Sustainability of repair Reducing UW's waste by helping students fix their stuff


Sewing, mending, glue, zippers, foot wear, small appliances, clothing — this is the beginning of a list of skills, tools, and items that can be found or repaired at the UWaterloo Repair Hub. 

The UWaterloo Repair Hub is the campus-focused group of repairers who are part of the larger repair network 4RepairKW. 

SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were ratified in 2016, focuses on global waste and resource management. Creating repair culture is one strategy to address waste management locally and divert fixable items from the landfill. 

4RepairKW came into existence around 2017 with the goal of providing tools that people might not have in their home and creating a repair community. The group was founded by Murray Zink, a retired UW co-op staff member who has been a lifelong repairer. They have hosted several repair workshops at UW and run the UWaterloo Repair Hub, supported by the UW Sustainability Office and Sedra Student Design Centre. By offering various tapes, glues, hardware, and tools, the repair hub makes fixing items accessible to students and UW staff. They also have a team of repairers who specialize in different skills at the workshops to help fix items. 

The repair workshop is located in Engineering 7-1401 and has drop-in repair hours from 4:00–6:00 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays this term. At their last repair workshop event they repaired 31 items. 

“I think the idea of repairing is something that we have to get more serious about rather than just saying we’re gonna even recycle something, because then we’re discarding all of the energy and materials that went into it, we can’t recover them all. I don’t think that’s a good sustainability model,” Zink expressed. “Repairing is returning something to use, not about making something new again. We have to get comfortable with that. We’re sort of infatuated and very much consumer oriented. We like to go buy new things. That’s not a great thing for the planet.” 

By providing space for repairs on campus and encouraging people to learn via the repairers and tutorial videos how to do their own repairs, people’s mindsets can begin to change. Repairing items when they wear down or break reduces waste and builds community sustainability. With this repairing support network in place, the need to continuously buy new can be lowered and repair skills can continue to be shared. 

For Sustainable Development Goal Week, which runs from March 6 to 10, the UW Sustainability Office and Engineering Department are highlighting this on campus resource and how repairing supports the SDGs. 

The future of the UWaterloo Repair Hub is to continue growing awareness and become a strong resource on campus. Their next repair cafe is happening on March 29 from 4:00–6:30 p.m. as a part of the ENVigorate Environment Festival running from March 28 to 30. 

At the core, repairing is “…about sustainability and learning and people seeing how to do some of these things for themselves,” Zink said. 

Follow @uwaterloorepairhub and @4repairKW on Instagram to stay up to date with repair events, hours and to learn more.