Fixit culture is on the rise, but repair legislation faces resistance


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Adam Savage, host of Tested, and right to repair advocate, shows off the lathe he's fixing at his San Francisco workshop.

Adam Savage, host of Tested, and right to repair advocate, shows off the lathe he’s fixing at his San Francisco workshop.

Chloe Veltman/NPR

Americans are responsible for throwing out more stuff than any other nation in the world. According to the Public Interest Research Group, people in this country generate more than 12% of the planet’s trash, though we represent only 4% of the global population.

“We keep going at this pace and we’ll reach the heat death of the earth in a few hundred years,” said Adam Savage, the leader and host of Tested, a popular YouTube channel and website aimed at makers, and an outspoken advocate for repairing the things we own rather than trashing them. “So time is of the essence.”

Throwing things away comes with an environmental cost. Manufacturing processes and decomposing products in landfills emit significant levels of climate warming pollution. Some materials, like plastic, never decompose. Savage said it’s time human beings reminded themselves that throwaway culture is a relatively new phenomenon. It started about a hundred years ago with the rise of mass manufacturing.

“We have been repairers and restorers for millennia longer than we’ve been profligate thrower outer of things,” Savage said, as he worked on mending the hulking wood-and-metal-shaping lathe that occupies a corner of the professional tinkerer’s cavernous workshop.

Appetite for repair on the rise

Most of us don’t have Savage’s drive for Extreme DIY.

Nevertheless, the appetite for fixing things is on the rise. From patching jeans to replacing phone screens, U.S. consumers are showing an increased interest in prolonging the life of the things they own, rather than getting rid of them.

This points to a shift in how Americans are defining what it means to be a responsible shopper as global consumption continues to contribute to climate change.

Online how-to videos are getting hundreds of thousands of hits. And people are flocking to community repair workshops in cities across the country. Those started to take off around 2009, with organizations like Fixit Clinic and Repair Cafe now offering well over a hundred repair events in the U.S. each year.

San Francisco resident Daniel Leong poses with a bike be brought to a San Francisco Public Library repair day.

San Francisco resident Daniel Leong poses with a…