SOPHIE Unwin’s original idea was for centres where people could learn how to fix household objects; computers, furniture and textiles but now, with a submission in the works to Zero Waste Scotland for £1 million of financial support, she is ready to take her idea to the next level.

The inspiration for her idea came from living in rural Nepal for a year when she was 18 and creating no more than a dustbin of rubbish in a household of six people. In Nepal the culture was that everything was fixed, nothing was thrown away unless absolutely necessary. Why couldn’t that kind of thinking be applied to wasteful western society back home?

Unwin, UK Social Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017, has a track record behind her now. The first Remakery shop to appear was Brixton in London more than 10 years ago. When family connections brought her to Edinburgh she set up the same kind of reuse and repair venture on Leith Walk based on £60 investment and a band of loyal volunteers.

It has not been easy to get this far. It took seven years to establish the Edinburgh Remakery which now has 10 full-time employees. At times she felt like she was banging her head against a brick wall but she learned early on that if she could persevere – ironically the motto on Leith’s coat of arms – she could overcome scepticism and get ever closer to her bigger picture vision of transforming the economy.

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The next step is scaling up by creating a collaborative Remade Network, something she has been actively working on since November last year. Her vision was always about more than single projects but of a network of centres – Glasgow in the next two years hopefully, and then the world.

Building the foundations of a “repair economy” she sees as a practical solution to the current climate emergency, a proven way of doing things that can have deep-rooted implications for attitude change and future prosperity and sustainable employment. She is promoting the concept of reuse and repair education.

Unwin said: “The bid we’re working on will support the development of a permanent reuse and repair centre in Glasgow and pilot further reuse and repair centres across Scotland. It has the potential to create 1000 new jobs ultimately.

“We’re used to seeing the climate crisis as a challenge – and it is a huge challenge. We can’t go on consuming and producing goods in the old extractive way without consequences. But what if we invested instead in a regenerative economy and saw it as an opportunity to revive local high streets and create new jobs – including in rural economies. We need to bring mending and fixing back into the mainstream with a focus on technology as well as furniture and textiles and bring it up to date for the modern age.”

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She has been consulting widely and finding support to back her pitch for financial backing to maintain the momentum of the reuse and repair idea.

Sarah MacLean of Barra and Vatersay Community Development Trust said: “So many community projects are run on volunteers. We’d love to see a project that would generate employment and cut down on waste being transported up to Stornoway.”

At Highlands and Islands Enterprise Diane Duncan, head of low carbon, said: “In the Highlands and Islands region we recognise that this project could have significant social benefits and could be part of our programme of work to support youth employment migration, and contribute to more ambitious climate action and regenerate high streets in towns.”