Joel Newman, a recent PNCA graduate came to me about 2 years to chat about needs in the reuse arena. We talked about the wild world of combating obsolescence and he settled his interests towards repair. I couldn't be happier to see the fruits of his labors with his final thesis. At http://www.portlandrepairfinder.com you will see the beginnings of a comprehensive directory of repair resources. As you can see in the graphic below, the number of people with repair skills across material or product has plummeted. Grandpa who knew how to fix the radio isn't around anymore either. It's like dying languages, once the people that know how to fix things pass away, there goes whole worlds of skills. But this project is a happy story about the revival of the fixers, about connecting those who understand the value of materials and want their stuff fixed. So if you or someone you know like to know how to fix stuff, or want to continue the lifespan of your gear, please support local people who keep things going and add your handy dandy name to the list if you are one of the lucky ones who learned a repair skill. I've decided to take steps to get better at sewing and welding so I have something to bring to the table.
I'm noticing a lot more businesses moving into this direction by contracting with other businesses or vendors to fix their product or take it and fix it to resell in a different market. More blogs on this soon.
It's getting easier to give a damn people! Thanks be to those that create systems to make it easier for the rest of us.
Mindo Lago is a project of ecological restoration, an event space, and a hotel in Mindo, Ecuador, a town two hours northwest of Quito. Mindo Lago began as a project to recover native species of amphibians since they are considered to be nature´s thermometer. They are indicator species because their presence is a sign of ecological health due to their sensitivity to climate change and pollution. Twelve years ago, the land stewards built ponds, planted native water and land plants, and ensured that the lands was free from toxic chemicals and protected against human encroachment. This work has resulted in a haven for frogs, toads, howler monkeys, insects, birds and the plants and ponds that make them feel at home.. The response is so overwhelmingly beautiful and healthy, that people show up for nightly "Frog Concerts" whereby the frogs and toads will promptly begin their songs at 6:30pm. The songs vary depending on species, season, and weather, but what is obvious is that the resident amphibians are numerous. Since the project began 40 species of native amphibians call Mindo Lago home. At the Frog concert guests are served a small glass of wine, are given a introduction to the mission and work of the organization to restore and protect amphibians, and then go an a tour to see frogs, toads, spiders, birds, and biolumenesent micro bacteria.
The work and vision of Mindo Lago shows that nature can heal herself with proper stewardship, and native plants, water, and respectful toxic free care. Mindo Lago is a perfect example of design for restoration and the incredible aliveness and health that arrives as a result. To support the protect the caretakers of the land began to slowly create a hotel surronding the lake for people to learn, stay, and enjoy the truly revitalizing places in Ecuador. How do we know that? The diversity of creatures, especially the ecologically sensitive amphibians show up to stay and show up to sing. For more information check out: http://mindolago.com.ec/en/.
Upcycled Is Not An Excuse for Low Quality
Upcycling is gaining popularity, especially for young millennial women. I'm not a millennial, but I have worked with upsizing artisans and artists for 7 years now and have watched the trend develop here in Portland, OR. What I have noticed is that this isn't a new concept, my grandmother who suffered through the depression reused, repaired and remade everything, nothing was wasted. Incidentally, the materials she had to work with 60 years ago were of a higher quality. The rubber gloves she cut up and used as rubber bands, they are probably still elastic. I bring this up because being aware of unintended consequences is part of my training and I'm noticing a trap door and that is manufacturers using upcycling as an excuse for making low-quality products. Beware that buying poor quality goods, that won't last and that require energy to make, or even remake in this case and fall apart is not helping the planet of the circular economy. Upcycling as an ethos is about creative reuse that adds value and quality and says, "I'm not going to waste the energy that was put into this material, I'm going to remake it into something else that is useful and will last". Upcycling the trend might be making tennis shoes from plastic waste, but are those tennis shoes going to last or end up as waste faster than if another renewable resource was chosen.
Is it upcycling for energy conservation and supporting artisans or is it crappy quality but upcycling trendy? I'm aware of the benefits of the popularity of upcycling especially for the artists I work with and a few of my own designs. I want to be clear that as larger companies jump on board choose to support the ones that have an end of use programs that recycle or reuse the materials and check out the longevity of the product they are creating. If it lasts half as long please complain to them. Seeing ecological sensibilities coopted for selling trends is an opportunity to hold companies accountable for their perceived ethics. The companies making quality items that will last are as important to support as those exploring upcycling. Let your inner depression surviving grandmother help you make the best decision and call out green washers selling poor design, quality, and false fronts under the guise of ecologically conscious. They are asking to actually be who they proport to be.
Artist Emily J. Pratt