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Blog: Thursday, March 12th, 2020

Repair, Replace, Repurpose

Mrs. Brown purchased some comfy beanbag-type chairs for the Library Commons this year; it didn’t take very long for them to be taken out of circulation from the wear & tear of students jumping onto them gleefully, leaving a trail of white confetti onto the library floor.  I asked her what we could do, including purchasing new, sturdier products—like steel/Kevlar reinforced with titanium bolts or something that can withstand jumping Kindergarten students AND small nuclear blasts.  She answered that she was hoping to take them home one more time to reinforce the seams, to see if they will do any good;  the product was popular, but it (apparently) was not built to withstand the daily cheer of children.

I was watching a CBC investigative show, about how appliances don’t seem to last as long as they used to. On top of paying top dollar for dishwashers, stoves, washers and fridges, most of them only seem to last about five years.  Ok, then we find a part and fix it, right?  Nope.  It seems that in Canada, there is no “right to repair” law as in Europe, where parts must be available to purchase for repairing…so you’re out of luck if you want to find a replacement compressor for your $3000, 3 year old Wifi-ready LG fridge with ice maker.  Just so you know, I only buy used Maytag washers built in the 1990’s, because they are practically bulletproof; they’re cheap, easy to fix, and they work. No fancy bells or whistles, and Siri/Alexa can’t tell it what to do.  You can have a used dishwasher for $50 that will last 1-5 years from Craigslist; I’ve replaced about 7 of them so far.  You don’t fix it, just buy another used one…because they last as long as new ones.

Finally, my surfboard collection.  My first surfboard was a1970’s  7’4” oldie from California I picked up at a garage sale for $25.  It’s kind of cold in these parts of the Pacific, so I picked up a couple of oversized, slightly-torn $10 wetsuits, cut them and glued them back together (without a youtube video I might add), and I was good to go for the next 30 years. One day, I realized that there aren’t that many 70+ year olds surfing on the water, so the tipping point of price over joy comes into play...more recreational joy costs more money, but money isn’t my enemy now—it’s time. So, yes, I bought a new surfboard and wetsuit, but I also bought a Charlie Brown surfboard destined for the scrapyard, took it apart, and repaired it back to live many more days on the water.  A labour of love.

So what is my point? We live in a culture that values new over old, replace over repair. When I toured China many years ago I watched an old couple recycle nuts and bolts. Every summer before school begins in September, I sort and recycle my jar of nuts & bolts collected over time; even though it has no current purpose, it WILL. We donated a few old bicycles to a fellow in Langley, who repaired them to help men & women get to work, in Africa. Bolts used in a shelter at Rick Hansen Secondary are now re-used on our school playground. Parts of our old school kitchen ended up happily at Habitat for Humanity. Our well-used washer and dryer, because accidents happen at school, is a donation from our parent community. Finally, Lost & Found items often find their way donated to to children in Central America at Spring Break. So much of what we can discard can be reinvested if we put our mind to it. Before you replace it, see if you can repair it, then reinvest it for a new beginning.  My new surfboard may be amazing, but my repaired surfboard is my joy, because it has been reborn with new purpose.

Have a Wonderful (and SAFE) Spring Break!