Activate your agency this #CitizenFriday

Black Friday is a day designed to inject more money into the economy but it comes with huge costs. In our last blog we touched on some of the devastating environmental impacts linked to the overconsumption it promotes. In this article we’ll talk about the impact it has on our agency and how we believe, there is a better way.

Since WW2, governments have fed us the story that being a good citizen is about supporting the economy by buying things. A person’s status has become more about what they own than the difference they make. 

Economic success is measured using GDP as an indicator. But GDP doesn’t distinguish between good and bad production. It is linked to the idea that the bigger the economy the better for everyone, an idea we know is far from true.

Our obsession with consumerism has eroded what it means to be a citizen. It has reduced our agency to the decision of choosing what to buy. As a sustainably-minded person, that generally means choosing ‘the lesser of two evils’ (if we can afford it).

Buying an electric car, eating organic, switching to green energy tariffs, insulating a property, and taking the train rather than flying are often choices that are only available to those with wealth.  

Through advertising and marketing the consumer model places value on the ownership of new shiny things, devaluing the ideas of sharing, repairing, community, collective action and human connection. 

Our role as consumers will not solve the climate crisis. Simply put, we cannot shop our way to a better future.

We need to realise that we have real agency and that it starts by thinking of ourselves as citizens over and above consumers. There are a whole host of actions that we can take to reduce our environmental impact in addition to spending less and the great news is they come with some brilliant co-benefits too.

Repairing saves money and cuts carbon emissions

In the last article we talked about how sharing can save you money. In this one, it’s the turn of repair and reuse.

“Repairs could increase a garment’s use by 75 percent and reduce its carbon emissions by 30 percent.”

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Fantastic but is there any data to suggest that people are willing to repair?

There is and it shows that Gen Z is leading a repair revolution:

“Penneys Ireland conducted research which revealed Gen Z is repairing clothing more than any other age group, with 77% mending their clothes in the last 18 months. This compares to just over a third (36%) of 25-34-year-olds and 45% of 35-44 year olds.”

You can imagine how excited we were to discover this. Go Gen Z! But what’s their reason for repairing?

  • 62% said they did it to save money (this increased to 95% among Gen Z)
  • 71% of Gen Z survey respondents said they repaired clothing for environmental reasons
  • 66% of Gen Z said it was to learn a new skill.

This is brilliant news, as Gen Z are making the connection between the things they own and how they contribute to climate change. They also recognise there is a co-benefit to boot!

The repair revolution

If you haven’t tried repair, get involved:

  1. Learn to repair
  2. Use a repair service
  3. Support businesses that are reusing waste material

Learn to repair

“Of those who don’t currently repair their clothes, there is still an appetite to brush up on repair skills with more than half (59%) saying they would like to learn.”

The act of repair has the obvious benefit of saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint (from not buying a replacement item), but it also teaches you a new skill, comes with a sense of pride in your achievement and gives you a deeper attachment to that item (believe us, we know firsthand).

Thanks to the internet you can now learn to repair from the comfort of your home. When starting out, it’s best to begin with something simple so that you feel repair is achievable. One of the best ways to begin is with patches. 

Rebel Patch makes custom patches that you can use to repair your clothes and make them unique to you. They come in two different formats, iron on and stitch on. The iron on option is a great first step if you’re just starting out. 

Check out Repair What You Wear, a fantastic online resource with basic videos that show you how to get started, beginning with basics like threading and securing a needle. The site also has video tutorials showing you how to hand repair sportswear, running shoes, knitwear, jeans and much more. 

If it’s your bike that needs a repair or service then Vicky Bikes is a great resource to learn the basics. Check out Vicky’s Instagram channel. Vicky also runs in person workshops if you’re looking to really develop your skills.

Repair cafes are great places to pick up a new skill and to get all sorts of items repaired. Wastebusters in New Zealand runs a repair cafe that has fixed 642 items this year, from bikes to furniture, laptops to clothing, small appliances to toys, and many more.

Rebel Patch Founder Lisa showcasing the latest patches

Use a Repair Service

At Re-Action we believe that we need to reintroduce repairs to the highstreet. One Tree at a Time in the French Alps has made repair accessible to their community by providing a drop off / pick up repair service. They also run weekly repair workshops for the 59% of people that want to learn a new skill.

The great thing about supporting a local repair service is the fact that you are keeping your money in the local community and supporting a community member in their vocation. Whether you realise it or not, you’re also making a new contact, a connection that is (in our experience) a fount of knowledge about all things repair, who can help you with all sorts of tips and ideas for your kit.

If you don’t know a local seamster or seamstress or have a space like One Tree in your community and need your outdoor gear repaired, then don’t worry there are some great online services for outdoor gear. 

Check out: 

Simply get in touch with them about the item you need repairing and they’ll provide a quote and instructions for sending your item. Once they’ve done the repair, they’ll send it back to you as good as (or better than) new.

Support businesses that are reusing waste material

Outdoor sports can generate lots of waste. From retired climbing ropes to sails, tents to wetsuits, and much more.

This waste has intrinsic value (just think of all the resources that have gone into making them). Repurposing companies rescue and give items a new life, reducing the amount of materials sent to landfill or incineration.

The extra benefits of buying repurposed items is they are usually unique, one-of-a-kind and a real conversation starter. You’ll be supporting creativity and small businesses (which are usually the most environmentally-friendly too).

Check out:

  • Dirtbags Climbing (UK) that rescues and repurposes climbing and outdoor gear into new products for climbing and outdoor use. 
  • Little ReCreations (UK) who upcycles materials left at festival sites into decorations and accessories. 
  • MouseSails rescues and upcycles boat sails into products for the beach and home.
  • UtiliFolk from Feral Crayon is a range of reworked garments and new designs that make use of remnant fabrics and discarded textiles. Each item is made individually so no two pieces are the same.

Support / promote the right to repair

As well as using your agency to repair or get your kit repaired, why not support initiatives like the Right to Repair movement (in the EU) or write to manufacturers of your gear to ask for spare parts so you can effect repairs yourself?

Other ideas you could put into action to help people fight the urge to consume include holding a repair day / fix it event in your community or inviting a seamster or seamstress to speak at your next community event.

Visible repairs (repairs that celebrate the repair itself) can be an outlet for your creativity and provide a great talking point too.

Remember repairing:

  • Saves you money
  • Reduces your carbon footprint
  • Teaches you a new skill
  • Allows you to support individuals and small businesses in your community
  • Allows creativity to thrive
  • Gives you an item unique to you
  • Helps forge connection
  • Gives a sense of achievement

If you embrace repair, don’t forget to post about it on your social media account using the hashtag #CitizenFriday. Let’s do this!