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Remembering Alex Mates

December 2021


This tribute from the CAG Oxfordshire team is written by Henry Owen.


Alex was a dedicated part of the climate action community in Oxford for many years, and her particular passion was eliminating waste and building a circular economy. I wanted to write something to bring together some snapshots of Alex’s work over her years in Oxford and really celebrate what she achieved.


Her ethos is summed up well in the quote she had for a while in her email signature:

In well-functioning nature, a system's waste is food for another system.


Her passion for the circular economy led Alex to found the Oxford Circular Collective in 2015, as part of the CAG Oxfordshire Network. I still remember sitting down with her in a cafe right at the start and hearing her ideas, with a notebook full of diagrams of possible ways to reduce waste. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and her ideas were ambitious.

Oxford Circular Collective logo with volunteer and a bike with trailer - photo from the Oxford Circular Collective Facebook page.

Starting out on her own, Alex quickly brought in many others that shared her passion to organise a thriving community project.


Oxford Circular Collective’s birthday cake - photo from the Oxford Circular Collective Facebook page.

Alex’s work was always creative and fun. The Oxford Circular Collective started by running a collection service (by bike trailer) for unwanted items, and then re-homing or using them. The Collective’s first annual re


port in 2017 gave some idea of what they achieved - and received coverage in this Oxford Mail article.





Alex’s work with Oxford Circular Collective was recognised with local awards too, with Oxford Circular Collective being shortlisted for the OCVA Innovation Award in 2017, and Alex herself receiving a volunteer award too.

Alex (third from right) with members of the Oxford Circular Collective and CAG Oxfordshire staff at the OCVA Awards ceremony in 2017.

Oxford Circular Collective evolved into Share Oxford in 2018. It was Alex’s idea to focus their efforts on a ‘library of things’, which is still successfully running today - a seed of the circular economy Alex was nurturing. Maurice, who co-founded Share Oxford with Alex, has shared a tribute on the Share Oxford website.


As well as the Library of Things, Alex was passionate about repair and coordinated a large number of repair cafes in Oxford. For me, it’s a pleasing thing to think of all the items people must have been able to keep and repair (from beloved toys to lawn mowers) because of Alex’s work. She was very generous with her time and, on top of her own volunteer work and job with the Oxford Direct Services Waste team, she worked with CAG Oxfordshire staff to coordinate regular meet-ups of all the repair groups across Oxfordshire. She was a very well-liked member of our community - always willing to lend a hand to another project and celebrate others successes.


Always keen to make a bigger difference, Alex also worked with the UK-wide ‘Restart Project’ to campaign for a ‘Right to Repair’. Notably, she managed to set up a meeting with local MP Anneliese Dodds and convinced her to sign the Manchester Declaration, calling on politicians to work towards ‘making repair more accessible and affordable, and ensuring that we adopt product standards making products better supported, well documented and easier to repair by design.


https://twitter.com/AnnelieseDodds/status/1172538507291742209 Alex (centre) with Anneliese Dodds (left - MP for Oxford East) and Cathy Gibb (right - member of Rose Hill And Iffley Low Carbon) - September 2019, from Twitter.

Alex was a huge part of the CAG Oxfordshire Network until her move back to Romania in 2020. Since being back in Romania she has kept up her amazing and entrepreneurial work by starting an online second-hand shop.


Alex’s legacy in Oxford - in her friends, colleagues and inspiring community action - is a testament to the wonderful and caring person that she was.


 

There will be a memorial for Alex at midday on Sunday 19th December 2021 at Hogacre Common Eco Park in Oxford, organised by her friends. Those who knew Alex are invited to attend.


Alex’s colleagues from the Oxford City Council Waste team have set up

a fundraiser for Oxfordshire Mind in her memory.


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