Better to repair than replace

Ever had a household item break only to be told “it would be cheaper to replace it than fix it”? It’s become a mantra of our twenty-first century consumer culture. Unfortunately, it’s an MO that runs completely counter to waste reduction. The amount of energy and resources consumed and pollution created to replace an item far outweighs that of repairing it. So why has it become nearly impossible to get something fixed, and what are some ways to change that?

You have the right to repair

The “right to repair” is the right to fix a device yourself or have someone other than the manufacturer do the work for you. The concept got started within the automotive industry back in 2012 when Massachusetts passed the country’s first Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act. The act required automobile manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles.

Inspired by this, The Repair Association was founded in 2013 to transfer this concept to electronics. Many electronics manufacturers had instituted systems whereby the only means to repair a device or obtain repair parts would be through one of their authorized vendors or original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

The practice of requiring consumers to go to the manufacturer for repairs has generally been criticized as anti-competitive.

Repair has its day and café

International Repair Day is organized by the Open Repair Alliance, an international group including Fixit Clinic (United States), The Repair Cafe Foundation (Netherlands), The Restart Project (UK), iFixit, and Anstiftung Foundation (Germany). This day highlights the value of repair and promotes global community efforts to fix the stuff we own.

A repair café is a meeting organized by and for local residents where people repair household items. The objectives are to reduce waste, maintain repair skills and to strengthen community. Repair cafés are held at a fixed location where tools, materials and volunteers are available to help. The Repair Café Foundation supports local groups around the world in setting up their own repair cafés.

Green Works in Kansas City hosted a Repair Cafe & Open House this past October in Midtown Kansas City, Mo. This event focused on bicycle, clothing, jewelry, furniture, lamp and tool repair.

Who fixes what in Kansas City?

There are local repair options for many types of items. A few high-demand categories include electronics, clothing, shoes and furniture. When searching online for a local repair service, be as specific as possible: furniture repair Kansas City, shoe repair Overland Park, etc.

Repair it yourself

In recent years, the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement has gone viral. Repairing something yourself can save money and increase skills and knowledge which you can then pass on to others. It starts by simply going online and typing: do it yourself (item name here) repair.

For more information on other ways to reduce waste, visit Beyond Recycling: Reduce and Reuse.

Fight food waste at your festivities

AppetizersFood: it’s the center of every holiday gathering.

But between thinking about all those calories and the sheer quantity of food, most of us don’t consider how much of it gets wasted.  In fact, the average American wastes between 209 and 253 pounds of food every year, with a fair amount of that waste occurring around the holidays. Here are some ways to reduce waste that will help you, your guests and the environment.

  • Precycle. “Precycling” is when you avoid purchasing unnecessary items that will eventually have to be recycled or thrown away. For holiday meals, try to purchase products with less packaging, use durable dishware and cook only for the number of people who will eat at your gathering.
  • Prepare healthy portions. Love Food Hate Waste’s online portion planner will tell you how much food to purchase based on the type of food you want to serve and the number of people who will eat it.
  • Make a list and stick with it. A list will ensure you don’t forget anything and keep you from buying and spending too much.
  • Let guests serve themselves. When guests serve themselves they can choose the items they actually want to eat.
  • Use smaller plates. Smaller plates help fend off the dreaded “my-eyes-are-bigger-than-my-stomach” syndrome.
  • Ask guests to bring reusable containers. This way you won’t have to eat all those leftovers yourself and your guests will have something to eat the next day. Plus you’ll reuse others’ containers instead of buying new ones.

Don’t forget to visit RecycleSpot.org for all of your holiday reuse and recycling needs!

Do you reduce and reuse?

Reduce Reuse RecycleReduce, reuse, recycle: the “Three Rs.” We hear this phrase all the time — and most of us understand the recycling part — but how many of us really understand “reduce” and “reuse” and what we can do to incorporate these principles into our daily lives?

First of all, what do these words mean? To “reduce” means producing less trash in the first place. “Reusing” means finding a new way to use something instead of throwing it in the trash can. When done together, reducing and reusing avoid the creation of trash and the need to recycle or send it to a landfill.

Let’s look at actions we can each take to reduce our waste:

Do I really need to purchase this item? 

  • Use products you already have. Keep things clean and organized so you can easily find what you need.
  • Maintain and repair. Items that are well maintained don’t have to be repaired or replaced as often. Try to repair something before you replace it.
  • Buy well-made products. Durable products have a longer lifespan and are more likely to be repairable.
  • Share, borrow or rent. Save money and reduce waste by sharing, borrowing or renting items you use infrequently.
  • Shop used. Shopping for used items is sustainable and economical. Try looking around at garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist.

Can I reuse this item?

  • Reuse everyday items. Get in the habit of reusing everyday items such as plastic grocery sacks, coffee cans and old t-shirts.
  • Use durable bags. Whether shopping for groceries, clothes, toys or tools use reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic bags.
  • Use refillable mugs and water bottles. At work, at home or on-the-go, use a refillable container.
  • Use Tupperware as take out boxes. These can replace disposable paper, plastic and Styrofoam boxes.

When I am through with an item, what are my options?

  • Donate. Donate items to friends or thrift stores.
  • Reuse at work. Make sure your office has a system for reusing, donating or selling surplus supplies and property.

Can I avoid all of this packaging?

  • Choose less or no packaging. When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least or no packaging.  Products that contain less packaging include large or economy-sized items, concentrated products and bulk items.
  • Choose recyclable packaging. If you can’t avoid the packaging, select the product with packaging that can be put into your curbside recycling bin or accepted at your local drop-off facility.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org, Greater Kansas City’s one-stop website for waste reduction, reuse and recycling information.