Upcycling for the environment and the economy

By Anita Barreca.

It’s a simple idea. When something breaks—you fix it—or find someone who can. Our parents and grandparents knew this as a matter or course. They would be scratching their heads about the need for a new law that requires manufacturers to make products that everyday people can repair themselves. And yet, The Right to Repair Bill (SB 5464) is currently in committee in our state legislature. “promoting the fair servicing and repair of digital electronic equipment in a safe, secure, reliable, and sustainable manner to increase access to appropriate and affordable digital electronic equipment, support small businesses and jobs, and enhance digital connectivity in Washington state. Visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummaryBillNumber=5464&Year=2023 to learn more.

In a “perfect world” electrical devices are designed in such a way that they are easier to repair. Products and raw materials are also reused as much as possible.

Let’s concentrate on Repair. At our community level this means enabling residents and businesses to fix the goods they want to keep and facilitating the collection of unwanted items for reuse by others.

This illustrates the Circular Economy which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. The life cycle of products is extended in a way that reduces waste to a minimum.

As it stands now in our county:

On Lopez, the ReMakery (https://lopezremakery.squarespace.com/about) uses materials they find in the recycle bin or at the “Take it or Leave it” store and turns them into usable products. They also teach people how to mend their own clothes and fix their own lamps and electrical devices.

On Orcas, The Exchange offers classes in Skills That Matter-Sew 4 Zero Waste – Orcas Island Exchange (exchangeorcas.org) sewing classes. Sew 4 Zero Waste is a program Asifa Pasin started at The Exchange allowing community members to learn and practice sewing skills, participate in zero waste practices, and work on personal projects while networking with others.

Here on San Juan Island, we do not have one place to learn to repair and keep items out of the landfill or recycle bin. We have several. Transition San Juan and the San Juan Island Grange are helping to bring attention to these spaces by sponsoring a Repair Fair on Sunday, February 12th from Noon until 4 p.m. Workspace tables will be set up in the Grange Hall by members of the Fellowshop, Alchemy Arts Center, and individuals interested in repairing, mending, darning, and sharpening your broken and torn items. And teaching you to repair them yourself.

Cost is free and some hand tools and sewing implements will be provided (BYOS- bring your own supplies). Attendees will have a chance to mend clothing, make art, or repair simple/small household items (like a lamp!) at each respective workstation. Each organization will have guidance on hand to help and are happy to answer any questions about their organization and the Repair Fair series.

We are coordinating repair-, mend-, and upcycle-focused events year-round across San Juan Island where attendees can find the space, community, and resources to help themselves and each other become more resourceful.