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Bringing back Repair Skills 1: Why Repair Cafe's Matter

This is the first in a three part series of blogs that look at: 1: Why Repairs Cafes Matter; 2. The policy needs a right to repair; 3. What a repair future would look like.

A huge amount of things these days could be repaired, that just aren’t. Meanwhile, many companies are designing products to become obsolete, a wasteful way of increasing their businesses profitability.

It could just be a toaster. When an element has broken, we all have to ask, will I get it repaired or do I have to buy another one? We’ve almost lost the skills and culture of repair in our communities, but there’s still hope! I’m part of Repair Café Aotearoa New Zealand (RCANZ) which is a growing network of community places where people come together to help each other fix broken household items. Our aim at RCANZ is to (re)foster a culture of repair and we’re part of a growing global movement!

A well loved toy was fixed by a skilled repairer and will make a child very happy 🙂

Repair Cafés are run by volunteer repairers and provide a chance for anyone to learn to assess and repair their item. You come, register your item at the welcome desk, and then when a repairer is free, you work together to look, investigate and discuss the diagnosis, and then watch the repair, if it’s safe enough. It’s a collaborative do-it-together effort rather than a drop off repair service that’s just done for you.

I got involved in the movement because Repair Cafés are simply a cool idea. Not only do they prevent stuff going to landfill, they strengthen community networks and share skills across generations and cultures, and they stimulate social wellbeing.

Learning how to repair things ourselves builds community resilience in the face of our modern challenges. Neighbours get to know each other and it’s fun! As a kid I remember we’d clear the table after dinner and repair and work on projects together. It helped create togetherness, curiosity and learning, having fun, sharing experiences, and building something together. Repair Cafe’s are a way of reviving this culture of repair by growing shared knowledge in neighbourhoods.

If we can fix our bikes, the need to use a car becomes less, and we reduce our carbon footprint on the earth. Repair Cafes rock!

We all know what it is like to hold onto items that are precious to us, that we don’t want to go to landfill, and I’ve met people who’ve done this for 15 or 20 years. When they come to a Repair Café they finally find somewhere they can get it repaired. It could be an old CD player that gets stuck, and people want to play their favourite CD again, an old lamp that doesn’t turn on. A dedicated and passionate repairer will help them get it going again.

If products are designed to be repairable and durable, and consumers have access to manuals and appropriate tools, then Repair Cafe’s can even more effectively support extending the lifespan of things we use in your day to life. That’s one reason I’m campaigning for a Right to Repair. Will you add your name to our petition? P.S. Want to learn more? You can watch my interview on Breakfast TV.

This blog was first published to the Greenpeace Aotearoa website.

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