Repair Café. Toss it? No Way!

By Caroline Rothaug, Sustainable Saratoga Administrator


The December 2023 Repair Café was a success! We had 45 guests, who brought 48 items to be repaired. Most of those items left the Café as good as new: 38 were repaired, and several guests left with advice on what to do with an item that couldn’t be repaired or completely repaired.

Here’s the rundown on what guests brought for the coaches to look at:

Photo credit: Wendy Mahaney

13 pieces of clothing and textiles
11 lamps
5 small appliances
4 small electronics
2 computer-related items
3 clocks & watches
2 pieces of jewelry
2 pieces of furniture
6 miscellaneous electrical & mechanical items

Sustainable Saratoga and the Saratoga Springs Public Library will co-host our tenth Repair Café on Saturday, December 9th. If you’ve never been to a Repair Café, I invite you to stop by the Harry Dutcher Room in the Library between 1 and 4 pm on Saturday to see what it’s all about. Better yet, bring something broken with you and get it fixed! It’s free, and you don’t need a reservation.

Dutch environmentalist and former journalist Martine Postma came up with the Repair Café concept. She organized the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam on October 18, 2009. Fourteen years later, there are 2,943 Repair Cafés all over the world, including one right here in Saratoga and several more in the surrounding area.

Why Repair?

There are many reasons for repairing your broken things. Protecting our environment is a really powerful incentive. Repairing and reusing reduces what goes into landfills, and reduces demand for new goods made with precious natural resources and/or toxic substances. When you give historical and sentimental items new life, they can go on to serve future generations. Fixing a cherished toy puts a smile back on a child’s face. 

Before fast fashion and planned obsolescence became the norm, repairing was just what people did. They mended torn clothing over and over again and put broken tools back together. Things were made to last and constructed so that they could be repaired. And, fixing broken items saved money, which is not always the case today. The Repair Cafe website says it best: The trouble is, lots of people have forgotten that they can repair things themselves…The Repair Café teaches people to see their possessions in a new light. And, once again, to appreciate their value.

The impact of Repair Cafés

According to the website, Repair Cafés worldwide fix nearly 53,000 items per month, and kept an estimated 420,000 kilos (463 tons) of waste out of landfills in 2019.

Closer to home, guests have brought 532 items to our Saratoga Repair Cafés since June of 2018. Our coaches have a great rate of success, and are able to repair most of the items they are presented with. The most common items guests bring in include lamps, clothing, jewelry, vacuum cleaners, and other small household appliances. But our coaches will give anything a try! If they can’t fix it, possibly because they don’t have a replacement part on hand, or the appropriate tool, they can often advise on where to get a professional repair.

The thing I like best about Repair Cafés is the atmosphere of community and positivity. The coaches really enjoy what they do, and guests get into the spirit as well. When you bring something to repair, we encourage you to watch and even participate in working on the repair, learning about how things work and how we can extend their useful lives. As a textile coach myself, I get a real sense of satisfaction from seeing something go from useless to usable, and from seeing how pleased people are to be able to wear or use their items again.