The fourth R

Filed in Blog, Videos by on May 4, 2011 17 Comments
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Mr Green shows off his handy work

Mr Green shows off his handy work

I love playing around with as many Rs as I can come up with.

We all know the three Rs – reduce, reuse, recycle and hopefully by now you know that they are in this order for a reason…

Recycling comes last on the list because it saves more resources and is less energy intensive to firstly REDUCE the things you consume i.e. separate your wants from your needs, then REUSE items you already have instead of landfilling them and buying new.

An ‘R’ that seems sadly forgotten in our modern 21st Western lifestyle is REPAIR.

As a child I remember a TV repair shop in our town; it was there as long as I could remember. As a teenager I had my favourite pair of Doctor Martens resoled goodness knows how many times because I couldn’t bear to part with them. There was a tailor in our town who I frequently visited to get my clothes altered.

All these make me feel, as Little Miss Green puts it so eloquently, that I’m from the ‘olden days’.

Now we’re taught that a good consumer just buys more stuff! If your TV doesn’t work properly, just throw it away and get a new one. Shoes with holes in? It’s time for the new season fashion anyway. Clothes that don’t fit? Throw them in the bin and go to a disposable fashion store where you can buy new clothes cheaper than second hand ones from a charity shop.

So yes, maybe Mr Green and I value some of the ‘olden days’ ideas. My Granddad’s answer to everything was a bit of solder, and Mr Green isn’t far off that idea himself.

Which brings me nicely to a story about a saucepan lid. I remember Grandma Green buying a set of saucepans when I was still living at home. I thought they were exceptionally cool – they came with their own stand I’ll have you know and had copper bases for great heat distribution.

When she decided to update her kitchen I inherited these saucepans (complete with groovy stand) and they are finally, (after 20+ years) starting to look a little worse for wear. One of them is out in the garden being used as a planter and recently the wonky lid handle finally fell apart on the smallest saucepan.

Did I have to throw it away and buy a new set? Of course not. Mr Green rummaged around in the garage one Sunday morning and rose triumphant with an ‘as good as new’ saucepan handle in his hand.

Take a look at Mr Green putting REPAIR into practise. Ok, it’s not pretty but hey, it works, right!?

What about you; what ‘R’s’ do you practise at home?


About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (17)

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  1. the handle had come loose on my copper bottomed saute pan, so DH took it into work where one of the welders “welded” it back on for me

  2. Joddle says:

    Genius: repair

    So obvious how could we have missed it?

  3. Antonio Pachowko says:

    @maisie dalziel: In this days of penny pinching by companies I am surprised they allowed this to happen or was it done without their permission. People have been sacked for doing this kind of thing. or did he pay to do it?

  4. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Repairers need a good supply of glue (more than one kind such a general glue, superglue and solvent free forget nail for glueing wood to wood), nails and screws (all sizes as you never know what it is good for). A tip I use is to save old screws from old pieces of equipment in a jar and so when I need a screw I get one from the jar and use it-to replace missing screws (it is amazing how many screws go missing)- no rooting required. I the last two week I repared a broken crucifix and knob of a bread bin which kept coming off. If you doing have access to a welder you can repair a handle that has fallen off by using rivets (drill hole if necessary)

  5. How about Refuse? As in “I refuse to accept something that will just end up in my bin”.

  6. CarSue says:

    When I lecture on waste reduction, I always call my presentation “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink.” I include repair in the “Reuse” section, since it means that you can continue to use a thing for its intended purpose. And I always assumed that “Refuse” was a part of “Redcue,” as in “I Refuse to buy disposables, and instead choose to Reduce my waste by Reusing durables.” But, in my humble opinion, “Rethink” is one of the most important parts of the mantra. It encompasses all the ideas into a single word. Quite simply, RETHINK the way you shop, behave, discard things, etc.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I really liked the Repair idea. I do try and do it but had never thought about it as another of the “R” s before. Well done

  8. Joanne says:

    The generational point (or being from “the olden days”) is an interesting one. I repair my shoes repeatedly until they cannot be fixed anymore and acquire most of my clothes second-hand (whether from vintage or charity shops, or most frequently from family and friends passing them on to me). I admit to not being very young anymore (I’m 27) but I find that it’s people older than me that I feel that I’m having to argue against to convince that waste and excessive consumption is bad.

    I admit I would treat Mr Green’s temporary fix as a perfectly good permanent one, as long as it lasted. Aesthetics isn’t something that occurs to me in terms of kitchenware 🙂

  9. Andrea says:

    I think it’s a great handle. Being wood it won’t get hot like metal handles do. I can’t see the handle clearly but if the corners are smooth it’s good to go in my book. I do wonder why it would have gone to landfill if your husband couldn’t have repaired it. Don’t you have metal recycling in your area?

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @maisie dalziel: fantastic – nothing like a good welder friend 😉
    @Joddle: 😀 I think there are heaps more too – LMG loves playing with the ideas of several Rs 😉
    @Antonio Pachowko: Mr G keeps all sorts of screws for repairs too – sounds like you’re pretty resourceful – a sadly lacking skill.
    @Layla @ A Green and Simple Life:Absolutely – REFUSE comes before everything! Great one 🙂
    @CarSue: that’s brilliant Sue – we do need to think outside the box and ask ourselves if we really need things or if we could make a better choice. Thanks for the inspiration.
    @Stephanie: You’re welcome Stephanie 🙂
    @Joanne: thanks for sharing your thoughts. I think there is a generational thing at play here – some of the younger (I count you in that) are eco aware and then it skips one or two generation until you get to the war babies. But I see many people of LMGs generation who have no idea or interest…

  11. LJayne says:

    My hubby loves to repair things. He’d get on well with Mr G 🙂

  12. Gretel says:

    My parents were children during WW2 and were very cash strapped and therefore extremely efficient repairers and recyclers of most things when we were children. My sister and I were brought up with this as the normal way of doing things.

    I still can’t downgrade an old shirt to dusters and rags without carefully removing the buttons and stashing them away for future use. The same buttons or zips can be reused several times rather than buying new each time. (My mother thinks the idea of me giving clothes to a charity shop is highly amusing, she knows that when I have finished with clothing it isn’t fit to be worn by a tramp!) I have a jar of previously used screws in my garage and regularly use tools from my grandfather’s time to do DIY jobs.

    My house seems to have plenty of stuff in it, but I do take a certain pleasure out of REFUSING to buy into the latest gizmo for that specific task, and it gives great freedom! After all, if you have a breadmaker you don’t get the connection with the source of such a basic food that is engendered by the physical act of kneading the dough.

  13. Tracey says:

    I was taught 2 main things as a child:
    “Make do and mend” & “Take your rubbish home with you”

    I’m not that good at the mending… hence my sewing pile is in the process of being made into rags for my rag-rug project (which is actually going to become a bed-head to keep the bed seperate from the external wall to reduce the need for overnight heating), but I think that counts under the “make do” section of it! 🙂

    I still try though! 🙂

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @LJayne: I don’t think we should introduce them – we might both drown under all their salvaged ‘stuff’ LOL!

    @Gretel: You sound really resourceful, Gretel – I admire that you have taken these values and used them in your own life. I agree with you about breadmakers 😉

    @Tracey: Brilliant values you were taught Tracey. I’m not good at sewing, but I’m a whizz in the kitchen – I guess we all have our talents in different areas. Enjoy the rag rug project!

  15. Teresa says:

    @Layla @ A Green and Simple Life: Refuse is the first R of the equation. I refuse to buy excess.

  16. Bill says:

    Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

    Depression-era slogan that needs to be reused today.


  17. Mrs Green says:

    @Bill: Great slogan, Bill – one which we use too. Thanks for the reminder.

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