The SWRC has been working on improving Repair culture in Saskatchewan. We've updated our Waste Reduction Hub to include information about repair businesses in the province. We've also been working on getting Repair Cafes up and running in Saskatchewan, and with that comes a lot of great conversations and learning opportunities.
One of the most important messages is that facilitating repair isn't enough. Helping people find repair businesses and hosting Repair Cafes is a piece of the puzzle but it isn't enough. There are three other components that we think are vital to a thriving repair culture.
The first is ensuring product design considers repair. If an item is glued shut, how is anyone going to go in there to fix it? If the tools to repair the item aren't easily available, what kind of barriers does that create to someone fixing the item? And that's not even touching on the concept of planned obsolescence, where a product is designed to have a limited lifespan so that it has to be replaced often.
One of the actions that the general public can do to improve the repairability of new products is to contact the manufacturer. Send praise to businesses of products you’ve been able to repair, mention that you’ll be recommending their product to others because of this. But also send questions and critiques to businesses whose products that you’re either struggling to fix or aren’t able to fix. Be vocal, let them know what you look for in new products!
The second component to a thriving repair culture is protecting and sharing repair knowledge. When doing our research to add repair businesses to the Waste Reduction Hub, we ran into quite a few repair shops that had closed, or were planning to close, because they didn't have anyone to take over the business. We heard some people say that they felt that their repair skill was a "dying art". This was most common in smaller communities. What good is a repairable product if there aren't any people to repair it? Websites like ifixit help keep repair knowledge alive by making repair manuals and repair techniques available to the public. Repair Cafes, especially where the fixer and the owner do the repair together, can help too.
This brings us to the third puzzle piece, remembering that repair is an option. If something breaks and you don't even think about repairing it, what good are all the other areas we work on? This is something that everyone can tackle. Hosting and even promoting Repair Cafes reminds people about repair, but everyone can be talking about repair at anytime! Talk about repair with your friends and family, bring "I mended a hole in my sweater" into your everyday conversations, be familiar with the repair businesses in your area and recommend them to someone when something of theirs breaks. It's so easy to forget that repair is an option, a lot of us are accustomed to getting rid of a broken item and buy a new one. Let's change that!
A final thought, keep (or look up) manuals for your things, especially for large appliances. They usually have instructions on how to properly maintain the item so it won't be as likely to break and then you might be more familiar with your item and feel comfortable with some simple fixes. Prevention first, then repair :).