Restart Parties and Repair Cafés are an excellent way of learning about repair and gaining confidence as well as getting your stuff fixed. Though suspended during the pandemic, they are held by various easily reached groups in London and one in Bedford, with more are springing up. Upcoming events are advertised by The Restart Project.  To start one locally we mainly need a small but keen group to organise it. Could that be you? Fixers can be found.

What individuals can do

  • Learn to make simple repairs.
  • Support the repair sector whenever you can. It provides good jobs as well as helping save the planet. Search online.
  • Offer your old smartphone, tablet or laptop on eBay, Freegle or Freecycle, even if broken, instead of leaving it in the bottom of a cupboard. But wipe your personal data first.
  • Consider buying independently but reliably refurbished devices rather than new, and save money! Do you really need the very latest model?
  • Recycle your devices, but only as a last resort. Recovering scarce raw materials can be difficult and expensive, but is better than landfill.

Remember every item you repair or reuse is progress towards a more sustainable future, and don’t forget to spread the word.

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Philip’s inspiring advice to choose the “Repair and Reuse” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on “dialing it down” by Ian Yenney.

10 Easy Ways to Reduce Food Waste

I set myself a goal two years ago to reduce the food I waste. Since then, I’ve reduced my own food bill by £600 a year.


This is Week 3 of our #CountdowntoCOP campaign, encouraging people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps.  We will have a guest blog each week until November’s UK-hosted COP, focusing on one of these 16 steps.

This week, Caroline Wilson reveals how she has both saved money and reduced her carbon footprint by reducing her food waste. Caroline is a self-confessed foodie and food waste hero.  She runs the Living Off the Cupboard Facebook Group, inspired by her Mum’s ability to feed the family with what was already in the cupboard. Join her group here.


Food production accounts for 30% of greenhouse gases but as much as a third of food is wasted in the supply chain or by households.  In the UK, 70% of this waste is down to us, the consumer (Wrap, 2020) with the average household wasting £700 of food each year.

Reducing your food waste is such a great first step to pledge to do when trying to cut your carbon footprint. Food is something we prepare every day so if we think a bit more about the food we buy and use up each day, we can watch the money we save mount up as we help the planet. Here’s how:

Photo: Caroline Wilson. Vegan sausage rolls saved using the Too Good to Go Food App; salad, avocado and mango saved at the Sparks Community Café.

1. Watch what you waste

Figure out what you are wasting and why. Too tired to cook? Serving too much?  Bought something you already have? Since the introduction of kerbside collections, consumers have become more aware of their waste (Wrap, 2020). Make a note of what you put in your caddy and why. I realized that I served up more food than my daughter could eat. Solution, just serve smaller portions. 

2. Take Some Shelfies

Do you buy things you already have? Take a written audit, or some pictures on your mobile, particularly of the perishables.  Did you know that the most wasted foods are bread, potatoes and salad? – have a particular look out for those. Refer to the photos on your phone when you shop.

3. Run it Down 

Jot down ideas for meals you could make with what you already have in the house and only buy essentials until you have run your supplies down.  The first month I did this, I spent just £20 on groceries, followed by £90 the next month (it was £185 a month before).

4. Cobble It Together

Now for the fun! Start to cobble all those ingredients together.  Google new recipes or follow Danielle from the Cobbled Kitchen who teaches the lost art of cooking from scratch without a recipe.  Or join a group, where you can swap ideas. You’ll be amazed at what you can conjure up.

Vegetables from Oddbox, who save veg that supermarkets have rejected. You can try it with £10 off your first order via my referral link here. Photo: Caroline Wilson.

5. Soup it Up

Are you turning your veggie box into expensive compost?  Then make soup.  Even old veggies can be very forgiving in soup.   It’ll keep for days in the fridge or freeze it for when you need a quick lunch option.  For inspiration visit the BBC Good Food website.

6. Who Doesn’t Like Tupperware?

An excusable use of plastic, a good range of plastic storage containers helps save all those scraps – that quarter of a tin of tomatoes, half an onion, opened cheese, and leftovers. Great for storing in fridge or freezer and reusable for years.

7. Your Freezer is Your Best Friend

Keep as little in your fridge as possible.  Freeze what you can and defrost at the point you need it.  Bread is the number one wasted food (240 million slices a year) followed by milk, and yet both freeze really well.   You can freeze pretty much anything.  Check out the Good Housekeeping Guide.

8. Get Appy

Rescue food from the supply chain using the Too Good To Go App. Buy a Magic Bag of surprise food close to its sell-by-date from grocery stores, restaurants and cafes, at about a quarter to a third of its original cost, or sometimes even better. 

Also, check out the Olio app where you can both share with, and rescue food from, your neighbours.

Food from a Magic Bag from Simply Fresh Hatfield using the Too Good to Go App.  Some of the dishes have been a real treat! Photo: Caroline Wilson.

9. Get Social

Find local social enterprises joining the movement to reduce food waste including Community Fridges, Food Schemes, and Community Cafes.  For example, you can become Bread Buddy for the Sopwell Community Trust, redistributing bread in the community (I seriously don’t think I’ll ever have to buy bread again). 

The Sparks Community Café in Hatfield often rescues food close to its sell-by-date from supermarkets such as Waitrose, which can then be bought on a “pay what you can” basis, and sometimes is free.

10. Bin It (in the right bin!)

If you really have to bin it, follow your council’s advice for disposing of food waste: use your kerbside food waste caddy if you get one or your council compost bin if instructed to by your council. Don’t put the food into landfill. (When food rots in landfill, it releases harmful greenhouse gasses). Even better, start your own compost heap. There’s nothing quite like homemade compost 😊.  And if you can keep that kerbside caddy spotlessly clean – you know you are a real food waste hero!

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

Join in today and use Caroline’s inspiring advice to choose the “Cut Food Waste” Step as your pledge.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26. Each blog will focus on one of the 16 steps. Look out for next week’s blog on walking and cycling more by Susheel Rao.

We’re in – are you? make the changes that matter in the #Countdown To COP

We're in! - are you?  Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.
We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

#CountdownToCOP will show you how you can take steps in your life to make a big difference to our planet. Join us over the next 16 weeks as we encourage St Albans District to make the changes that matter and protect what you love.


It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Visit the St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.


In November this year, the UK will host COP26, the international conference where countries will agree the next steps on tackling climate change.  Sustainable St Albans is linking with environmental groups and volunteers across the district to encourage ordinary residents like YOU to take your own steps too. It’s called #CountdownToCOP.


In the build up to the COP26 conference, we are encouraging people across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages to take your own steps to reduce your carbon pollution using the Count Us In framework.  These 16 steps have been selected based on what is most effective at reducing your personal carbon pollution, their power to influence leaders and their ability to involve everyone. 

Wearing clothes that will last or speaking up at work are just two of the 16 most effective things you can do to reduce carbon pollution and encourage others to do the same. These are both Count Us In steps. From now till November, in the #CountdownToCOP, we will feature one of these steps each week. We will share resources to help you take each step, and inspiration from others who have.  Watch out for our blogs and social media posts with more information each week.

The 16 highest impact steps, to cut your carbon and inspire others to do the same.

“Wearing clothes that will last or speaking up at work are two of the 16 most effective things you can do to reduce carbon pollution.”

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

You can choose whether to appear on the St Albans District Count Us In page with your full name, your first name or anonymously.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 


Which of the 16 highest impact steps will you commit to do?

Choose something you know is realistic, that you can do in the next few weeks:

  • Food
    • Cut food waste – Reduce the amount of food that is wasted or thrown away in your home.
    • Eat more plants – Reduce the amount of meat in your weekly diet.
    • Eat seasonal – Eat food produced at its natural time of the year.
  • Travel
    • Fly less – Reduce your plane travel to dramatically cut your carbon pollution.
    • Walk and cycle more – Travel by bike or foot wherever you can.
    • Drive Electric – Make your next car purchase an electric vehicle.
  • Home
    • Insulate Your Home – Install or enhance the loft insulation in your home.
    • Switch your energy – Move your home to a green energy supplier.
    • Get some solar – Install solar panels to generate energy for your home.
    • Dial it down – Turn down the heating in your home by a degree or more.
  • Lifestyle
    • Wear Clothes to last Buy fewer new clothes and wear them for longer.
    • Green your money – Choose financial institutions and funds that invest responsibly.
    • Repair and reuse – Repair your belongings rather than buying new.
  • Voice
    • Tell your politicians – Ask politicians to act or invest in infrastructure to support a step.
    • Speak up at work – Come together with colleagues to make change at a bigger scale.
    • Talk to friends – Start a conversation about Count Us In and encourage others to take a step.

“… all we need to do is pick a step, and give it a try.”


Sustainable St Albans will help you take your first step

For example, week one is all about “Talking to Friends” and you can find resources to help you here, including our free Climate Conversation pack.

The mission of Count Us In is to inspire one billion citizens to take a step.  Which step will you take? Explore the St Albans District Count Us In page now and take part in the #CountdownToCOP.