Broken lamp or vacuum? Don’t throw it away — take it to a Repair Café

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One man’s trash is another’s … project. Or rather, your trash is soon to become your newly repaired possession. It’s all in a day’s work at a Repair Café, a concept that began in Amsterdam in 2009 and has since sprouted legs and found its way around the world. Today, you can find such a café in 30 countries — there are 1,200 of them or so to choose from. Their goal is consistent: To repair things together.

“In the place where a Repair Café is located, you’ll find tools and materials to help you make any repairs you need,” the organization explains on its website. “On clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, appliances, toys, et cetera. You’ll also find expert volunteers, with repair skills in all kinds of fields.”

While Repair Cafés are heralded as learning experiences and places to build community, they also serve a very real environmental need. In 2013, 254 million tons of garbage were generated in the United States alone — this included furniture, clothing, and appliances, some of which might’ve been repaired (and saved from the dumpster) by a café.

Indeed, the organization notes, “Things are being used for longer and don’t have to be thrown away,” which in turn “reduces the volume of raw materials and energy needed to make new products.” The end result could be lower CO2 emissions, an ever more salient concern as we look to protect our environment.

Repairing hobbyists, however, promise that their goal is not to detract from business that might otherwise be enjoyed by professional repairmen and women. Rather, the organization says, its organizers hope to use the cafés to encourage visitors to seek help from “the few professionals still around.” Ultimately, the organization seeks to help visitors “see their possessions in a new light,” which is “essential to kindle people’s enthusiasm for a sustainable society.”

So if you’re looking to get something fixed or want to help fix something yourself, you can visit one in your area or start one yourself.

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