Everything breaks. It is a law of the Universe. At some point in its life span, an object will begin to wear, degrade, and eventually come undone. However, some of our tools, pieces of clothing, appliances, and furniture last longer than others. For the past 80 or so years, planned obsolescence — the intentional design and manufacturing practice meant to ensure the failure of a product — has been a major contributing factor to landfill crowding, waste, and woefully poor construction. As seen in Annie Leonard’s animation, The Story of Stuff, precious natural resources and good, hard-earned cash are being squandered in the pursuit of acquiring junk and replacing it with new, poorly-made models.
The clear answer to ensuring the longevity of your stuff is simple: fix it. Yet, where do you go nowadays to make simple repairs that will not break the bank? Head on down to your local repair cafe, a concept that is beginning to draw proponents of conservation, tinkerers, caffeine hounds, and community advocates. Beginning in the Netherlands two and a half years ago by a former journalist, the world’s first Repair Cafe occurs in an Amsterdam community center every couple of months. The gatherings are open to whoever needs assistance or to those willing to help others tune up their miscellaneous odds and ends. Branching out from its initial humble incarnation in the foyer of a theater, the Cafe is now supported by an official foundation, small donations, and grants from the Dutch government. There now exist over forty similar start-ups throughout the country, and even a Repair Cafe bus. The Foundation is working on translating DIY material and tutorials for use in the United States.
A little closer to home, repair collectives are sprouting up in community centers, coffee shops, and auditoriums. The West Seattle Fixers Collective holds meetings twice a month at the West Seattle Tool Library, featuring events such as re-sewing umbrellas, repairing espresso makers, laptops, appliances, and mending antiques. In New York, the Fixers Collective, which has been running since 2008, began as part of an art exhibit in Brooklyn, and continues as a project in residence at Protues Gowanus, and interdisciplinary gallery and reading room. Fixing sessions include “Master Fixers” who have a range of knowledge and experience, apprentices, and drop-in visitors looking to putter and socialize.
Here in San Luis Obispo, you can cruise on over to the SLO Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Kitchen (860 Pacific St., Suite 105). The space comes equipped with tools, gear, parts, and experts who can help guide you in your mission to tune up your ride. The Coalition offers seminars on traffic safety and bicycle maintenance with hands-on demonstrations. The Kitchen is open Wednesday and Thursday from 4-7pm, and Sunday from 12-4pm. Day use is $5 (plus any parts purchased), and Coalition members receive 4 free visits.
Give your possessions a little TLC instead of the old heave-ho. Ask a friend, attend a repair cafe meeting, or search for a video on YouTube. Your wallet and Mother Nature will thank you!