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Repair Your Wares at Fix-It Fairs: Avoid Landfills and Give Your Items a New Life

22 November 2022 | By Phoebe Landers
Eco-responsible eventReductionTips and tricksWaste management

In an age of fast-fashion, speedy online deliveries, and endless products and alternatives, society has unfortunately become more and more wasteful. It is far easier (and often cheaper) to just buy a replacement when an item breaks, rather than repair it. However, this habit is not kind to our planet; we are using up more of our valuable resources than before and putting more and more items in landfills.

We are in an unhealthy cycle of buying cheap, poorly made items that are not designed to last. Some of our items, including mobile phones, washing machines, laptops, even have planned obsolescence built into their design. We have to break these habits in order to combat the climate crisis and set ourselves on the path to a circular economy, and an easy way to do so is to get better at repairing our items rather than replacing them.

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Fortunately, there is a fun and sociable way to do this that is being utilised by many communities across Canada already: hosting a Fix-it Fair!

What is a Fix-it Fair?

Simply put, Fix-it Fairs are a gathering of nimble-fingered volunteers with a variety of repairing expertise to whom local residents can bring along their worn-out, ripped, or broken items to fix. They are modelled on Repair Cafés, first held in Amsterdam in 2009, and are now a concept that is being utilised across the globe to bring communities together and to give new life to items that might otherwise be thrown out! These can also be combined with a swap event, to help unused items be given a new home.

How do we organize one?

Some fairs rely on the kindness and knowledge of volunteers, including local repair shops, seamstresses, or young people with a passion for fixing. Others work with local businesses to platform their repairing facilities via a ticketed event. They can be adapted to the size and capacities of each community, with many turning these events into annual events due to the popularity of the first. Volunteers and experts can not only fix items that are brought in but also hold free workshops to teach community members how to perform simple repairs at home.

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Here are some simple steps to get started:

1. Gather some Fix-it volunteers willing to donate their time and possibly their sewing machines and equipment. Consider those in your community that have a passion for fixing and avoiding waste. Depending on the size of your community and the level of citizen engagement, you may only need 2 volunteers, or you may need 10!

2. Consider what supplies you may need. Perhaps your volunteers can donate their time, but they don’t have the means to provide the supplies. Will you need material, tools? See if citizens or local businesses are willing to donate some items in support of your cause.

3. Find a location. Is a local business willing to donate their space for the fair for a day? You can always try reaching out to your municipal administration and see if they can lend a hand!

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4. Pick a date and time frame that works for most of your volunteers. The Fix-it Fair can’t happen without them!

5. Promote your event. You will want to give people ample notice, so a couple of weeks in advance is ideal. You can create a Facebook event and ask your municipality and local businesses to share it on their platforms. Posting on local bulletin boards is also an option, and never discount word of mouth!

6. On the day of the event, be sure to stay organized and direct traffic accordingly. You don’t want your volunteers to be overwhelmed with requests! If the turnout is higher than expected, offer to take down phone numbers and call attendees when the wait time has diminished, or to call them when their item is repaired and ready.

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What sort of items can be fixed?

This largely depends on the abilities of the volunteers or local repair gurus, but many communities offer repairs for clothing and outdoor gear, including bikes, workwear, skis, outerwear and so on, as well as household items such as lamps, pots, microwaves and even lawnmowers!

Fix it fairs are an ingenious way to celebrate community values and give a new lease of life to items that just need a little love. Think you’ll be organizing one for your community?

Development Officer

Phoebe Landers

Phoebe’s love of the outdoors quickly led to a desire to protect her favorite playgrounds. With a background in environmental and developmental policy, she believes the most important step is to make climate science accessible to everyone, to protect the communities and habitats most at risk. Originally from the UK, she moved to Canada for the mountains, and you can find her ski touring in the winter and hiking as soon as the snow melts.

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