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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iFixit – DIY Electronic Gadget Repair is Green

iFixit is an apt name for a company making do-it-yourself electronic gadget repair accessible, cool, and maybe even fun. Repairing stuff is green.

iFixit Fist Holding WrenchElectronic gadgets like computers, e-readers, smartphones, tablets, and game consoles often appear to be mysterious devices that cannot be opened to replace a battery or taken apart and repaired. Manufacturers seem to make non-battery replacement and non-repair friendly devices on purpose and then encourage us to buy “new and improved” versions even before the old ones wear out or break.

iFixit is out to change the paradigm by empowering people to fix their own electronic gadgets and other equipment.

iFixit Background

It all started back in 2003, in a dorm room at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. With no repair manual available, iFixit founders Luke Soules and Kyle Wiens used the trial and error method to fix an iBook.

They moved on to other computers and bought broken computers to use for parts. iFixit was launched when they decided to sell parts themselves.

Next, they started writing repair guides for electronic gadgets and posting them online for free. People started using the guides and saving money.

The business grew and their mission expanded.

iFixit Self-Repair Manifesto

  • http://www.ifixit.com/ManifestoRepair is Better than Recycling
  • Repair Saves the Planet
  • Repair Saves You Money
  • Repair Teaches Engineering
  • If You Can’t Fix It, You Don’t Own It

What Does iFixit Do?

“We think it should be easy for people to learn how to fix things”.

iFixit is like Wikipedia for the repair world. iFixit provides a platform and website to make it easy for people to share and collaborate. Users can create a teardown or repair guide, ask or answer a troubleshooting question, submit a story, edit content, earn badges, or join a team. The information is available to everyone, for free.

  • Solving the Red-Ring-of-Death Problem on an XBox 360 - Photo: iFixitRepair Manuals – provide step-by-step instructions and photos on how to install, replace, and repair components and devices.
  • Teardowns – show and explain the process of disassembling a device or piece of equipment.
  • Troubleshooting – people share knowledge by asking and answering questions.
  • Parts & Tools – Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and game console parts provide an income stream. As do repair tools. My favorite is the spudger, a pencil-like, antistatic tool, used for tinkering around inside electronic components.
  • Services – for a fee, iFixit will assist companies with teardowns, technical documentation, and converting existing documentation.
  • Blog – DIY repair and related topics at iFixit.org.

Orange Teardown

Geeks and non-geeks alike will enjoy the easy-to-read Orange Teardown complete with photos. I challenge you to not laugh.

Fix the Planet

For iFixit, do-it-yourself repair is more than just a business.

“Repair is recycling! The best way to keep hardware out of landfills is to keep it working longer. Toxic electronic waste is a global problem that we all need to pitch in to solve. Self repair saves you money and helps the environment!”

In the short video below Kyle Wiens explains what e-waste is and shows us that there is no “away”.

Non-Geeky Repair

As kids, my children liked to take stuff apart. My spouse is good at repair. I am mechanical ability challenged. However, I have been known to fix things. For instance, apparently, I am the only person in the family able to sew a button on a pair of shorts or a shirt.

For fun, I searched the iFixit website for “how to sew on a button.” The list of results mostly referred to electronic gadget buttons. However, I did run across “How do I patch a hole in a pair of jeans?” and a sewing glossary.

Perhaps I will create a “Sewing on a Button” repair guide.

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