Don’t despair, repair: why repairing is on the rise 

repairing appliance

Ali Moore, head of behaviour change at ReLondon, explains why more people are repairing their possessions to reduce their impact on the environment.

Repairing is on the rise. It’s a fact. And while repairing your stuff makes complete sense from a cost perspective, I was especially happy to see from a recent survey we ran at ReLondon that 75% of Londoners think we need to repair more to tackle the climate emergency.

Tackling the climate emergency is no small task, but I’m a firm believer that every policy-maker, every business and every citizen has an urgent part to play in confronting consumption as a driver of climate change. Changing our attitudes towards repairing is a good (and often enjoyable) place to start.

By giving people the tools and confidence to carry out simple repairs, we can reduce the amount of stuff we buy and send to disposal – and ultimately make a genuine difference for the planet. With industries like fashion contributing to between 2-10% of global carbon emissions and the UK being one of the world’s largest producers of electrical and electronic equipment waste, generating up to 23.9kg per head each year, according to the Environmental Audit Committee, repairing is an easy way to make a difference.

All of our stuff, whether it’s clothing, electrical items or home appliances, has a carbon footprint. From material extraction through manufacturing, distribution, retail practices, product use and then ultimately disposal, the carbon cost associated with our global consumption is surprisingly high. The global management of land and production of goods and food account for 45% of damaging greenhouse gas emissions, so it makes sense to reduce the amount of stuff we use.

With tech gadgets, for instance, the process of extracting rare earth metals and using natural resources often generates more emissions than using the items themselves – without even touching on some of the exploitative working practices associated with this kind of mineral extraction. By repairing items instead of buying new, you are cutting out the whole manufacturing process and the carbon emissions associated with that.

The good news is that we’re seeing more Londoners repairing items.

When we polled over 1,000 respondents across London aged 18+, we found that 93% of people in the capital have repaired something in the past year. This has increased from 72% in 2020.

Our research intriguingly showed that a slower life – enforced by the pandemic – might be pushing the agenda further. Over a quarter of Londoners (28%) told us that they taught themselves to repair something during the pandemic and while repair services may have been more difficult to access during this time, this didn’t stop people in the capital – 25% said they repaired more.

Coming out of the other end of the pandemic, we hope to see this behaviour sticking around as we move to a more circular economy. However, with 75% of people also agreeing we are losing commonplace repair skills, we know there is more to be done to help people step up and tackle the climate emergency through repairing.

At ReLondon, we’re leading a revolution in our relationship with “stuff”. It’s our mission to transform the way we create, consume and dispose of stuff, drastically reducing our CO2e emissions and protecting our future by enabling London to become a circular economy sooner.

March saw us launch London’s second-ever Repair Week, offering Londoners tips, tutorials and techniques to help repair more themselves – or find local repair businesses to do it for them. More than 40 organisations and 800 people across London took part in the week, as well as more than 20 of London’s councils.

We are living through a climate emergency, where our actions and behaviours are having a devastating impact on the planet. If unchecked, the damage will be irreversible; our actions now will have a fundamental impact on us and future generations. But there is great power in joint human endeavour, and we’ve seen through the pandemic our astounding capacity to change and achieve.

Repairing and reusing is a way for all of us to contribute. The latest IPCC report included consumer action as a valid climate solution for the first time and, whilst it shouldn’t all lay at the feet of citizens, we do have a part to play.

The solution to the climate emergency is entirely within our collective grasp, and we can avoid the point of no return if we reduce CO2e emissions drastically. In our latest study on repairing, nearly a quarter of Londoners (23%) told us they have repaired more because they have become more concerned about the climate crisis.

We believe that working towards a more circular economy can deliver the drastic reductions in carbon emissions that we need – so let’s revolutionise our relationship with stuff and get repairing.

ReLondon’s annual circular economy week is taking place 13 to 17 June 2022. Find out more here.

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