Developing new skills, or remembering old ones, to make stuff we can’t go out and buy…

As individuals we can help repair the climate by mending and repurposing items rather than sending them to waste. With shops and service industries closed it has been less easy to replace and repair our ‘stuff’ during this crisis. However, with more time on our hands we have had the opportunity to make and mend things. Fixing things can sometimes prove a challenge, with objects often designed to discourage this, it is amazing how hard it can be to change some watch batteries without breaking the watch!

The Covid Crisis has highlighted risks from our linear (take-make-dispose) economy. The personal protective equipment (PPE) crisis, in particular, has shown the inherent risk in relying on imported single use items, as well as the volumes of waste this generates in a single day. As a nation we hope lessons have been learned and going forward we will change to more reusable or circular economy products.

With the right internet search term, we can find a wealth of information to help us to repair and make things. This winter the control panel on the Transition Town Letchworth (TTL) Thermal Camera failed. After watching a UTube video showing how to change the panel, and sourcing of the part from Ebay, the camera was fixed for just £60, a lot cheaper than the manufacturers £390 in-house repair option.

Ifixit.com is a good place to search for repair advice. Its main focus is electronic products, with the aim of reducing e-waste, but it has advice for other household products. We know this website has been used to keep essential home learning computers operating during this lockdown.

Often a small repair can extend the life of clothes. However, sometimes old clothes don’t fit with your current lifestyle or just don’t fit anymore! In this situation a web search for your item with the word ‘upgrade’ can be inspirational. During the lockdown items that have been ignored in my wardrobe have found a new lease of life with a blouse turned into fashionable ‘paperbag shorts’ and a skirt into a child’s sundress. We are seeing some creative face masks made from repurposed fabric. Wood and furniture are also items that can be ‘upgraded’. On TTLs educational allotment, old pallets have been converted into a workbench and a compost heap.

Royston, Hitchin and Cambridge all have repair cafes, these provide a forum for people to share their knowledge and skills to help others fix items that they bring along. Currently, TTL repair activity has been limited to cycle maintenance, but courses in sewing and upholstery are available at the Letchworth Settlement. TTL would be interested in hearing from anyone who wants to help start a local Repair Café.

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