Editor’s Note: Jane ni Dhulchaointigh is the creator of Sugru, a moldable glue product.
Join this important movement with one simple act: Have a go and fix something
Some manufacturers refuse to sell parts, increase repair prices in a bid to encourage us to buy new
We all know there’s far too much waste in the world.
Every year, we create 2 billion tons of waste, and 99% of the things we buy don’t make it past six months. Around 1 billion mobile phones and 300 million computers are put into production annually, and 60% of these devices end up in landfills. Global e-waste has risen by 8% in the past two years as incomes rise and prices fall, contributing to a disastrous toxic legacy.
Repair is just one small part of helping solve the crisis.
Most of us also realize that we need to change our behavior when it comes to our “stuff.” And repairing instead of replacing is part of that solution as well. It also inspires personal creativity and change.
When I invented Sugru moldable glue in 2003, I never imagined the thousands of different ways people would use the product to fix and redesign the physical world around them. Everything I’ve learned about fixing, I’ve learned from a community of doers who share their stories to inspire others. Here are the most important things I’ve learned.
Disposability is a choice
So many of our things are made from plastic these days. They are wonder materials that don’t deserve their growing reputation as environment killers, but we’re using them in the wrong way. How come we think wood gets better with age and we fix it but not plastic?
Embrace the stuff we have
The most environmentally friendly smartphones in the world are the ones we already own. Let’s use our imaginations to keep the things we own for longer by using, loving and fixing them.
A customer in the US inherited an 1930s tripod from her grandad, a beautiful object that no longer worked because one of the telescopic legs was missing its foot. She remodeled a new foot using Sugru and sent us the video capturing the moment she realized it had worked. It’s utterly brilliant.
If it doesn’t exist, make it
A fix isn’t just about repairing broken things; it’s about rethinking the design of our stuff and making it work better for us. Some of the best fixes I’ve seen are small and smart, often done to make the lives of others easier: raising fiddly buttons on a remote control for an elderly relative or making a straw holder for somebody with Parkinson’s disease. Small fixes making a big difference to people’s lives.
Repair nurtures our curiosity
There’s so much untapped creativity in the world. Everybody has ideas for how things can work better. It’s not only designers and manufacturers that know how to improve products. Sometimes, it’s the users of things who know best.
Everyday practical problem-solving is a beautiful form of creativity and just a little subversive. The incredible feeling of having solved a problem for yourself is addictive, and that kind of creative energy can only lead to good things.
There is no doubt that fixing things encourages people to be more thoughtful and inventive. Everyday problem solving by everyday people – the creative potential is endless.
A fixed thing is a beautiful thing
A retired engineer in Ireland sent us a picture of his chicken, Snowy. It had recently lost one of its legs to a fox, and he used a bunch of materials to make her a new one. Unusual for sure but beautiful nonetheless.
The repair lifestyle
Repair sounds like a chore, but it’s actually one of the most rewarding things you can do. The transformation isn’t entirely on the object being fixed but rather on the person doing the fixing. When people repair for the first time, it’s like something inside them switches on. The result? More imaginative and confident people who quickly start looking for the next problem to solve.
But if it’s so important and fun … why don’t we all repair? What’s preventing us all from joining the fixing revolution?
Is it because it’s often cheaper or more convenient to buy new stuff? Or is it because companies are actively designing things so they can’t be repaired? You only need to look at the many companies highlighted by iFixit, a global organization that campaigns for the right to repair, to get a sense of how some major manufacturers and some tech giants now operate. Keeping repair codes secret, refusing to sell replacement parts to independent shops and inflating the cost of repair in a bid to encourage us all to buy new – all makes for very interesting reading.
Maybe we fail to fall in love with fixing because we love to shop and are drawn to all things shiny and new. Perhaps years of buying new have resulted in younger generations having a more ingrained throwaway mindset. Could it be that now most of us simply don’t have the skills or the confidence to fix our things?
Whatever the reason, it’s important to note that things are changing. The war on waste is real and all around us. Fantastic repair organizations such as iFixit, Repair Cafe and the Restart Project aren’t just making repair more accessible for all, with online manuals and regular community repair events. They’re joining forces to share data and campaign for policy change while leaning on bigger manufacturers to ensure that products can actually be taken apart and fixed.
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Forward-thinking businesses are finding ways to make fixing more fun for self-confessed shopaholics. Italian shoe maker Vibram promotes shoe repair by selling stylish and hard-wearing soles. Patagonia, whose garments all come with a lifetime repair guarantee, encourage its customers to celebrate their most treasured garments via its WornWear website, which also acts as a hub for trading old clothing.
The wheels are in motion. The fixing revolution is upon us. Join this important movement with one simple act: Have a go and fix something. No act of repair is too small or mundane not to count. Be part of the change and embrace your creativity.