Fix-it Clinics: Reducing waste one repair at a time

20180609_122049Last June’s Fix-it Clinic brought together neighbors and their items for repair, assisted by volunteers at local El Cerrito Library. (Photo Credit: Howdy Goudey) Below read a reprint from the Newsletter of Today at Berkeley Lab, featuring Fix-it Clinic extraordinaire, and El Cerrito Progressive member, Howdy Goudey.

Next Fix-it Clinic @ El Cerrito Library on October 17th, 2018   1-4PM

In Today’s ‘Throw-Away’ Society, Howdy Goudey Works to Create a ‘Culture of Repair’

— By Keri Troutman

Howdy Goudey, a scientific engineering associate in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area (ETA) has always enjoyed “tinkering,” so he was intrigued when he first heard about “fixit clinics”— community events where people bring small broken items to get free repair help from fixit “coaches.” Goudey now volunteers as a coach with the nonprofit Fixit Clinic organization at numerous Bay Area events.

Fixit clinics, which have become increasingly popular across the nation over the last few years, help people fix all kinds of small items, from broken zippers, toasters, and electric toothbrushes to computer monitors, Blu-Ray players, and microwaves. The clinics are typically held in libraries, museums, and other easy-to-access community spaces, and staffed with an array of volunteer fixit coaches, equipped with tools and sewing machines at the ready.

“The Fixit Clinic philosophy is basically about empowering people to fix their own broken items and reuse them, in an effort to reduce waste and build a ‘culture of repair,’” says Goudey. Participants work alongside coaches to repair their items, creating an opportunity to learn new skills. A central component of the Fixit Clinic mission is to use small appliance repair to shift attitudes about consumption and sustainability.

Hands-on work has also been a part of Goudey’s career at Berkeley Lab since starting as a student here in 1993. Experimental design and setup, along with the inevitable repairs, definitely require tinkering skills. Goudey now spends much of his time doing physical heat transfer experiments and infrared thermography to collect data to validate thermal models that are used to rate windows.

“I grew up tinkering — taking things apart and putting them back together was a fun activity for me; something I did along with my dad,” says Goudey. “These days, it seems like not as many people have that fixit mindset.”

Organizations like Fixit Clinic and The Culture of Repair aim to change that mindset, both among the general population and at the product design level. Both organizations track repair “hacks” and monitor what leaves fixed so they can collect data around what is repairable. “It’s important to look at what kinds of failures are causing people to throw things away,” says Goudey. “And think about whether anything can be changed at the design level to reduce that.”

Go  hereto sign-up for a Fixit Clinic co- sponsored by El Cerrito Progressives, or to volunteer as a coach.


ECP Environmental Activists Work to Eliminate Toxins and Reduce Landfill


skip the straw
Skip the Straw!


The Environmental Justice group’s work this year involves:

  • Reducing landfill by promoting the diagnosis, repair and re-use of items through FixIt Clinics that we co-sponsor with our City’s Environmental Quality Committee and the El Cerrito Library. We held a very successful Clinic on June 9. Our next Fixit Clinic will be on Saturday, October 27 from 12:30 to 4:00PM at the library.


  • Eliminating toxic materials in El Cerrito. Plastic presents a health threat to the environment and living beings. It adds to the overwhelming amount of debris found on streets, in waterways, and on land, and in animals that ingest plastic. Micro-bits of plastic are found in humans who drink water from clear plastic bottles.  Plastic can only be recycled once, if at all, and 91% of plastic is not recycled globally. At the 4th of July One World Festival, our group launched our SKIP THE STRAW campaign to eliminate the use of plastic food ware at local food and drink purveyors, lodging, and other institutions, such as schools. We collected 67 signatures on our SKIP THE STRAW petition.

Our goal is to update our city’s Food ware Ordinance by eliminating 1-time use food ware and plastic straws.

After speaking about our concerns during the public comment time at the Environmental Quality Committee’s July meeting, we were invited to give a formal presentation to the EQC about our SKIP THE STRAW campaign on August 14. The presentation, led by Barbara Chan with Anne Ogonowski, Mei Mei Everson, Rebecca Anaya, and Robin Mitchell from ECP’s Environmental Justice group, was very well received.  The EQC acknowledged that we (Environmental Justice) had done much of the “heavy lifting” with our thorough research, providing usable data, compelling business case studies, and resources to move this issue forward.

stork with plastic bagWhile we are encouraging the City to improve the food ware ordinance from a policy perspective, we have been conducting a “soft” campaign with each of us talking to cafe and restaurant mangers and workers about not serving plastic straws with drinks, or using alternative straws.

ECP members are invited to join our group’s work. We meet on the 3rdMonday from 7 to 9PM. If you would like to join us, for location and directions.

Barbara Chan

Convener, Environmental Justice Committee