Updating our environmental impact measurements - we need your help!

:mega: Calling all organisers, repairers, activists, data enthusiasts and anyone interested in learning about the upstream impacts of the products we buy! (hi!)

As you probably know, one of the most important features of this site is the ability to calculate the environmental impact of repairs made at community repair events; if you fix a laptop, the system will work out approximately how many kilograms of waste and CO2 you’ve diverted.

We love this feature :heart: and are thrilled that various repair groups have used this data for all kinds of things, from securing funding :pound: to recruiting and motivating volunteers :raised_hands: and more!

Yes James, we know, get to the point please :wink:

Ok, ok…

How is impact calculated now and what’s the problem?

We calculate the impact of repairs made at events using our Life Cycle Assessment data. This has served us really well since we put it together back in 2014. But things have changed a lot in the last 6 years and there are a number of issues with it:

  • Products in certain categories have undergone significant changes since the data was last updated. For example, the average laptop :laptop: is significantly lighter than it used to be
  • Some types of products we see at events aren’t represented in the LCA data, such as IoT devices and sewing machines
  • The data quality for many product categories is already fairly low even before considering whether or not the data is up to date
  • Our fundamental assumption about at 50% ‘displacement rate’ for repaired electronics and household items may not reflect recent research on the topic
  • We’re about to add support for non-electrical items, but we don’t yet have any reference data for those yet. We’ll need this before being able to estimate the impact of these repairs

While these calculations will always be estimates, we do want to make them as accurate as we can so the time has come to update this data.

A huge thanks to @Artur_Donaldson for getting the ball rolling on this - much appreciated Artur :pray:

So what’s the plan?

There are four things we’ll need to do to make sure the data is as up to date and representative as possible:

  1. Review the product categories - do we need to add new ones or expand existing ones? (if you’d like to have impact measurements for non-electronic items, we’ll need your help here)
  2. Find out which categories have the lowest data quality by revising the temporal and technical representativeness scores for each. We’ll then work on these categories first.
  3. Search the internet for new Co2 and weight data on more (recent) products.
  4. Review any scientific literature around the ‘displacement rate’ of repaired items: how accurate is our assumption that a successful repair displaces 50% of the impact of a new item? Can we be more accurate?

This is exciting stuff (I promise :wink: ), but it’s a little too much for the team here to handle on our own, so we need your help - all you need to get involved is a bit of spare time and to know how to use a search engine.

In the next few days, I’ll create a separate subcategory for this project listing all the activities we’re planning that you can join in. But in the meantime, I’d love to get a sense of who’s interested in helping out.

UPDATE: The subcategory is here, but the best place to get started is this overview of the project:
Start here

If you’re interested, please vote on the poll below:

  • I’m interested in getting involved
  • I’m interested in getting involved and would like to join a short videocall to learn more

0 voters

Questions are also welcome! Feel free to ask them below :pray:


Don’t forget the environment and energy impact of washing machines. Even minor defects lead to abundant use of detergents, eroded heater elements cause excessive power consumption etc… Not to mention the fact that even a healthy washing cycle is far from efficient.

Thanks Jacob, that’s a good point. For the purposes of this project, we’ll be focusing on products that we see at community repair events, i.e. products that people can carry through the door. So, we won’t really be considering larg home appliances like washing machines, fridges and so on.

@Jacob_Dhollander, @Janet, @Monique, @neil, @Sarah_Maloy, @Steve_Cook & @Stuart_Ward - thanks for noting your interest!

I’ve now laid out all the activities that make up this project in a new subcategory here:
Data Refresh Project

It’s set up as a Kanban board, with tasks listed in columns for ‘not started’, ‘in progress’ and ‘finished’. You can also see all the tasks in a single list by scrolling down the page.

Here’s an overview of the project, which is probably the best place to start:
Start here

@Stuart_Ward and @Steve_Cook, you indicated that you’d be up for a short call. I’ll drop you both a message to set this up :+1:
(if anyone else would like to come along, let me know!)

Cc: @Repair_Cafe_Wales

Hi! I just have joined your forum, came across you online. Sorry in advance - my English not best!
Very nice work, want very much help this project! Have coding experience Python, and data science. Please add me to the list!

1 Like

Welcome @Yi_Ling! You’re more than welcome to take part in this project :+1:
You can find more information about it here:

And if you’re interested, there’s a introductory call happening on Monday 2020-09-21T17:00:00Z. The call will be in English, but we can go slowly :slight_smile:
Let me know if you’d like to come and I’ll send you the location