Everyday Enviro with Elise - New life for old things
Author: Elise Catterall
We are all familiar with the mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ which aims to change our consumption/waste habits. This week I want to talk about another important ‘re-’ and it fits in perfectly with that mantra: repair.
Our society is often called the ‘throw-away’ society – and not just because what we buy isn’t of a quality that will last a lifetime, but also because we have become used to getting rid of items that aren’t working or looking like they did when we first got them. We used to have a different mindset, a sort of ‘mend it or make do’ mindset, one that now has a romantic, old-fashioned feel to it (I imagine darning socks by the fire, listening to the wireless) and there are many good reasons why this mindset is due (and is getting) a resurgence.
The reasons can be roughly grouped into three categories – environmental, cost, and personal benefit.
When you dispose of an item and then replace it, there are significant environmental burdens at all stages of that process: for example, the disposal of the old product may mean adding to landfill and even if that item is recycled, there is an environmental burden in that process; the manufacture of the new product (and transporting it) results in increased carbon emissions, and potential ethical/labour issues in the manufacturing process and environmental issues in the extraction of raw materials.
This one doesn’t really need much of an explanation – if you can avoid buying the product again, you will save money. Even if there are costs to repairing, there is likely to still be a cost saving. Having said that, there are certain items that aren’t designed, or won’t stand up, to repair. This is an especially good reason to live by the saying ‘buy well, buy once’ as it usually relates to items that made with a ‘cradle-to-cradle’ approach.
Perhaps less tangible but still a definite benefit, is the personal satisfaction that comes from repairing. Knowing that you are getting every penny’s worth from your purchase, knowing you have avoided the environmental issues associated with consumption, feels good. And this can be especially true if you DIY. You can take classes to hone your repairing skills – like Sydney Community College’s Furniture Restoration course – but our favourite option is to visit The Bower Repair Café.
The Bower Repair Cafe
The Bower – the much loved reuse and repair centre in Marrickville – together with volunteers from the Marrickville Men’s Shed, has a free weekly (& monthly in Parramatta) repair café where you can take your broken item to be repaired by volunteer electricians, mechanics, and carpenters. The unique part of this is that the repair process is taught to you – you walk away with your item functioning again, new skills learnt, and time spent well. The perfect solution.
Repairing things really is a no-brainer. Let’s work to make fixing things the norm!
See you next week! - Elise
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