Maria Thornberg is co-founder of ReDo Norfolk, a new organisation promoting and providing alternatives to landfill, through education and information, as well as hands-on projects and events. Here she explains the world vision – and why they’re starting with Norfolk
I am, at the core, a very positive and solutions-oriented person, something I’ve learnt can both inspire and annoy people! I follow my heart and I trust my belief that most people are good and want to do good. Following your heart means that plans not always end up the way you think, but your life ends up a bit more adventurous, I guess. My plan when I was a kid was to become a vet, instead I ended up in Italy making goats cheese for two years, being a marketing manager for an IT company, working with homeless people in Sweden and then fundraising manager for an animal sanctuary here in Norfolk.
At the start of the pandemic I was still working for the animal sanctuary and to be honest, as much as it was of course scary with Covid, the challenge suited me well. When I saw many other organisations freeze and panic, I scaled it back to the core: what is the most important thing and how can we get that? With the shops forced to be closed we found other avenues to make money and found a way to support both the local community as well as continue the sanctuary. We ended up hiring during the pandemic and in many ways came out stronger than we went in.
The idea for ReDo Norfolk came to me while I was working for a local charity, managing their fundraising, and working in the three charity shops. I found it shocking to see just how much was thrown away – and thought that there must be a better way.
Often, charity shops are seen as the last step between consumer and landfill, giving all those items a fair chance before they reach the ‘end of life’ and thrown away. Sadly, the reality is that the charities, just like most of us, have a limited amount of space. The combination of the population over-consuming everything from clothes to toys, and the charities having limited space, leads to a need of shifting things quickly. Three weeks on the shelf and it is thrown away, leading to good quality items being sent to landfill, simply because the right person did not walk through the door to that exact charity shop at the exact time.
Some things, such as books and clothes, are sold as rags to companies, but even here we started to see a change. Rag companies were so overwhelmed that the market got saturated, leading to them getting pickier in what they accepted and that meant more items were just thrown away.
At the same time I could not help thinking about what other charities did with their items. If we had such an excess, how much would other charities have? This is where ReDo was born. The other co-founders are Lucie Price, Lucy Douglass, Val Hanna and Dean Adams.
ReDo stands for Recycle, Educate, Develop and Organise. We want to be a flexible organisation with a strong core, promoting and providing alternatives to landfill. Now, this does not mean that we will simply try to find solutions for the items from charity shops, the problem needs a broader solution than that, and that will instead be the core of the CIC. To make things change, we believe that we will have to both make people care and make it as easy as possible to do so. Not everyone has the time or energy to research for hours to find what to do with a half full tin of paint, or if anyone could make use of that chipped vase. Through individual projects we believe that we can help find easy to access solutions, connecting people with their local communities, as well as finding and promoting what is already here on our doorstep.
As we are still in the very early stages of ReDo, we are concentrating on building that core but as we get more established you will start to see projects on our website.
The last bit of our mission statement is maybe the most important part. In our society we suffer from another type of waste and that is the waste of human talent. The quote ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing its stupid’ really sums it up. We believe in providing a workspace where we construct roles and projects around people, instead of finding people to fit specific roles. People are amazing if you just give them a place to shine!
My friends would say that it’s dangerous to ask me where can I see ReDo going from here!
I am a person with many ideas and a lot of passion, so my hope is to build this up in Norfolk and then work on getting it established elsewhere. I truly believe that the key is to empower people and ignite their passion for their local communities. If we can help people find a sense of ownership of where they live as well as a feeling that they matter, change will be easy. You wouldn’t allow someone trash your living room, right?
Because we want to be a flexible organisation, plans will adapt and change depending on who join us. It is super exciting and a bit scary at the same time. Currently we are having conversations with everything from the council to small businesses, planning and preparing for the future.
One of the first projects we are planning is ReDo Bee. This is perfect for all the Google masters out there. Simply put, ReDo Bee is a hive mind solution for solutions! We are trying to build up a comprehensive ‘encyclopaedia’ and yellow pages in one, making it easy for people to find alternatives to landfill. If you want to get involved, please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org. It would be perfect for anyone good at researching, writing, organising or just identifying problems. Join us – let’s save the world together!
Visit Redo Norfolk and Instagram. ReDo has the first of many events coming up on October 23: ReDo Destash at Taverham Village Hall is all about craft supplies and fabrics and they already have two halls almost filled with stall holders. You can read more about it on Facebook. If you are a crafter in need of de-stashing some supplies, please send a message to Val on email@example.com.