Commentary

The Joy of Repairing

by Elizabeth Marcus – Repair Café
Published on
June 9, 2024
Contributors
Allies and Partners
Repair Cafe
The Daily News of Newburyport

This is one in a continuing series of educational columns about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

The five Rs generally associated with reducing waste are: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, REPURPOSE, and REFUSE. Now there are six – REPAIR.

Repair Cafés are gatherings of people who can repair things and those who have things that need to be repaired. On April 14, 2018, the first Repair Café in Newburyport was held welcoming 90 Visitors and 146 items needing repairs.

The seeds of the Café were planted in 2016 when members of the Time Trade Network of Greater Newburyport and the City of Newburyport’s Toward Zero Waste Initiative learned of the concept. We became very excited about the possibility of starting one here. With guidance from international and local Repair Café/Fixit Clinic organizations, and field trips to other Cafés, we were sold!

What were our goals? To rescue items from the waste stream, to promote a culture of repair, to make damaged items functional again, to restore cherished and irreplaceable items, to create a space for community connections, and to have fun doing it. From the first Café until now, our goals continue to be met due to the enthusiasm and dedication of our organizers, general staff, repairers, and visitors.

People are saving, rather than tossing, items that need repair.

On April 27, our sixth full Repair Café welcomed 140 visitors to Newburyport, with over 275 items to be repaired. Everyone had been eagerly awaiting its return after a four-year hiatus. Here are snippets of what folks had to say:

VISITORS

“This was my first Café experience and I'm still astonished by the stunning repair the two masters did—in two shakes of a lamb's tail —of my original and irreplaceable Osterizer Blender.”

“So easy and free. Keeps stuff out of landfills.”

“Awesome array of services, so organized/friendly.”

“Love this event.”

“I love the joy from those who love to restore items along with the hope of those who may get their item restored.”

REPAIRERS

“As always it is such a great event, meeting so many people…I do find it disappointing when we must tell people that we are unable to repair, but often just us doing the diagnostics helps them make a decision to recycle, etc. The ones we do fix, the owners are so happy and thankful, and that makes it so worthwhile.”

“I really enjoyed my first Repair Café.  Everyone on the team was so welcoming I felt right at home. I’ve always enjoyed fixing things and our ‘customers’ were so grateful for anything we could do. I can’t wait for the next one.”

“This year I had the honor of repairing a hole of a "fits-just-right" dark blue sweater. It once belonged to Merle and now his daughter lovingly wears it and tends to it; the sweater wraps his daughter in his love. A great big Teddy Bear was triaged in the sewing department, three people working to staunch the flow of stuffing, give him a new nose, and patch his numerous holes so that a young one could have his friend back.”

“While I mend people’s treasures at the Repair Café, I get to listen to their stories. Recently, a woman unwrapped her decorative plates and told me she bought them on her honeymoon. Her son accidentally broke them years ago, so she put them in boxes where they stayed for decades. She recently found them and is sure they’ll make the perfect wedding gift for her son. I repair the plates, and she leaves beaming. I’m glad Repair Café provides a place to lend a listening ear. Every conversation is a reminder of how much we all have in common.”

Start saving your items for the September 28, 2024 Café!

Contact the Repair Café Newburyport organizers at repaircafenbpt@gmail.com with questions or to share your repairing expertise.

ACES and its Youth Corps invite you to stay updated on environmental matters by subscribing to our monthly newsletter via the “Subscribe to Updates” link on this page. Consider joining our community of stewards who are committed to Make Every Day Earth Day by contacting acesnewburyport@gmail.com. We can make a big difference together.

This educational column first appeared in The Daily News of Newburyport on June 7, 2024.

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