Tag Archives: Repair

Homesteader skills for a Zero Waste lifestyle

In our modern society we are leaving our roots further and further behind, skills that early homesteaders or even our grandparents used have not been learned. Early homesteaders to survive had to be self-sufficient. While most of us do not live off-the-grid, we can benefit from learning some of these self-sufficiency skills to help us create a more sustainable Zero Waste home.

Here are 10 homesteader skills that will help you with your Zero Waste journey

  1. Canning: Canning is an economical and environmentally- friendly way of preserving fruits, vegetables and meats. It allows you to eat holistically all year round. As well as preserving summer bounty, it reduces packaging and allows you to eat locally grown foods throughout the year. Many communities now offer canning workshops for those wishing to learn. Also you can find recipes and techniques such a small batch canning on the internet.
  2. Sewing:  Basic sewing skills help to keep clothing maintained. The ability to replace a button or fix a hem will reduce the amount of clothing discarded. Sewing skills can also help us to repurpose or upcycle garments.  Check out your local library for books and our local fabric store is a great place to get advice.
  3. Make cleaning supplies: Making your own cleaning supplies can cut down on toxins in your home as well as packaging waste. You’ll spend a little time for preparation but save lots of money. Declutter the cupboard by using multi-purpose ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
  4. Sharpen a knife, axe or other cutting tools: Buying good quality products and then caring for them extends the useful life of tools. Using a dull knife is causing mishaps in the kitchen. Be safe and learn to sharpen .
  5. Nose-to- tail dining: A generation or two, homesteaders made the most of less popular cuts of meat including livers, intestines and extremities. In recent years, chefs and butchers have been embracing The Nose to Tail Movement which stems from a desire to be more responsible and waste as little as possible of the animals we kill for food.
  6. Eat weeds: Many weeds are rich in vitamins and antioxidants and are inexpensive nutrition. Instead of fighting with weeds we can benefit from learning how we can use them to supplement our diets.
  7. Using left-overs: Food was too valuable to waste, early homesteaders ate simply and used left-over food to make new meals. Food is still too good to waste. Older cookbooks or Cindy Chavick’s cook book ,The Waste Not, Want Not Cookbook: Save Food, Save Money, and Save the Planet can inspire.
  8. Repair: There was no “going and buy a new one” for many early homesteaders instead if something broke or needed repair they fixed it. Machinery, furniture, dwelling and fences were all repaired to make them last. Today consumers can learn to repair  products like small appliances, cell phones and  computers by accessing online guides from wiki-based sites like iFixit .
  9. Sharing skills: It was not unusual for a community to band together to raise a barn or help a neighbour in the past. Today a sharing economy is developing in many communities with organizations like Repair Cafes  that are helping individuals to repair items.
  10. Repurposing: Homesteaders often didn’t have a lot of stuff or money to buy stuff: biscuit tins were reused, flour sacks became clothing and towels and rags became rugs. Crafting projects and facebook sites are a great source of ideas for repurposing household objects for us today.

Keep in mind that learning skills may take some time, perseverance, and patience, but learning new things can only enrich our daily lives. Maybe visit a senior and give them an opportunity to pass down some Zero Waste skills.

Share the repair: The Repair Café movement

Thirty years ago, a television, kettle, toaster or the hem on a skirt were repaired; today these items are more likely to be discarded.

As the current pace of our society’s consumption is increasing our demand for finite raw materials and creating an enormous waste problem. Factors contributing to this overconsumption include latest fashion trends, but also the increasing difficulties encountered in maintaining or repairing. As a result local jobs in repair are declining and consumers have fewer options to repair their products. The American Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) had estimated that in 1963 approximately 110,000 people were employed as television and radio repairmen. By 1982 that number had dropped to approximately 80,000 workers and by 2006 that estimate was reduced to just 40,000 workers. This decline happened in contrast to the fact that the number of television sets per household had increased from 1.13 in 1960 to 2.6 by 2005. In 1967, the BLS also estimated that there were 9,136 shoe repairmen in America, but by 2004 it reported only 2,825 shoe repairmen. This is a significant decline despite the fact that America’s population had increased by over 90 million during this same period. Whilst these statistics may paint a bleak picture, the opportunity to reverse this trend and realize the currently untapped potential in reuse and repair are significant.

In the last six years there has been a quiet revolution combating the “take, make and dispose” linear model of resource destruction that has been expanding globally – the “share the repair” movement.

Dutch journalist Martine Postma keen to drive local-level sustainability launched the Repair Café movement in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in 2009. The next year, fired by its success, she set up the non-profit Repair Café Foundation to provide guidelines. The guidelines help to build up a network of active Repair Cafés around the world

There are now 1,003 centres worldwide, with hundreds in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands and 15 listed in Canada.

Each is a community hub where local residents can bring in broken items and get them repaired for free, as well as network, learn skills, socialize and help others. Local expertise, tools, repair manuals and materials are all on hand. Combining education, social inclusivity, ‘sharing economy’ practices and sustainable action, the cafés have become nodes in the circular economy, teaching its principles from the bottom up.

Visitors bring their broken items from home. Together with the specialists they start making their repairs in the Repair Café. It’s an ongoing learning process. If you have nothing to repair, you can enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can lend a hand with someone else’s repair job. You can also get inspired at the reading table – by leafing through books on repairs and DIY.

Grassroots Innovation and the Circular Economy: Global Survey of Repair Cafés & Hackerspaces ,the research findings undertaken by Professor Martin Charter and Scott Keiller of The Centre for Sustainable Design® suggest that volunteers at Repair Café are most strongly motivated to take part largely because of what they can do for others, namely their desire to help others live more sustainably, to provide a valuable service to the community and to help improve product reparability and longevity. Results also clearly suggest Repair Café activities are not just about repair. Modification to clothing is offered by most Repair Cafés and modifications to and upcycling of electrical and electronic components is also undertaken at some cafés.

Locations for the monthly or weekly of these free repair gatherings is often at church halls or libraries or campuses. The Regina Public Library recently hosted an event .

Repair Cafés are not usually customers of repair specialists. They say that they normally throw away broken items because paying to have them repaired is, in general, too expensive. At the Repair Café they learn that you don’t have to throw things away; there are alternatives.

While politicians worldwide are talking about a better environment, volunteers are repairing over 18,000 items under the Repair Café’s flag every month.

Repair Cafes in Canada