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Toss It Away? No Way!

Updated: Jun 12

By Brenda Shufelt

On Saturday, June 1 at the Claverack Free Library, the library teamed up with the Claverack and Taghkanic Climate Smart Committees to host a Repair Cafe. Chairs, bicycles, 1930s lamps, 1950s toasters, corduroys with a ripped back pocket, knitted clothing, electric guitars, and a whirligig were given new life and a reprieve from the junk heap. 

Toba and Bob Duggan, Katy Flammia, and John Bradley at the Climate Smart Committee table.

The motto of the Repair Cafe International Foundation is “Toss It Away? No Way!” They support local organizations and/or people in creating free meeting places that are all about repairing things (together). Library Director Thea Schoep registered with the Repair Cafe for a nominal fee and they sent out an eblast to alert repairers to this event. They also lent their name to the event. The library and the climate smart committees then contacted additional repairers to volunteer.

Bill repairs a set of Christmas lights.

Toaster on its way to being saved from the landfill….&, maybe on its way to a museum!
Mike repairs the settings on a fan.

So, now to Saturday’s event! It was a busy day at the library and in the Repair Cafe. Alice Pratt, a library Local Living Committee member, signed in each person with a broken, but still loved, item and sent them to the appropriate repairer. As one of the head investigative journalists on the Claverack Climate Smart e-newsletter team, I had gathered several items for repair. First up: after years of Christmas lights that break and get tossed, I had purchased some higher quality lights and one of the strings wasn’t lighting. I was sent to Bill O’Neill, a New Lebanon Climate Smart Committee member, who was on lamp repair duty. After fixing a bent plug and reattaching a wire my lights were, once again, holiday festive! I then brought a fan that was stuck on high to Mike Sullivan, former Claverack Free Library board member who was volunteering his expertise, and now my fan runs on all speeds! On to the sewing ladies who repaired my wife’s corduroys and my favorite summer t-shirt. Finally, Edward repaired my two chairs whose spindles had come out of the legs. 

I am old enough to remember TV, electronic, and shoe repair shops and am, like a lot of Americans, frustrated that when something is broken it usually means it is thrown away. These days things are made to be tossed, from fast fashion to electronics that are quickly obsolete, even as we all know that landfills are not a sustainable option for the massive amount of garbage we toss. Climate Smart Committees are a natural fit for the Repair Cafes. 

As John Bradley, Claverack Climate Smart Committee member, stated: “Our economy of waste is a significant contributor to our climate crisis. Repairing and reusing things keeps them out of landfill, reduces energy waste and saves on natural resources that would be used to replace what is discarded.  Reuse or recycling of consumer goods takes us a tiny step closer to a sustainable society.”

Electric cars, heat pumps, LED lights, and developing solar and wind alternatives are all important but so is going back to the basics of purchasing something to last a lifetime, or even several generations, and fixing it when it is broken. A slower, more thoughtful kind of living focused on valuing not acquiring. And right now it is one of the things our world is demanding from us. For those of you, dear Readers, who missed this event, Director Schoep has indicated that there will be another Repair Cafe in January. So don’t toss your broken things away; save them for a new day.

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