Repairing Things is the Antidote for Our Throwaway Society

Let’s make fixing stuff the norm, not the exception.

Be a rebel and join the repair movement. Declare your dissatisfaction with our throwaway society by fixing things instead of tossing them in the trash.

Whether you like it or not, if you are an American, you live in a throwaway society where people routinely throw broken things away instead of fixing them. It was not always so but today the influx of inexpensive products and the constant bombardment of advertising influence our repair and buying habits. The price of products does not include the cost of damaging our environment so low prices and convenience makes it tempting to buy a new item instead of repairing a broken one.

Throwing away damaged and broken things or sticking them in the back of the garage and then buying new replacements is harming people and the planet, but you can help change our culture by joining a growing movement of people who believe in repairing things instead of trashing them.

Repairing Things is a Green Thing to Do

Everything we use in our daily lives has an environmental impact that results from mining, logging, extracting fossil fuels, processing materials, manufacturing products, transporting goods, and disposing of waste.

Another perhaps even more compelling issue to consider is that our planet does not have unlimited resources or land.

We can conserve Earth’s dwindling resources and protect our land from more waste dumps by repairing things if they get broken or damaged and using them as long as possible.

Everyone Can Participate in the Repair Movement

The essential attribute for participating in the repair movement is the willingness to consider repairing things instead of automatically throwing them in the trash.

You can learn repair skills and/or get assistance from friends, family members, coworkers, repair professionals, and a wide variety of sources that did not previously exist.

For instance, the Internet is chock full of step-by-step instructional videos on how to replace parts and repair thousands of different products from leaky faucets to malfunctioning automatic garage door openers to broken smartphone screens. Community centers provide tools and equipment for people interested in pursuing artistic endeavors, tinkering, and repairing things. Imagine being able to fix your vacuum cleaner handle using a part printed on a 3D printer. Repair cafés and re-skilling events bring people together to share knowledge and learn new skills.

Below are two examples of repaired items, one I did myself and my spouse helped me with the other one.

A Tale of Two Repairs

My dad was Mr. Fixit and repaired many things around our home when I was a kid, including our cars. The fixit gene passed me by so I am not too handy when it comes to repairing most things. Luckily, my mother taught me how to sew, which means that I can mend clothing tears and replace missing buttons.

Rain Coat Repair

Over twenty years ago, I needed to buy a rain/warm coat for a business trip and since it was the off-season where I lived, my two choices were hot pink or forest green. I chose the green coat and wore it for many years before the bottom button fell off and was lost.  Initially, I attempted to ignore the problem, but the cool and windy climate where I now live motivated me to address it.

Rain Coat Repair - New Top ButtonFinding a replacement button to match the existing buttons was not possible and I did not want to replace all the buttons.

My solution was moving the top button to the bottom and sewing on a new black button at the top where I think it looks less odd.

I was able to accomplish the repair myself by spending a couple of dollars on a package of buttons and a few minutes with a needle and thread. Now, my coat is ready for a several more decades of wear.

Weed Whacker Repair

About five years ago, I bought a Black & Decker battery powered weed whacker (string trimmer) for $99.99. It is made of metal and plastic components and uses a rechargeable nickel cadmium battery (cadmium is a toxic material that requires special handling when disposing of the battery).

A few weeks ago, as I was wielding the weed whacker around our wild yard in preparation for fire season, the motor stopped working. I looked up the model number online and discovered that Black & Decker had discontinued it and replaced it with a similar model available for $69.99.

The environmentally sound solution seemed to be to try to repair it so I asked my mechanically inclined spouse for assistance.

After taking the weed whacker apart, my spouse determined that a tiny piece in the motor assembly had failed. Although some replacement parts were available online such as the handle, cover, and battery pack, the motor was not. Fortunately, a similar motor was located online and purchased for about $20 including tax and shipping. Once the new motor arrived, it took my spouse less than an hour to install it and reassemble the weed whacker. I was back in business.

If there is a moral to this story, it is that repairing stuff is possible if you are willing to make the effort and that keeping our planet habitable is a group effort.

Let us stop being a throwaway society and become a repair nation where fixing stuff is the norm, not the exception. Please share your repair story with other readers.

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The Greenest Valentine’s Day Gift Ever

Valentine's Day Red Heart in Shopping Basket

The greenest Valentine’s Day gift is the one you do not buy. Helping to keep Earth habitable by saying no to consumerism is an act of love.

Imagine the world we could live in if we showed our affection for the people we love year round without feeling obligated to prove it with material goods on a specific day.

Why pick on Valentine’s Day?

Because instead of a day for celebrating our love for one another, Valentine’s Day has become an occasion for compulsory shopping and promoting the idea that buying and giving the right things will bring you love and happiness.

Nowadays, Valentine’s Day is just another retail event aimed at keeping Americans shopping and spending between Christmas and Easter.

For Valentine’s Day 2017 the National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend $18.2 billion giving jewelry, evenings out, flowers, clothing, candy, gift certificates, and greeting cards to significant others and spouses, family members, friends, children’s classmates and teachers, pets, and co-workers.1

Think about that.

Nothing says “I love you” like a gift certificate and your cat is sure to appreciate a red heart-shaped food dish.

So how did it all begin?

Valentine’s Day History in Brief

There is little historical documentation available about how Valentine’s Day actually got its start, but it appears that one or more 3rd century Saint Valentines were involved. Some historians believe that the first person to write about Valentine’s Day in connection with romantic love was Geoffrey Chaucer in his 1382 book Parlement of Foules.

During the Renaissance (14th-17th centuries), writing valentine poetry and exchanging handmade valentines and tokens of affection gained popularity in Europe. In the 1800s, mass-produced valentines became available in Europe and the United States and some historians suggest that low postage rates contributed to the rise in the popularity of giving valentine greeting cards.

By the 20th century, Valentine’s Day was entrenched in the United States and well on the way to becoming the consumerism event it is today.

Valentine’s Day Environmental Impact

Several of the most popular Valentine’s Day gifts have significant environmental footprints including roses grown in South America and then flown to the U.S., diamonds mined in Russia and Africa, and chocolate made from cacao grown in equatorial rainforests around the world. The people who grow, mine, and process these products often work in hazardous conditions for low wages.

The environmental footprint of Valentine’s Day pales in comparison with a shopping extravaganza like Christmas, but inflicting harm on other people and the environment to celebrate love strikes a discordant note with me.

This Valentine’s Day, show your affection by being kind, considerate, appreciative, compassionate, and caring.  Love is free and does not harm the planet or other people.

The greenest Valentine’s Day gift is the one you do not buy.

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References

  1. NRF Says Consumers will Spend $18.2 Billion on Valentine’s Day, National Retail Federation, 02/01/17

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