A sustainable economy is one that reuses a significant amount of material it throws away.
In the 1980’s there was a mass cultural shift to recycling. In the 2020’s it is possible we can create a mass cultural shift to repairing.
Here are steps towards a repair movement.
- Have a regular, weekly or monthly, Repair Circle get together where people come and bring broken appliances, tech gadgets, furniture and help each other fix it. It can be advertised in the neighborhood for people to bring their broken goods in. The repair circle can be a community building exercise. Fixing things could be done as a gift, by donation, by subscription, or by cost. There are variations of a repair circle. There is the Repair Cafe, and the Remakery. Start something like the Philadelphia Fixers Guild.
- People can buy broken things off the local Craigslist and other such lists, then fix the things and sell them again.
- Have a standard multiweek workshop that people can take to learn to repair basic things from shoes, to watches, to furniture, to phones. This can be unbranded in a similar way that the 2-3 week Permaculture Design Course (PDC) is unbranded. The PDC course allows people from all over the world to teach under the same banner without having to check in with an overseeing hierarchical organization, meaning that each PDC course is in some way raising the visibility of other PDC courses, its not an individually branded workshop that one person teaches only. Teach teacher training courses for handyman and people who know how to repair, so that they can then put on courses that teach people how to repair.
- Integrate repair classes into the school, after school, community college, trade school and college curriculas. Create a Repair major. Just like environmental classes are now beginning to appear in the education curricula, repair classes can also
- Airbnb Experiences has a section where you can put on experiences (which are basically classes) , either online or in person. You can teach a repair class as an Airbnb experience.
- Combine the MakerSpace movement with repair movement. Makerspaces are collaborative workspaces where people that involve exploring and making things with the multiple tools and materials around. There could be repair subscriptions to the Makerspaces people buy that also enables them to have their stuff fixed. There could also be shops setup where people can buy refurbished stuff.
- Collaborative coop shops/community spaces can open in neighborhoods where people can bring the things they need for repair, and other members of the community can fix it for them. There can be money exchanged, or it could be done for barter, or as a gift. Or there could be a monthly subscription got to have things repaired.
- Integrate the repair movement more fully with the environmental movement. As people join environmental groups they can be encouraged to get repair subscriptions at their local spot where repairs happen. So eg. Sierra Club and Greenpeace can encourage their members to get local subscriptions to repair centers.
- Compile open source repair manuals. Check out IFixit’s manuals. You can start a manual too on their site.
- Bring investment money into starting many repair centers in cities.
- Have a Repair Circle at local farmers markets. Farmers markets are a natural place for relocalizing the economy. Repairs are a natural part of the relocalization process.
- Start a repair club at a university. Setup a table on campus to do repair. Connect with other clubs to form a national alliance of university repair. Work to get a repair class happening in the engineering department. In dorms have maintainance. also be available to repair students broken appliances. Petition to have a repair center on campus. Work with sustainability initiatives on campus
- Integrate the repair movement with other networked movements like the Transition Town movement, permaculture movement etc . Work with local groups like Lions Club, Rotary club to have repair day. Tool libraries can have a repair day. Food not Bombs gatherings could also have a repair circle section.
- Get senior citizen centers and homes to host repair circles. Seniors grew up in an era where more people repaired things.
- Note on organizing: If you target getting a couple of repair circles/cafes/shops in any network, then the word begins to spread through that network on its own. So if you say work with 5 Lions Clubs to get repair circles going on in their organization, then the idea might go viral through the Lions Club network, and people self-organize more repair circles. You do not necessarily have to be the person organizing the repair circle/cafe, you can for instance visit 10 libraries (100 is you are more ambitious) and talk to them about why they should organize a repair circle/cafe, and then give them a template for how to do it. You can reach out to the college students you know and suggest the idea to them to find people on their campus who might organize a repair club. You can email a lot of senior citizen community centers about putting on repair circles. If a lot of people reading this list do this too, then the centers will be getting emails from multiple people about hosting repair events, and then will be more likely to do.
- Petition national government for Right to Repair laws (see the work of Ifixit and Repair.org ), anti-obsolescence laws. Give tax breaks for repair shops and repair centers, in a similar way solar energy has gotten tax breaks to help increase its popularity. Ask for fair trade policies, which will lead to increase wages for factories in poorer countries producing goods. This will lead to higher price (and more in alignment with how much they actually cost) for goods. This will then make it more monetarily smarter to repair rather than buy new goods. State governments can charge a small percentage point tax on each product. This tax money can then be used to help subsidize repair shops and repair circles, to make the repairs cheaper, so people choose to repair rather than buy new.
- A town saves money when there is more repair happening, because money leaks out of the local economy when globalized goods are bought. So local governments have an incentive to promote repair. Local government can give grants to, and help promote repair shops, repair centers, Makerspaces. Fund local repair marketing campaigns. Track metrics of how much stuff a town uses, how much of their stuff gets repaired, and how much goes to the dump. Make these metrics an important part of measuring how well a town is doing.
- In a similar way to how there is a Peace Corps and a Conservation Corps, there can be a Repair Corps. The Repair Corps can go into towns and help facilitate repairs happening there.
- Job training centers can teach repair classes and help funnel people into repair jobs. The idea is to create millions of repair jobs. This would work in conjunction with increasing demand for repair through marketing campaigns to get people to repair their stuff.
- There is a subgroup of homeless people are often finding thrown away and fixing them for use. Homeless food service places, and missions could also have a repair center where the homeless learn and help with repairs, and where people bring in their things to be fixed. It could be a way for the homeless to earn some money
- Instead of buying the next iteration of the newest technology, like the newest iPhone, or the newest laptop, people can look to use existing recycled materials to upgrade their smartphones, laptops, and other tech devices. This will create a paradigm shift in how tech evolves. Instead of a big corporation pumping out millions of the same devices, devices will instead be upgraded in local DIY ways. Makerspaces will play a much bigger role in how tech evolves. So there is a greater biodiversity of devices. Software will evolve in a way that it can work in this biodiversity of devices ( perhaps in a similar way how the Internet of Things is finding ways to connect the microwave to the fridge). Software will evolve in ways more like how nature evolves. Tech will evolve in local centric ways rather than mass produced ways. Venture capital money will no longer find as much success in investing in things like the next Apple, but will rather shift to locally reuse production.
- Make fixing your clothes, and buying second hand repaired clothes hip. Have model campaigns, and runway shows with second hand repaired clothes. Second hand clothes can be branded with a sewn on symbol, eg a green dot, that symbolizes eco-awareness for clothing. Clothing manufacturers like North-Face, Patagonia, would shift to a business model of clothing repair and clothing upcycling.
- Have more reality tv shows like the Repair Shop which focus on repair. Petition shows like “Bachelor” to have repair challenges for the contestants.
- Have repair competitions. Schools have spelling bees, and science fairs, they could also have repair competitions.
- Market a movement about how the sign of a business is environmental is that their employees dress in clothes that are mended or second hand, and how their office furniture is refurbished furniture.
- Businesses can offer perks to their employees of having their personal stuff repaired by the business maintainance department.
- Make a youtube video about your attempt to repair something, whether successful or not. If not you can ask for comments on how to properly do it. Suggest to popular youtubers to make repair challenge videos
- Write a blog about your adventures in learning how to repair, or some other aspect of repair. Follow other blogs about repair like this one about antique repair, this one about appliance repair , or this blog about how to fix things in general
How to help spread the word about these ideas
i) send a link to this post to people who are involved in any of the groups listed above that might be interested in hosting a repair circle/cafe/center
ii) Get a poster with a lot of these ideas on it and place it somewhere
iii) feel free to copy this post, edit it, add your own ideas, and repost to your social media, with an attribution to this list as the original source post
iv) get together a council with people you know, or bring this list to your local sustainability initiative, and strategize how to make things on this list happen.