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Coffee chat and repair? The rise of Repair Cafés

Image Sourced from: Repair Café

When it comes to dealing with broken appliances, furniture, technology, clothing, bicycles, and more, it can be expensive to get these items repaired professionally. Sometimes you might feel that you should simply dispose of your broken item and buy a new one. However, this endless cycle of buying and replacing doesn’t benefit the environment. It also can end up costing you more in the long run.

You might have also noticed that repair shops seem to be disappearing. For example, it’s not that common to come across shoe repair shops anymore despite the fact that we obviously all still wear shoes! This means that it is much more common to throw out a pair of shoes once you’ve worn out the soles instead of simply getting the soles replaced. With the combination of decreased repair shops and an increase in consumer culture, this leaves people with few opportunities to repair and reuse their items.

Enter a new wave of resources to help you learn how to repair what you already own, helping you to save money and do a whole lot of good for the environment. Plus, it is pretty empowering to learn how to fit things! While there are websites out there such as iFixit which provides you with a wealth of information on how to repair a variety of items on your own, sometimes you need a helping hand! For those of us who are lacking in repair skills or feeling unconfident in our ability to fix an item on our own, it can be useful to have the help from someone who is a bit more experienced!

This is where Repair Café’s come into play! Repair Café’s are free meeting places where people can come together to repair broken household items. If you aren’t sure if you can repair something yourself, a great alternative to landfilling that item would be bringing it to a local Repair Café where experienced volunteers are able to show you how.

You also don’t have to worry about bringing your own tools, as the Repair Café’s will provide all the tools and materials necessary to get your item back into working order!

Background behind Repair Cafés

The Repair Café Foundation was founded by Martine Postma after she started up her first Repair Café in Amsterdam in 2009. After experiencing great success, she decided that this concept should be adopted all over the world.

Image sourced from: Repair Café

Now there are over 1,500 Repair Café’s worldwide, with the majority being in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, and 15 located in Canada.

If you happen to be in Canada and looking for a Repair Café to visit, check out this webpage from Waste Reduction Week in Canada which provides links to all the different locations across the country.

Repair Cafés Help Promote Professional Repair Shops

Although it may seem like Repair Cafés are taking away business from professional repair shops which are already struggling, this actually isn’t the case. Repair Café’s aim is to increase awareness about the need to repair items whether that be professionally or on your own.

Additionally, when people bring items that go beyond the capabilities of the volunteers, you are always recommended to go to professionals!

Reviving Lost Skills

One of the best things about Repair Cafés is that they allow people not only to get their items fixed for free, therefore keeping them out of the landfill, but they also facilitate learning! Having the ability to fix an item, whether it is a ripped clothing seam or a broken cellphone screen, isn’t a skill we are born with. Being able to repair items is a skill that used to get passed down from generation to generation.

This practical knowledge has been lost over the past few years, as consumer culture has taught us that we don’t need to fix our items. Additionally, we have been told by manufacturers that any repairs must be done through the manufacturer otherwise we risk damaging our items. It is common practice for manufacturers to restrict access to repair manuals, use parts and tools that are unique to their products, and make their specialized parts inaccessible to consumers and small repair shops. This forces the consumer to choose between using pricey “authorized” repair shops or purchasing a replacement.

Consumers have the right to take repair matters into their own hands and preserve the lifespan of the items they purchase. For more information on the right to repair technology, check out this article!

Repair Cafés are a great place to go if you are looking to reduce your environmental impact and learn a new skill that you will be able to pass on to the people around you!

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