Don’t toss it. Fix it.

Repair Cafe’ call for a shift in approach

  • Oct. 14, 2017 9:30 a.m.

Tim Collins/News staff

Zero Waste Sooke is once again offering Sooke residents the opportunity to do their part in reducing the waste destined for the landfill, while at the same time reviving the tradition of fixing, rather than discarding, our possessions when they have a problem.

The idea is simple enough.

If you have something that isn’t working right (or not working at all), you bring it to the Repair Cafe and community volunteers with some of that old-fashioned know-how will try to help you get it back in working condition.

But this isn’t a drop-off service. The expectation is that you will sit down with a volunteer and learn a little bit about how to overcome the fear of taking something apart or otherwise attempting to fix a problem that may seem insurmountable.

“The idea is to try to educate people to know what everyone knew in our parent’s or grandparent’s time. They didn’t just throw things away,” said Wendy O’Connor, one of the event’s organizers.

“This is an art form that is rapidly disappearing. There was a time when we didn’t just give up on an item and throw it out. We valued our possessions and took pride in repairing and restoring them. Our grandparents wouldn’t have dreamed of throwing out as many items as we do these days, just because they develop a problem.”

The fixers are not, however, just individuals from our parent’s or grandparent’s generation.

“The last time we did a Repair Cafe we had volunteers that ranged in age from older folks to an eight year old who was helping his dad fix broken toys. It demonstrated that anyone can, with a little bit of training and confidence learn how to do this sort of thing,” said O’Connor. She invites anyone who wishes to become a volunteer fixer to contact her through zerowastesooke.ca.

“We can always use more volunteers,” she said.

The Repair Cafe coincides with the final days of Waste Reduction Week in Canada, organized by recycling groups across the country, including the Recycling Council of British Columbia. The actual date of the Repair Cafe was, by a happy coincidence, designated as “swap, share, and repair day” by Waste Reduction Week organizers.

“We are encouraging people to bring down their broken rocking chair, a toaster that needs repair, broken crockery, well-loved toys…anything really, and give those items new life.

The concept originated in Amsterdam in 2009 and has now caught the imagination of people around the globe. According to their website (repaircafe.org) there are approximately 1,300 repair cafes operating at any given time and the movement is growing.

Proponents point out that repair cafes allow those people who still know how to repair things to pas on their valuable knowledge (and confidence) to the next generation. By doing so, they allow people to use items longer, reduce waste and reduce the volume of raw materials and energy needed to make new products. It also cuts CO2 emissions generated through the production of replacement goods.

“I think that this is a concept particularly well suited to Sooke,” said O’Connor. “We ran our first Repair Cafe last year and we had more people attending that Victoria has managed to attract after four years of operating their event.”

She added that perhaps it’s the more rural atmosphere of Sooke that makes the difference.

“It seems that people here are more willing to ‘McGyver’ things in Sooke to make them work,” she said with a laugh.

The Repair Cafe takes place on Saturday, Oct. 21 between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m., downstairs at the Sooke Community Hall. O’Connor invites people to drop in, even if they don’t have an item to repair, just to have a cup of coffee, watch the magic happen, and maybe, just maybe, get inspired to take another look at the next item they want to discard with a thought to repairing instead of discarding that possession.

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