Repair Culture

Street tailor in Pondicherry

Street tailor in Pondicherry

I picked up my laptop back from the repair shop today. It died two days after the cyclone hit, resting in a padded case with a full battery. I found it in the morning when I tried to turn it on and there was no response. No lights. No sounds. Nothing.

The only luck in my unhappy situation was that it happened in India, a country where you can get almost anything repaired. Almost anything.

A few days ago in Pondicherry, my friend ripped one of his two-dollar flip-flops. The shoes were almost disposable, so his first reaction was to toss them and buy a new pair. But when he asked for the nearest shoe store, he was pointed to a repairman lounging on the side of the road. A few cents and seconds later, his shoes were as good as new. He saved money and another pair of potential trash was saved from the landfill.

On a similar shopping trip, I bought a shirt that was a size too big for me. At home, it would have ended up sitting in the back of my closet, but not in India. Here, I simply handed it to a man sitting on the street with a small table and an old Singer sewing machine. Half an hour later I had a custom-fitted shirt.

As for my computer, it now has two more gigabytes of internal memory and is working better than new. Not only did I save myself from buying a new computer, I saved a pile of electronics from ending up in the Pondicherry dump (link to dump post).

The abundance of convenient and affordable repair services exist here because they save money, not because they save the environment. But the practice of repairing rather than re-purchasing keeps reusable resources from rotting in a landfill. It is a practice that contributes to a sustainable lifestyle and one that I wish was more common in the United States, where I’m from. When I get back, I plan to pay more frequent visits to my local repair shops, to promote my own repair culture at home.

One thought on “Repair Culture

  1. In the US it is more costly to repair things due to labor costs. The labor costs in India allow for repair of these items. Unfortunately the environmental cost of producing and disposing of items isn’t factored into the price so the prices of goods is artificially low. This, combined with the high labor costs in the US, makes it more cost effective to just throw something away and get a new one.

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