Reduce, Reuse, Repair

We live in a throw-away society where it’s easier to buy new than fuss around finding a way to repair broken things.  Part of this attitude is fueled by the low cost of goods.  Why bother fixing a broken toaster when you can buy a new one for $25?  It’s tough to find spare parts, expert repair-people, time to run in a broken item and wait for it to get fixed.  Much easier and often just as economical to replace things, right?

Yet our disposable lifestyle clogs landfills, creates pollution, wastes resources and isn’t necessarily less costly.  It makes more sense from an environmental and economical perspective to repair durable goods.  Case in point:  this summer Enviro Girl’s patio table flipped over in a windstorm.  The glass top shattered, but the metal table frame and chairs were fine.  For a couple hundred dollars she got a new glass table top custom, much less than she’d spend on a new patio set.

This week Enviro Girl finally had it up to here with her leaking Hamilton Beach Brewstation.  Instead of junking an otherwise fine coffee maker, she got on the company website, entered the product number and ordered a new carafe for $15, much less than she’d pay for a whole new appliance.  Replacing the broken part creates less waste than replacing the entire coffee maker, too.

This brings Enviro Girl to a cool thing she’s caught wind of:  Repair Cafes are cropping up across Europe and America.  The premise is simple:

Repair Cafés are free meeting places and they’re all about repairing things (together). In the place where a Repair Café is located, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need. On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, et cetera. You will also find repair specialists such as electricians, seamstresses, carpenters and bicycle mechanics.
Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It’s an ongoing learning process. If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. You can also get inspired at the reading table – by leafing through books on repairs and DIY.

Eco Park in LaCrosse, Wisconsin has begun a Repair Cafe program.  It strikes Enviro Girl as a great tie-in with any Earth Day event or community festival.  She loves the concept because it combines bringing together people, recycling and reusing our resources, and sharing knowledge.  What could be greener than that?

Tell the Eco Women–does your community hold a Repair Cafe or similar event?  Give us the details!



5 thoughts on “Reduce, Reuse, Repair

  1. The glass pot for my coffeemaker shattered last year and while I could get a new pot, shipping was ridiculously expensive — even more than the pot itself. But that’s better than when the glass bowl for my stand mixer broke and there was no way at all to get a replacement.

    I’d like to see manufacturers make it a bit easier to replace broken parts. Oh sure, that could mean that we wouldn’t trade up our blenders every three years, but I’d be more inclined to buy from a company that doesn’t have planned obsolescence built into its sales plans.

    (About my blender: It’s 21 years old and going strong, as is my toaster oven.)

  2. Thanks for a great post – I agree absolutely!

    Now if we could just get the manufacturers to stop making things according to “planned obsolescence” (in order words, things will die shortly after the warranty runs out) – oh, but then if things last longer, people won’t buy so many, and then there would be less profit. And perhaps fewer jobs. Ah, but perhaps more jobs in Repair Cafes.

    Let’s show manufacturers that we want durable goods that can be repaired – by them, if they make it attractive. Vote with our wallets!

  3. Wonderful post! As far as I know, we don’t have a repair cafe in my area but what a terrific idea! I’ve been repairing things for a long time … it’s tough because, as you’ve pointed out, I can typically buy a whole new “something” cheaper than I can by a replacement for a broken piece. But, to me, it’s worth it. Love your blog … I was introduced to you by Clare Delaney! 🙂

  4. I have an undercounter soap dispenser for my kitchen sink. The bottle broke off at the neck and we didn’t want to buy a whole new unit, but when we called the company, we were told they couldn’t find the part we needed. Finally, after telling them that if we had to buy a whole new unit we were definitely not going to be buying one from their company, they mysteriously found one!

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