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Sustainable Missoula: Don’t toss it – fix it

John, a carpentry Fixit Coach shows two participants how to fix their wooden chair.

When our favorite appliances, well-loved furniture, or heavily used electronics break, sometimes the easiest thing to do is to throw them in the trash. When the zippers of our jackets fail or the eyeballs of our children’s stuffed animals fall off, we deem them obsolete and then throw them in the trash. When our things rip, tear, snap, or simply stop working, we throw them in the trash. The life of our material possessions often ends in the landfill because of the disposable relationship we have with our things. 

Although it may be easier and less time consuming to replace our broken item with a brand new one, the consequences outweigh the convenient benefits. More unnecessary waste means larger landfills and more raw materials extracted to make replacement goods. The idea that our possessions are disposable, especially when they break, feeds our current unsustainable materials economy.

So, how do we change our relationship with our broken stuff? We learn how to fix it! Some things cannot be repaired – we get it – but trying is both fun and empowering, and usually ends up being more cost effective for the consumer.

There are dozens of programs worldwide that are actively working towards making this change a reality. Whether it is creating goods that are built to last or that come with repair instructions like this laptop company, or housing repair information like the ifixit website, the option to fix our things is becoming more and more accessible. Groups like the Right to Repair Movement and organizations throughout the world fight planned obsolescence, and for our right to repair. 

Sometimes all people need is the right tool and the space to attempt a repair. Tools can be expensive and tinkering may not come naturally to some of us, so we need community spaces where we feel empowered to explore with people who can coach us along the way. These spaces are called Fixit Clinics. These events are gaining traction everywhere with new clinics regularly starting up all around the world. 

A Fixit Clinic is an event where community members can bring their worn, broken, or malfunctioning items and learn to repair them. Skilled volunteers (aka Fixit Coaches) help repair those items by sharing their knowledge and skills of sewing and mending, carpentry, electrical, and household appliance repairs. 

One of the many goals of Home ReSource is to reshape how we see our materials, and to view our relationship with our stuff through a sustainable lens. When we ReSourcers heard of Fixit Clinics, we knew that this program was perfect for our community.

We subsequently hosted our first one on Earth Day in 2018. Since then, we have fixed over 50 items and built a small but mighty team of incredible Fixit Coach volunteers. These clinics occur on a Saturday each month (to stay up to date with the schedule, check our website!) and typically take place in the Home ReSource Community Room. Tools and repair expertise are provided, but fixes are not guaranteed. At the very least, someone will be able to guide you through your repair attempt. 

Fixit Clinics help us think critically about our relationship to consumption and sustainability and demonstrate how repair is a good way to reduce the global burden related to resource extraction and waste. The result is technology demystified, more people empowered with simple repair know-how, and less stuff trashed & replaced. 

If you are not interested in attending an in-person Fixit Clinic due to the recent increase in covid cases, check out some of these online Fixit resources and National Fixit Clinic blog! If you know how to fix your broken item but don’t have the tools, check out our friendly neighborhood tool library, Missoula Urban Demonstration (MUD), and they should have you covered.  

Have some fixing knowledge and skills you would like to share with your community? 

Sign up to be a Fixit Coach by emailing Michelle Barton.

Michelle Barton – Big Sky Watershed Corps Member serving with Home ReSource.

Sustainability Happenings

Soil Cycle Compost Delivery Bike – Friday, September 17th 4:00-6:30 PM

Volunteers needed! Contact soilcyclemissoula@gmail.com to get involved!

Spontaneous Construction – Sept 18th. Missoula’s festival of creative reinvention! Reuse. Compete. Create. Enjoy! More info and team registration here.

Fall Beekeeping Workshop – Sunday Sept. 19th 12-2pm at MUD Tool Library. Purchase tickets here.

MUD will be hosting a two hour beekeeping workshop that costs $10 for MUD members and $20 for nonmembers.

Missoula’s third annual Clean Energy Expo – Sept 25, 10am-2pm. Climate Smart Missoula, together with partners — the Montana Renewable Energy Association, City of Missoula, Missoula County, and Clearwater Credit Union — are back to hosting this premier event at Caras Park. More information is HERE, let us know if you’d like to sponsor or host a table, and do Save the Date.

Fixit Clinic – October 2nd 11am-3pm at the Missoula Public Library MakerSpace Register here.

Here we offer ideas about sustainable ways to stay involved in our community. If you like these offerings, consider signing up for Climate Smart’s eNewsletter here. And sign up for the Home ReSource eNews via their homepage here.

Women-Led Introduction to Carpentry- October 16th and 17th, 10 am-4 pm at MUD Library. Purchase tickets here.

MUD will be hosting a two day women-Led carpentry course that costs $30 for MUD members and $60 for nonmembers.

Missoula’s Farmers Markets. Eat local now through the early fall! The original Farmers Market at the north end of Higgins runs every Saturday 8am-12:30 – information here. The Clark Fork Market is now located at 101 Carousel Drive near Dragon Hallow, runs every Saturday 8am -1pm – information is here.

Bike to Barns tour – Aug. 14-Sept. 30. Explore local farms and flavors on a 15-mile bike tour through Missoula’s Orchard Homes and Target Range neighborhoods. Check back here for more info.

Materials donations to Home Resource keep the wheels of reuse spinning in our community; and remember that everything you need to know about what to do with your unwanted stuff is at www.zerobyfiftymissoula.com.

Find more local activities and events at Missoulaevents.net and on Montana Environmental Information Center’s Conservation Calendar. And you too can help organize events – here’s the 2021 Calendar of Environmental Awareness Days – month by month breakdown of world day campaigns.