Repairing is Caring


How does repair fit in with sustainability?

Over the weekend, I found myself in Sisters enjoying one of my favorite of their annual offerings, the Sisters Folk Festival. While there, I met a fellow volunteer and local Sisters resident, and we got to talking about the normal things: what brings you here, do you live around here, what do you do for work? She was excited to hear I worked with The Environmental Center, having attended the 2022 Sisters Repair Café, and was even more thrilled to hear the event was returning to the town shortly, on October 11th (find more details at the end of this post!)

We got to talking more about sustainability, and the work we do at TEC. We shared our gratitude for the Folk Fest having moved away from disposable drink cups, giving every volunteer and patron their own branded Silipint to refill, which felt like a great step in the right direction. She was also proud to tell me all about her new worm composting bin at home, the same SubPod that we use at the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden. “But, if you don’t mind my asking, how does all this repair stuff fit in with your mission? I’m just not sure I see the connection,” she asked.

While year after year we see more attendees come to the Repair Café, it’s common that folks don’t see the connection to waste diversion or even know that it’s The Environmental Center (via the Rethink Waste Project) that hosts it locally. Besides being a fun time and great way to learn repair skills with your peers, the sustainability piece of repair is quite simple: keep stuff out of the landfill. By keeping our stuff longer, item by item we reduce the amount of new stuff being made, and materials going to waste. It also creates a mindset shift around stuff in general; we might care more for what we have, opt out of buying more just to have the newest gadget, and support more shifts in policies that make repair more accessible.

Our last Repair Café took place this summer in Redmond, at which 34 items were brought in for repair. Of those, 20 were fixed on site by fixer volunteers, 7 were given DIY instructions on how to repair later, and only 7 went home unrepairable. At the event, Project Zero intern Lindsay Knight made the rounds to visit with attendees, interviewing some to hear their story. She asked folks questions like, What brought you here? What did you bring? Have you experienced difficulties accessing repair or finding viable options for repair before? Hearing their answers, especially those that brought items with sentimental value, reminded us all of the multi-faceted benefit of an event such as Repair Café.

Repair stories from Redmond

Alondra has attended a Repair Cafe in the past and was excited to get her variety of items fixed! She had a fanny pack zipper repaired today and also learned how to fix her items at home that she could not get repaired today. Repair is important to Alondra because she does not want to throw things away that she can fix.

Dena has been waiting for this event to return to Redmond and looks forward to bringing her broken items in! She came to the Repair Cafe to repair a recordable book that reads a recording of her granddaughter’s voice and an air purifier. Repair is important to Dena because she hates throwing stuff away and she cares about the environment. Dena hopes that The Environmental Center will hold more Repair Cafes in Redmond in the future as she has many friends that are older and have things they need repaired but driving and accessibility to Repair Cafe events is not feasible for them.

Josh came to this event to have his bicycle front brake looked at because it was feeling weak and he wanted to have it fixed. Repair is important to Josh because he does not want to waste items that could easily be repaired. At the Repair Cafe, Josh learned about his specific brake system and how to fix it on his own if it is rubbing in the future.

Michelle was excited to learn from this event that people have the same value of not wanting stuff to end up in the landfill! She brought in three bracelets to be repaired and invited her husband along to the event to help him get involved in the repair community. Repair is important to Michelle because she wants to help save the planet and this is one of the ways she can not throw away things that still work.

October 11th event in Sisters

If you would like to come check out the last Repair Café of 2023, it will be taking place in Sisters at the Firehouse Community Hall (301 S Elm St) in partnership with the Deschutes Public Library from 5:30-7:30pm. No registration is required. Fixers available will have stations for small appliances, clothing, and outdoor gear.

Other details to note:

  • Spanish interpretation is available
  • Light snacks and non-alcoholic beverages provided
  • A guest speaker Kyle Wiens, co-founder and CEO of iFixit and a leader in the Right to Repair movement, will be attending!