Learning the value of broken stuff: ‘Fix-it Fair’ repairs items, keeps them from the landfill

  • Paul Voiland, of Red Fire Farm, volunteers as a “fixer” at Drawdown Montague’s Fix-it Fair Saturday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Drawdown Montague held its “Fix-it Fair” at the Montague Common Hall Saturday, allowing locals to bring any sort of broken item in to be fixed for free. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Conor Power fixes a lamp during Drawdown Montague’s Fix-it Fair at the Montague Common Hall Saturday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2019 9:19:12 AM

It was Saturday, slightly chilly, dry, and an especially good day to bring that broken dehumidifier to the dump and be rid of the abominable thing, once and for all. 

With a car full of junk, Tamara Kaplan of Montague was finally ready to purge that dusty, old — she’s not sure how old — machine when, at the last second, she decided against it.

Luckily, Kaplan had heard of the “Fix-it Fair” that local group Drawdown Montague was holding at the Montague Common Hall this past weekend. 

“It works. They fixed it. Paul (Voiland) of Red Fire Farm just fixed it,” Kaplan said with a smile and a tone of incredulity. 

“I almost didn’t bring it. I literally had stuff in the car on the way to the dump,” she added. 

A steady stream of people filtered in and out of the Montague Common Hall throughout the morning and early afternoon. They brought knives to be sharpened, clothing to be stitched, lamps, space heaters and toasters to be repaired and, more often than not, they left with a renewed, working item. 

“This is what it’s about, neighbors helping neighbors,” Kaplan said. 

The Fix-it Fair was a free event, but donations were accepted, and volunteer “fixers” were available with tools and some handyman’s knowledge to help attendees. Given the number of people who came and the amount of money in the donation basket, it was a success, said organizer Adrienne LaPierre of Drawdown Montague.

But it was about more than being helpful to neighbors, LaPierre said. It was about protecting the environment. 

“We’re trying to keep stuff out of the landfill mostly,” LaPierre said. “And, we want to have a culture of repair. We want people to realize that their stuff still has value.”

Drawdown Montague is a group that started about a year ago with a mission to encourage environmentally conscious practices at the local level. 

The group held a smaller fix-it event at Element Brewing Company in Millers Falls in March, then a bike repair clinic at Peskeomskut Park over the summer. 

Saturday was encouraging, LaPierre said, because even seemingly minute practices, like fixing a household item, has a positive effect on the environment. 

“The fixers are volunteers, very local, and it’s our first time sewing and having a knife sharpener,” LaPierre said. “It’s been steady all day.”

Donations, LaPierre said, will go toward future events for Drawdown Montague. 

According to organizer Judith Lorei, Drawdown Montague was inspired by “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming,” a book about realistic, local-level strategies to combat climate change and global warming. 

Drawdown Montague teamed up with the Shea Theater Arts Center earlier in the year to replace its disposable cups with compostable cups and to set up a compost collection schedule with the theater. The group is also currently working with Franklin County Solid Waste Management District to educate businesses about composting.

Saturday, the most popular fix-it items were probably lamps, LaPierre said, but quirkier items were brought in as well, like sculptures of ducks and an array of antiques. 

Most things were fixable, but the event didn’t have a 100 percent success rate — larger appliances and complex electronics were unfixable, and some times a visitor’s item was truly, permanently broken. However, LaPierre said the event is beneficial because of its message and effect. 

“Everybody has had a good time,” LaPierre said. “Even if we’re not 100 percent successful with fixing something, most people are walking out with a better idea of how it works.”

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