The Fix-It Fair and the right to repair

The fair runs 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on April 14.

What makes a real Bowen Islander?

You’re all too willing to go over the top on October 31.

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You know your neighbours.

You don’t begrudge working for free.

Garbage really irks you.

There are plenty of other things, I’m sure, but it’s the garbage thing I want to talk about. 

Here on Bowen, just about everyone accepts the complexity of our our recycling systems, our composting systems and the pricey stickers on our garbage cans. People grumble about all kinds of things here, but not this. In most communities, you’d risk a municipal shut-down by sticking a price tag of $92 dollars on a second garbage can, to be collected bi-weekly. On Bowen, we suck it up. Plenty of us even embrace it. Waste-reduction is just one of our “things.”

That particular “thing” takes many forms, and one them is the bi-annual Bowen In Transition Fix-it Fair. What happens is that a bunch of handy people get together with their tools at Collins Hall and wait around for their island neighbours to bring them stuff that’s broken: toys, computers, vacuums, bicycles, clothing, you name it. As they toil, the neighbours get to know one another a little better, and the fixer shares her or his tips. Sometimes, the broken thing in question just can’t be fixed.

Actually, the truth is, there’s plenty that can’t be fixed. The Fix-it Fair’s volunteer electronics repair people will even tell you – the newer it is, the less likely it can be fixed.

At the Fix-it Fair, our handy volunteers will do their best to fix even the unfixable, and show you their whole process. 

It doesn’t have to stop here, though. We can ask companies to make their products more fixable. Eighteen states in the U.S. have passed “right to repair” bills. These require companies selling products (mostly electronics and heavy machinery) to offer tools, manuals and other supplies to make it possible for owners and independent technicians to fix their products. In Ontario, MPP Michael Coteau introduced a private members bill asking the same thing of electronics manufacturers in Ontario. 

Increasing the longevity of our phones and computers would be better for our pocket books and obviously would reduce e-waste. It would also mean more precious metals could stay in the ground where they belong, and we could start looking for ways to deal with the toxic-sludge lakes that have been made processing them, instead of simply enlarging them.

It’s a big issue, with at least one straightforward solution.

Bowen Islanders have done such a great job of diverting waste by creating and running the recycling depot and the Knick Knack Nook – maybe it’s time we take the next step and ask corporations to be as responsible as we are?

While we’re getting our broken things fixed on April 14 (at Collins Hall, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.) we can talk about it more. Join the conversation at the Bowen In Transition Fix-it-Fair. This event is free.

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