You can get the right fix

What happens in your household when your favourite lamp goes on the fritz?

Or when your toaster quits toasting, or coffee maker, cassette player, gizmo of any kind just stops working?

You may be willing to change out a bulb, wiggle a cord or check that the electrical outlet is working. But if you’re like many, that’s as far you go.

And then that perfectly good thing that perhaps just needs a new plug, or switch or sometimes just a good dose of WD40, perfectly good stuff, hits the trash because it has a new name. "Broken.”

This may not be so common in our parents, or grandparents era; they were typically very good fixers. And they were also not as privy to the more recent notion of planned obsolescence, where many products today are designed to fail.

That said, many of us  today are just not that terribly comfortable opening up the innards of electrical devices to see what makes them tick, to see if we can figure out what’s gone wrong.

Chalk this up to:

  • lack of technical savvy
  • lack of confidence
  • concern for personal safety (read here fear of electrical shock!)
  • lack of patience
  • all or any of the above.

The thing to keep in mind though — all our belongings, at one stage or another, were made by people, and can also be fixed, by people. At least by people who know a little about what they’re doing, and are at least well equipped to try.

That in a nutshell is the whole idea behind the Repair Café.

It’s a whole bunch of awesome volunteers who all know how to fix different types of things — coming together in one location on one day — who bring tools, and let another bunch of people with some basic household stuff that needs fixing show up, looking for help. It’s just that simple.

So what do they fix?

The list is long, and depends on not only on the skill set of the volunteers who show up on the particular day to be fixers, but also what walks in the door tucked under someone’s arm to be fixed.

No job is too big or too small; the volunteer fixers typically take a look at just about anything and give it their best shot.

We’re talking about everything from small electronics, audio equipment, clocks, figurines and fine china, furniture, collectibles, clothing items, and beyond. If it’s broken, it’s fair game.

The Central Okanagan Regional District Waste Reduction Office has hosted a spring and fall Repair Cafe for the past number of years at Okanagan College.

All repairs are done free of charge.

Fixers encourage the owner of the item to get involved in the fixing process, help troubleshoot, dismantle, whatever it takes.

Sometimes they also offer up advice on where to get missing parts, or where to go for additional advice. If you bring in a broken item in need of repair, you will be encouraged to engage in the whole fixing process — no drop and return later for pick up.

Volunteer fixers are grouped together with similar skill sets and basic tools and supplies. People who attend line up to get their broken things repaired.

Waste Reduction Office staff match up visitors with the right fixer, or next available fixer. While people wait, they are treated to coffee, tea, donuts and other fun activities to keep them occupied.

Over the last few years, the Okanagan Regional Library has also been on hand to help do research, and provide manuals and books on loan to help with fix ups.

The Repair Café model is not new to the Okanagan. It started in the Netherlands almost a decade ago, and has since been spreading to the North American continent as consciousness builds over the incredible volume of stuff North Americans toss away, often needlessly, daily.

The Repair Cafe is not only about fixing things, but also about building community. Fixers tend to chat with one another, and the people they are helping- while they work.

Not only do Repair Cafes keep stuff out of landfills and save us money, they help the fixers and those having items fixed feel good. It’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment — taking something from broken to fixed.

And what a feeling of empowerment too, teaching people to troubleshoot, learn a new skill set, walk away with more knowledge about how to fix something for themselves, or know how to troubleshoot for themselves in the future.

If you want more info on the upcoming Repair Café at the Okanagan College Trades Building on Saturday, March 30, visit regionaldistrict.com/repaircafe.

Even better, if you would like to lend your particular skill set to a future Repair Café, we would love to hear from you.

Just email [email protected] or call 250-469-6250.


A conversation about gifts

Most of us get the warm fuzzies by showing our love and affection for our near and dear ones with the giving of gifts.

However, the shopping craze that has become synonymous with Christmas, not to mention the rest of the over consumption that often times spins around the holidays, leaves many of us exhausted and downright tapped out.

It also often leaves us knee deep in a pile of waste — physically and financially.

Perhaps it’s time for something simpler, less consumer driven, more intentional, so that we truly do bring joy to those we love and appreciate, including ourselves.

Consider this.

Before you buy a bunch of stuff this year for those cherished loved ones, ask them first if they even want a whole bunch of stuff this season. Or, perhaps pitch the idea of a family plan to only buy gifts for the kids or the gift of an experience.

Why not limit gift giving to something more manageable by drawing names, instead of gifts for everyone, or choose to volunteer with family and friends instead, in support of a cherished cause.

If any of the above resonates with you, start the conversation. Often that’s the hardest part —approaching your family with a new idea. If not now, perhaps in time for next years’ holiday swirl.

Quite likely someone in your circle will appreciate it. And, to get things rolling, you could always ask for a change to what you  receive, perhaps no gifts at all, or a donation to a charity in your name instead.

The possibilities are endless.

While you are searching for alternate gifting ideas, why not check out the ample lists of experiences over stuff to treat your loved ones.

You can find all kinds of fun ideas at www.regionaldistrict.com/makememories.

Here are just a few to get you started.

  • Organize a family skate
  • Re gift a favourite novel or board game
  • Treat someone you love to a live performance, sporting event, theatre tickets, a trip to the  spa
  • Offer your dog walking or cat sitting services
  • Sign someone up for a cooking class, or art class
  • Teach them to tango, line dance, samba
  • Host an amazing dinner for all your friends

Thoughtful gift giving can dramatically reduce the amount of packaging and wrapping that accumulates and can encourage opportunities for us to create new holiday traditions for years to come.

Recycle your textiles

Here’s one to ponder the next time to you feel like adding a little something new to your wardrobe to spiff things up. Canadians on average buy 70 new items of clothing a year.

And textiles are one of the fastest growing waste streams, thanks to rapidly changing fashion trends and lower than ever prices.  In fact, some stats tout that 12 million tons a year of textile waste is dumped into North American landfills. Yikes, right?

Gone are the days that clothing is something we wear to cover up and keep us warm when it’s cool, and cool when it’s hot. We seem caught up in this constant thirst for new, novelty, on trend, which can sometimes translate into unnecessary, over the top, and disposable.

We can all find ways individually to be part of the solution, instead of part of the problem.

Here are some tips to ensure you and your family are not part of that growing textile waste trend. Old clothing and textiles are most definitely re-usable, doing so simply involves a few extra steps to make it so.

Don’t throw them in your curbside recycling cart, they are not considered part of the Recycle BC program. If you throw them in there, they end up contaminating the acceptable recyclables that are being collected, will be deemed garbage (and likely sullied with other stuff by then) and sent off to the landfill.

That’s sad, when there are so many other valuable avenues in the community that can make good use of them.

So what can you do with your old clothing and household wares to make sure they find a new life and are reused appropriately?  It’s really quite easy to get them into the second-hand market.

Consider these options.

  • Sell them online, and make some cash in the process.
  • Donate them to friends or family.
  • Donate them to thrift stores.
  • Send those that are still current to second hand consignment shops, there are many thriving ones in our area to choose from.
  • Hold a clothing swap party.
  • Contact your local animal shelter to see what they may need for pet bedding and cleanup.
  • Sometimes theatre groups or drama clubs are in need, depending on what you’ve got to donate.
  • Check out the stores policies where you buy your stuff, some retailers have launched sustainability campaigns and set up in store bins for recycling old items.

The possibilities are endless.

You’ve likely also seen the clothing donation bins all over town that support charities in our communities. A lot of the thrift stores will even come to your door and pick the donations up.

For example with the red mailbox style community boxes supplied by the Canadian Diabetes Clothesline, whatever you put in, those charities sell that material to the for profits like Value Village, they’re paid per pound, no matter what is in the bin-nice fundraiser for the charities.

They say they want “useable” textiles (not your old rags), and not just clothing-cushions, belts, shoes, sheets, blankets, bedspreads. It all has a new purpose, somewhere along the chain of reuse and repurposing.

As you are cleaning out your closets and doing your sort, keep in mind, donations don’t have to be in 100 per cent perfect condition.

Let the professionals, the textile recyclers and thrift stores make that decision, to sell them, or sell them to second end markets. Just don’t throw them in the garbage.


Be Mother Nature's deputy

We’ve all seen it or heard about it: bags of garbage tossed in a ditch, a couch left on the side of the road, litter on a sidewalk, yard waste tipped over an embankment, an old car or camper abandoned in the bush.

That is illegal dumping, disposing of something where it does not belong.

You’re not alone if you disgusted by those recent images shared through social media and news coverage of some of these more severe illegal dump sites that sully our great outdoors.

What are these people thinking, or something less polite possibly crosses your mind.

The dump site discovered on the Peachland/West Kelowna border is likely the most notorious of late — literally hundreds of tires, construction debris, household garbage and more — all scattered in a wide swath of once untouched beauty.

But sadly, there are many other messes left behind in the bush and beyond. And when hikers, horseback riders, outdoor enthusiasts of any stripe stumble upon them, it’s always disheartening. Equally as bad, these messes are often dangerous, and costly to clean up.

When someone carelessly or deliberately dumps in the bush, instead of following the proper and often easy and low cost means of placing their belongings curbside, at a recycling depot, or simply taking it to a registered transfer station or landfill, the fallout is huge.

We’re talking about things like environmental damage, contaminated drinking water, harm to wildlife, escalated risk of fire, increased costs to taxpayers for cleanup efforts, and often even more dumping, as unfortunately garbage begets more garbage.

The argument that if landfills were free this would not happen, if the hours of such and such a facility were better, or more convenient, illegal dumping would not exist is, frankly, hogwash. 

The costs to do the right thing are often much lower than the tank of gas it takes to drive out to the bush and dump. And, it’s a slim slice of the population still searching for their moral compass that are behaving this way, but ohhhh the damage a select few can do in a few moments of bad decision. 

That’s the down side.

The up side?  

There are a great many people who do care, who are willing to roll up their sleeves, put in the elbow grease and help make a difference.

Perhaps you are one of them.  

Stopping illegal dumping is and always has been a community effort as we all work together to keep our recreational surroundings the way nature intended, clean, safe, beautiful.

Thanks to more recently formed volunteer outdoor enthusiast groups such as the Okanagan Forestry Task Force, and countless other volunteer and service groups as well as nature-loving individuals in our community, over the last few decades they have assisted with thousands of personal volunteer hours to help with some of the larger scale cleanups.

The more manageable ones are tackled by contractors and Conservation Officers working under extremely lean budgets.

Here’s what’s changing.

The perpetrators need to know that more and more eyes are on them than ever before, and the tolerance level for this kind of bad behaviour is lower than ever.

With the touch of finger, images are posted and shared on social media, making that single act of destruction oh so very public.

So there’s that to keep in mind: if you are being bad in the bush, eventually, someone will see, and likely publicly out you.

And here’s what to do if you do happen to spot illegal dumping of any form.

Report all incidents with as much detail as possible, licence plate if applicable, GPS coordinates, nature of dump site, type of material and photographs are great.

Do the reporting anonymously if you need to, but let someone know, that’s the only way to get the mess moved.

We make it easy for you to use our online reporting form.  Or call Regional Waste Reduction office at 250-469-6250 anytime, or email [email protected]

We’d like to thank all the amazing volunteers that give of their time to do clean ups and keep our forests clean and safe for all. You are Heroes.

Here’s to not needing so many Heroes in years to come. l hope one day people will just learn to do the right thing.


More How's Your Waste Line? articles

About the Author

Rae Stewart is a waste reduction facilitator with the Central Okanagan Regional District and passionate about sharing information on all things related to waste-less living.

Contact her at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories