It used to be that when something broke, you fixed it. After changing one part, your 10-year-old washing machine would work like new. You could give that dated sofa a second life with some new padding and fresh fabric. But in today’s dollar store economy, it’s often cheaper (and easier) to replace your broken microwave than to repair it.
The problem is, all of those damaged appliances and pieces of furniture we accumulate over the years end up in the same place: the local dump. We’ve traded in our handyman abilities for a preoccupation with consumerism, and these new shopping habits are not doing us—or the planet we live on—any favours.
This is exactly what inspired York Region’s Environmental Services to partner up with the makers of NewMakeIt to launch a new initiative in the area – one that will have you thinking twice before tossing that broken toaster. It’s called “Repair Café,” and NewMakeIt will be hosting the events on a regular basis starting this fall.
“The Repair Café movement supports a shift in mindset from the current throw-away society we live in to a more sustainable existence where the value of possessions are realized, repair skills are respected, and the amount of resources used for new goods are reduced,” says Lindsay Milne, manager of sustainable waste management for York Region Environmental Services.
The project started in the Netherlands and is gaining momentum across the globe. It’s part of the push to keep repairable goods out of the landfills, rousing community members to do their part in conserving their environmental footprint. Derrol Salmon, co-founder of NewMakeIt, says he hadn’t heard of the Repair Café concept until the York Region Environmental Services department approached him and his colleagues. “It made sense, because we’re all about shared space and community, the shared economy, [focused on] getting people in here to work on their projects,” he explains. “It’s very complimentary to what we do.”
“NewMakeIt is a natural partner for the Repair Cafés as they can provide the space, skilled fixers, and the required tools for a successful Repair Café environment,” says Milne. “They also have a keen interest in promoting innovative opportunities to repair and repurpose items within our local community.”
Starting in October 2017, NewMakeIt will be inviting community members to bring their broken appliances, furniture, sports equipment and more into the innovation hub located just off Harry Walker Parkway. Here, volunteer “fixers” will be available to give the possessions new life. The crusade falls in line with NewMakeIt’s future plans to launch a lending tool library in the coming year – the latest shared economy initiative on their radar.
Of course, not everything is mendable, and the fixers are instructed to evaluate the probability of repair for each item before opening up their toolboxes. The truth is, many of the products we see in stores today are no longer made to last. This is why real change starts at the time of purchase. In order to become conscious consumers, we must invest in long-term benefits over short-term discounts.
“I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to the whole dollar store concept. We buy something, use it for a specific period of time, then chuck it in the garbage,” says Salmon. “We have to get away from that. We’re out there day-in and day-out purchasing items – let’s purchase with the intent that if it does break, it’s repairable in the future.”
by Charlotte Ottaway
So great for idea