One Thing You Can Do: Fix It
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By Tik Root
David Reay, a climate scientist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, is an expert on carbon management. He also likes fresh bread.
So, when his bread machine broke, he immediately went online to look for a new one. He found that a similar machine would cost the equivalent of about $80. He also learned that he could replace the broken part for about $8.
With the help of a video that showed how to change the broken part, the job took only about 15 minutes. “It was really satisfying,” he said, adding that low-cost repairs also help the climate. “The carbon footprint of buying a new replacement is avoided.”
Dr. Reay, who has written extensively on sustainable living, said that, with the rise of online shopping and faster shipping, it has become extremely easy for people to replace, rather than fix, things that break.
“It’s so tempting,” he said, noting a 2015 report from Germany that found the replacement rate of large household appliances in the country had nearly doubled between 2004 and 2013. While this may have been partly a function of changing construction quality, Dr. Reay said people generally “don’t even think of the consequences” of throwing away fixable appliances and gadgets.
Another report, from the consulting firm Deloitte in 2016, wrote that emissions from Europe’s electrical and electronic equipment sector “could be divided by two if minimal efforts were made” to increase reuse. That would amount to tens of millions of tons less greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Dr. Reay said the drop would be even greater if other products, like clothing, were included. “The fashion industry has a significant environmental impact,” he said, “and it tends to be quite throwaway.”
Whether clothes or electronics, Dr. Reay suggests checking to see if something can be repaired before you replace it (being sure, of course, to turn to a professional when you’re not sure of what you’re doing).
Dr. Reay found his instructional video on YouTube. Another online repair resource is IFixit, which offers how-to guides and repair discussion forums. In Europe, repair parties and cafes are starting to spring up as well.
There’s also a movement to support “right to repair” laws that would require companies to make their products easier to fix. Nearly two dozen states are now considering such legislation.
“You have this win-win,” Dr. Reay said. “You save money and it really does reduce environmental impact.”
Thinking about moving? Duluth might be the place.
It seems inevitable that the rising seas and wildfires linked to climate change will eventually cause large numbers of Americans to move. But where those climate migrants will go, and how they’ll get there, is still something of a mystery.
So, when Jesse Keenan, a researcher at Harvard University, mentioned that there were places, like Duluth, Minn., that would suffer less than others in a warming world, it immediately piqued my interest. So did the fact that some community and business leaders in Duluth are wondering if the region’s geographic blessings could help with economic development by attracting people who decide to leave vulnerable areas even before climate disasters strike.
Often when people move after disaster, they aren’t welcomed. There was real tension in Houston, for example, when 250,000 newcomers arrived in the city after Hurricane Katrina. And while 25,000 to 40,000 people displaced from New Orleans ultimately stayed in Houston, Hurricane Harvey displaced some of them again. So it’s interesting to think about communities deliberately trying to attract newcomers and keep them.
Still, I wasn’t wholly enthused at the prospect of heading to much colder Duluth as New York City was finally starting to see the first tendrils of spring. But, the trip was worth it. The city is thinking seriously about climate change, as a tour of a local power plant (which did not make the story) made clear. Officials had made huge upgrades to the energy system, shifting to hot water from steam, which is less efficient, and switching fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, Duluth isn’t immune from the effects of climate change, like more frequent and more severe winter storms and flooding. Nowhere is. This story is asking questions about how we’re going to adapt.