Barriers to Zero Waste / Consumer Culture / Technology

Girls can plumb too! The many benefits of repair

A leaky faucet can drive you insane, but it's also a waste of water.

A leaky faucet is not only a waste of water. It can seriously test your sanity.

The faucet in my kitchen was starting to leak….a lot. Having never dealt with a leaky faucet I figured the whole fixture needed to be replaced. After standing in Canadian Tire (yes, that’s a real store in Canada that, contrary to the name, sells much more than tires) ogling fancy $200 models I decided to go home and do some research before shelling out the cash. I learned that leaks are usually caused by a worn out washer which sounded like a pretty simple fix. No surprise here but repairing my model was a little bit more complicated than inserting a tiny plastic washer. I had to replace an entire cartridge which meant engaging some serious muscle power, using several swear words and lots of YouTube videos.

After finally wrenching the old thing out I headed out to the hardware store for the second time that day. I showed them the cartridge and after digging in a box behind the counter, they pulled out a new one and claimed it was ‘free of charge.’ I laughed and headed for the cash. But it really was free! My Moen faucet actually held up its end of the whole “Buy it for looks. Buy it for life” slogan. By returning the worn out cartridge I was able to get a totally new one for free. Mind you I didn’t get anything in exchange for my labour, or my ruined manicure – yes I’m a zero waste advocate with a manicure, we’ve all got our vices! But I was really impressed nonetheless.

The first a woman needs when attempting home repairs are tools to match your nails.

The most important step in woman’s home repairs is having tools to match your nails.

I was impressed with Moen not only for providing the replacement part for free but also for making the product (relatively) easy to repair and for continuing to make replacement parts for older models. In order to get the new part, I had to exchange the old one which they said would be returned to the company. I’m not quite sure what will happen to it there – whether it will be recycled or discarded – but it’s nice to see a company taking responsibility for their products and the resulting waste as is the model in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). It was also nice that I didn’t have to contact Moen to get the new part – it was easily and readily available at my local hardware store. We’ve all had the experience of trying to get a replacement battery or other part for a cell phone or some other electronic device only to find that the part isn’t available any more, you have to place a special order for it, or its exorbitantly expensive. These frustrations often mean its not only cheaper, but easier to just buy a completely new device when it’s really only one part that’s faulty.

Being able to repair has lots of benefits. It means that there’s likely to be much less waste generated since you’ll be able to replace or repair just the broken part rather than trashing the whole thing. If the parts are available, repair is usually much cheaper. You also get to learn how things work which means that you will be able to diagnose and solve future problems. And with YouTube DIY videos and sites like eHow there’s no shortage of help. And last but not least, you get the satisfaction of solving the issue yourself. In the case of my leaky faucet, I also got to avoid the sight of a plumber’s butt in my kitchen.

And I have to say, as a woman, it’s extra satisfying to engage in home repairs, especially when the guy at the hardware store says, “Oh you’re going to repair it?!” So next time I’m in the hardware store I’ll be able to say, “Yes! I did repair it myself!” And having that satisfaction is definitely worth a ruined manicure.


Read more Urban Bandit articles on Repair.

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