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Repair Cafés: saving money and saving the planet

  • by JW

“Make do and mend” as a positive way forward in difficult times


There has been a lot of interest in how Repair Cafés can be making a positive and inspired contribution to ‘the cost of living crisis’ – as it’s about going beyond coping and seeing how ‘making do and mend’ is a longer-term way forward into a truly sustainable future.

As a member of the Sidmouth Repair Café team comments:

“The Repair Café is a fantastic way to make a virtue out of necessity. By bringing along stuff in need of a some care and attention, we’re not only saving the planet a little by saving our holey clothes or defunct gadgets or broken pots from landfill. We’re also actually saving ourselves some money. After all, the saying ‘make do and mend’ is a positive reminder to us all that we can appreciate what we’ve got, fix it a little so it lasts a little longer, and so spend probably quite a lot less than if we just chucked it and replaced it!”

Here’s a piece from last month on the same theme:

How Repair Cafés & Fix-It Groups Can Save You Money and Avoid Waste

By Amy Livingston April 18, 2022

Repair Cafés are the brainchild of Martine Postma, a former journalist in the Netherlands. She got the idea after noticing how often people throw things away because they don’t have a way of repairing them. “I think deep down everyone knows it’s not normal to throw an item away when it breaks,” Postma explains in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. To fix the problem, she started the first Repair Café in Amsterdam in 2009. The idea was that people who knew how to repair things could offer their skills to help others, and in the process, help pass on their knowledge. The group thrived, and before long, the idea spread to cities throughout the world. …

Repair Cafés have lots of benefits – both for the people who visit them and for the people who work there. When you use a Repair Café, you can:

Save Money. Replacing broken items can be expensive. The Christian Science Monitor spoke with a woman at the Repair Café in Stow, Massachusetts, who had brought in a broken Keurig coffee maker. She calculated that buying a new one – even on sale and with a $20 coupon – would cost her $80. But instead, the fixers at the Repair Café were able to fix up her old one, and it didn’t cost her a cent.

Help the Environment. When you repair an old TV instead of replacing it, you help the environment in two ways. First, you keep the old TV out of the landfill. That’s good news because electronic items often contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, which can leach out into the ground and contaminate the water supply – or pollute the air if the waste is incinerated. Second, you don’t need to go out and buy a new TV. That means you save all the raw materials and energy that would be required to produce that new set, as well as all the carbon dioxide that would be emitted in the process. This makes repairing your old items a good way to reduce your carbon footprint.

Help Others. If you have some repair skills yourself, working at a Repair Café gives you a chance to put them to use. Instead of only working on your own bike or mending your own clothes, you can help out your neighbors and make their lives a little bit better. And by helping others, you also help yourself. Numerous studies in happiness economics show that people are happier when they use their time and money to help others.

Share Knowledge. An important aspect of Repair Cafés is that you don’t just drop off your broken item and hope it gets fixed. Instead, you watch or, if you can, work side by side with the volunteer to fix it. In this way, useful repair skills that are in danger of dying out get passed on. The more people there are with basic repair skills, the more people there will be tackling their own repairs instead of throwing things away – and helping others do the same.

Have Fun. In our throwaway society, many people don’t realize how much fun it can be to fix something for yourself. The process of tracking down a fault in an appliance is a bit like detective work, and there’s a thrill of satisfaction when you hit on the right solution. And it boosts your self-confidence to see your old, broken blender working again and know that you made it happen. Plus, for people who love to tinker, working at a Repair Café is a great excuse to take things apart for a good cause.

How Repair Cafés & Fix-It Groups Can Save You Money and Avoid Waste

It’s very much about that ‘make do and mend’ ethos:

Make do and mend: the rise of repair cafes | Rapid Transition Alliance

But it’s also part of the expanding ‘circular economy’:

‘Fixing the World One Thing at a Time’: Community repair and a sustainable circular economy – ScienceDirect

‘Repair cafés’ are about fixing things – including the economy | Opinion | Eco-Business | Asia Pacific

It’s about ‘saving the planet’:

What Are Repair Cafes & How They Can Protect The Planet – ETHICAL UNICORN

But in today’s climate, it’s very much about ‘saving money’:

Got a broken vacuum? You could fix it for just £2 at a repair cafe | This is Money

Meet the ‘fix-perts’, an army of experts determined to get Britain on the mend | Saving money | The Guardian