Lessons from Bright Sparks

How it began

How it worked

  1. Donate. People donated their unwanted or broken appliances to us at Bright Sparks HQ or 14 donation points throughout Melbourne. Some of these items were given new life and resold or donated to people in need. Broken items were recycled.
  2. Repair. We offered a paid repair service for people who wanted their appliances fixed.
  3. Buy: We sold good-as-new kitchen appliances, household appliances and electronics. All appliances were tested for function and safety (aka ‘test and tag’).

Our predictions

Monsieur Turtle

Our first week

Outside Bright Sparks HQ
The video for our crowdfunding campaign, handmade with love on a budget of $3.50

A whole lotta love

Seen and heard

67 things donated by one person (everything but the televisions, which were part of our retail counter). Yikes.
  • the drop-off point
  • the owner’s first name and postcode
  • item type, manufacturer and model
  • weight (kg)
  • working status (self-reported by donor: working/broken/unknown)
  • a story (optional, which could be used to describe why the item was broken or why it was donated)
  • the item’s final location (recycled, sold, etc.)
Overflowing donation bins at Northcote Library. So lovely and stressful at the same time.
Here’s what eight months of unsolicited, donated batteries look like — more than 27 kg worth. Batteries were never promoted as a Bright Sparks donation item but they arrived anyway, either by the bag-full or inside of battery-operated devices.
This is what 21 kg of remote controls looks like, in case you wondered. You can see a hint of the 836 kg of electrical cables we collected behind them.
Postcodes of Bright Sparks HQ visitors from August 2015 — April 2016
Note on the box reads: “What a great service, I hope it will continue. There is absolutely nothing like this in Tassie and I can’t bear to take this stuff to the tip. Thank you!”
A.K.A.: “This item isn’t good enough for me but it should be good enough for someone else.”

If you no longer want something, why would someone else want it?

We received quite a few notes in our donation bins.
Popasaurus, the dinosaur who vomits popcorn! Click here to see him in action.
I spent a couple of hours cleaning this juicer/blender with a toothbrush, photographing it and listing it on eBay because it was such a divine vintage appliance and needed to be loved again. It sold for $15.50.

The final countdown

Not volunteers.

Lessons from Bright Sparks 1.0

  1. Cupboard Procrastination Syndrome is real.
    I made up a funny term called Cupboard Procrastination Syndrome, referring to people who stored broken appliances in their cupboards because they didn’t know what to do with them. The Age ran with it. And then it seemed everyone we spoke to actually suffered from this disease I’d invented!
  2. Location, shmocation. (If we’d been in a high-traffic location like we wanted, I might be dead from exhaustion.)
  3. Sales costs outweighed sales revenue.
  4. Recycling e-waste is a huge challenge.
  5. The people who loved us weren’t all paying customers.

Why I am so @#$%@! thankful we ran a pilot

How Bright Sparks will evolve

More repairs

Less recycling

Less time spent on reuse

No collections

Bright Sparks 2.0: welcome to Tinker Town

“Mayor of Tinker Town” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
  • Repair Town, a one-stop shop where you could get just about anything repaired — electrical appliances, shoes, clothing, bicycles, furniture, etc.
  • Repair School — non-electrical repair classes that might focus on fixing bicycles, books, clothing, garden tools, jewellery, furniture, ceramics, food or even your love life (register here if you’re interested in teaching)
  • Repair supplies for sale — tools and materials to help you fix your own stuff
  • An appliance hiring library — offering kitchen appliances, retro games consoles (e.g. Atari 2600), power tools, karaoke machines and anything else you might want to use once or twice but don’t need to store in your home all year

How you can help

We need a location

We’ll need funding

Get involved

Create less e-waste

Update

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is trying to save the planet (stylishly). erinlewisfitzgerald.com | modernmending.com

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