Great food, lively conversation and a lot of learning; it all came together at Quinte’s first Repair Café on October 25. Loyalist College teamed up with community partners Quinte Waste Solutions and the Bay of Quinte Region to host the pop-up event, giving local residents an opportunity to fix their broken and damaged household items, free of charge, with the help of a local repair guru.
The “waste not, want not” adage of yesteryear has been replaced with a take-make-dispose culture, in which it is often cheaper and easier to simply buy new rather than have items repaired. To change this, Repair Cafés were initiated in the Netherlands about five years ago. They are part of a wider movement to help us see value in the products we throw away and think about the resources we waste, the skills we are losing and the community we often take for granted.
These are the goals of the Quinte Repair Café, replicating the success of similar repair cafés in Toronto, Calgary and Peterborough. By repairing our items, we give them new life, develop our own skills and sincerely come to appreciate the valuable resources that go into the production of everyday items. This awareness and knowledge may lead us to think twice before we throw away a broken chair, lamp or laptop.
Luckily for us, there is a wealth of knowledge and skill within our community, waiting to be tapped. Hobbyists, professional repair specialists and Loyalist faculty all volunteered their time to be fixers at the event, eager to share their tips and tricks with anyone who came through the door.
And come they did! Over 100 people visited the Café; some with repairs in tow and others were there just to see what it was all about. From toasters to chairs and tablets to nursery toys, over 30 items were either repaired or diagnosed for repair, diverting over 250 pounds of material from landfill in the process.
Participants had a genuine desire to understand how things worked and valued the sense of accomplishment that came from fixing things with their own hands. Two of the fixers were local high school students who created their own business over the summer upcycling local furniture salvaged from yard sales, thrift stores, and from the curb. It was encouraging to see the younger generations take part. In Canada, we are facing a resource crunch with respect to skilled trade workers and yet, according to the Financial Post, only “26 percent of young people aged 13 to 24 plan to consider a career in the skilled trades.” Engaging students in hands-on activities and nurturing an interest in the trades from an early age is key to bridging the gap.
Chuck Barsony, Professor of Architectural Technology at Loyalist College, was on hand helping with small appliance repairs and general carpentry. He believes that small steps can lead to big changes and has long encouraged his students to view their design decisions through an environmental lens.
“We have made it far too easy to simply throw things out and that’s a horrific waste of materials,” he said. “The architect in me looks at it from an environmental standpoint: each item took energy and materials to produce and we must try to get as much use out of those resources as possible.”
Loyalist’s Sustainability Coordinator Becky MacWhirter, one of the event organizers, hopes the Café will engage people in conversations about waste while also creating new connections in the community. “What’s great about the Repair Café is that it brings people together from so many different backgrounds and walks of life. We tend to forget about the power of community and collaboration. It’s amazing what you learn by getting out there and speaking to people. The event is practical in nature but you walk away with so much more than a repair.”
Chuck Barsony, Professor of Architectural Technology at Loyalist College
Gary Magwood, Belleville Green Task Force, and Corrine Codina, Nicholson Catholic College High School student volunteer and co-owner of ReDuo Design