The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

Category Archives: Fixing things

January 16, 2017

How to Buy “New Shoes” without Buying New Shoes

Last year, I was trying really hard to buy nothing new, and while I fell short several times (more on that in a future post), I did pretty well in the shoe department.  Nearly all shoes have at least some plastic components.  Buying them secondhand or repairing the shoes you already have are great ways to get “new shoes” without actually buying new shoes and new plastic.

Buy Secondhand Shoes

I’m not one of those people who won’t buy secondhand shoes.  You can find some pretty great, almost new shoes at thrift stores for a fraction of the cost of new shoes.  In June, my local Goodwill had a 50% off shoe sale, so I bought four pairs of practically new shoes for about $20.  (They were actually in much better shape than in this photo that I took today after having worn them for several months.)

When buying secondhand shoes, make sure the soles are not scuffed (or only minimally scuffed) and insoles are in good shape.  If … Read the rest

April 18, 2014

Learning How to Fix a Broken Zipper Saved My Plastic Backpack

My poor backpack. I’ve been carrying it around for over ten years, and finally, one of the main zippers stopped zipping.

 

Or, I should say, one of the sliders stopped working.  Fortunately, this backpack has two sliders, so I could still close the zipper using the other slider, but I always had to remember which side to zip from so I didn’t accidentally sling the backpack over my back, thinking the zipper was closed, and empty all the contents onto the sidewalk.  No big deal, but I just prayed that the other slider would hold up and keep working.  I had no idea what to do about it, and it seemed stupid to send a perfectly good backpack to the landfill just because of a little thing like a zipper.  Remember… I can still use the plastic I already had before I started this project.  I just can’t buy new plastic.

Fortunately for me and my zipper, the Hercules Library chose my book Plastic-Free for their “Book to Action”… Read the rest

October 15, 2013

Lessons Learned from Failed Plastic Plumbing Repair

I thought this was post was going to be another one of my triumphant reports about how I avoided buying a new plastic gadget because I was able to fix the old one. Like the tale of the rice cooker, or the umbrella, or the laundry basket, or even the washing machine. I imagined how proud and accomplished I would feel to report how instead of replacing my worn out shower head, I had cleaned and repaired it and made it good as new.

Sadly, this is not that post.  No, this post is about trying, failing, and wasting a whole lot of duct tape. But lessons were learned. Possibly. So I’m going to share the experience here anyway.… Read the rest

October 2, 2012

The Reuse Alliance Wants You to Talk Like a Pirate

I realize  Talk Like a Pirate Day is over for 2012, but there’s a certain piraty expression that’s good all year round:  Arrr!  According to the official website, it means “variously, ‘yes,’ ‘I agree,’ ‘I’m happy,’ ‘I’m enjoying this beer,’ ‘My team is going to win it all,’ ‘I saw that television show, it sucked!’ and ‘That was a clever remark you or I just made.'”  But that definition fails to mention that Arrr! also sounds like “R,” the first letter of a string of very important words… words with which the Reuse Alliance would like us to become intimate and in particular, the “R” that comes before “Recycle”:  Reuse.

What is the Reuse Alliance?

“Reuse” encompasses a whole lot more “R”s, which I plan to have fun with in this post.  … Read the rest

March 16, 2012

Dear CREDO Mobile, I like your packaging, but please fix my phone — or let me do it.

It’s frustrating when electronic gadgets break, and not just because you have to go through the hassle of fixing or replacing them but because in doing so, a lot of waste is created. So when the headphone jack on my phone stopped working intermittently, I put off doing anything about it for several months. But finally, it got so bad that I could no longer use my headset, which meant an extra dose of radiation from putting my phone right against my head to talk (and of course, also not being able to listen to music and podcasts, but that’s a personal problem), so I decided it was time to do something about it.

I called CREDO Mobile, my phone provider, and was told I’d have to send it back to them for a replacement phone. I wondered if I should scout around for someone to open it up and try to fix it for me (as I did with my hair dryer, rice cooker, kitchen scale, and other appliances, with varying degrees of success), but when CREDO told me that opening… Read the rest

July 28, 2011

How I Fixed My Broken Rice Cooker: The Complete Illustrated Instructions

Another day, another broken gadget.  Plastic-free rule #1 when something breaks is to try and fix it instead of replacing it. But that’s not always easy since so many appliances are built to be tossed instead of repaired.   Well Easy Schmeasy.  Fixing things is fun.  Saves money.  Makes you feel like a Super Hero instead of a victim.   A few weeks ago, I got to don my cape again after Michael plugged in the rice cooker and nothing happened.  The light didn’t come on.  The element didn’t heat up.   The rice did not get cooked.  But the wheels in my brain started turning.

(And before any of you leave comments about how we don’t need a rice cooker and could easily cook rice on the stove and here are the instructions how to do it etc etc… yeah, I know.  But we have a rice cooker.  And we like it.  And this one broke, so this is how we fixed it.)

See, back in 2008, the same thing happened to my hair dryer, and … Read the rest

May 5, 2011

Save Plastic. Don’t Break Your Laptop Monitor.

What is an LCD monitor made of? And what do you do if it breaks? I learned the answers to these questions the hard way.

The Stupid Thing I Did

Laptop monitors break easily, as I discovered a couple of months ago after closing the lid down on a couple of earbuds I had left on the keyboard. The ironic thing is that I had done it on purpose, trying to protect my expensive thinksound earbuds from my niece’s dog while I went to the bathroom. I learned that a laptop monitor is way more expensive than a pair of earbuds, and that the best option would have been to simply put them away in their case.

My heart sank when I opened my laptop back up and watched the words drizzle down the screen into a single black puddle. I’ll admit it looks kind of artistic in a minimalist way, but not very useful.

Crap!  I just got this computer in November, and I’ve already ruined it!

Thankfully, Michael still had an ancient desktop computer monitor I could connect to and keep… Read the rest

April 25, 2011

Crochet Your Own Plastic-Free Headphone Ear Pads

Back in January, I posted on my Facebook profile:

The foam pads (read: plastic) on my headphones are wearing out. Motivation to learn to crochet because I hate round knitting.

Well, this weekend, April 23, I finally summoned up the motivation to learn enough crochet basics to fix my headphones.

See, even though I use my wooden thinksound ear buds for most electronic listening, I also have a pair of big cordless headphones for watching TV late at night and another scrappy pair of regular headphones that probably came with an old Walkman or something. The foam pads on both pairs were just in shreds. And while it’s possible to buy replacements, I didn’t want any new plastic.

So, after Googling for a while (my favorite thing) I found some instructions for crocheting my own.

Crochet Headphone Covers from Craftbits.com

Crochet: Headphone Covers, Revisited from Sewhooked.org.

Great! Except I didn’t know how to crochet. My grandmother… Read the rest

November 9, 2010

The Story of Electronics: Planned Obsolescence Sucks

One of the strategies I use to acquire less new plastic is to fix stuff that breaks instead of replacing it with new gadgets and to use resources like Craigslist, Freecycle, and thrift stores to get it secondhand. So I get really irritated when despite my best efforts, I find that my broken gadgets are not designed to be repaired. I’ve ranted about the HP Monitor and the digital scale that I tried to have fixed. I bragged about working with my dad to fix my old hair dryer, but lamented the fact that it wasn’t made to be repaired and that only the fact that my dad is an electronics technician allowed us to open it up and replace the broken part.

Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff Project in conjunction with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and Center for Environmental Health have just released a new video today: The Story of Electronics. And it explains in 7 minutes the entire toxic life-cycle of gadgets designed for the dump and what we as consumers… Read the rest

September 16, 2010

How to Take Apart and Clean a Stinky Kenmore (Whirlpool) Top Loading Washer

Seems like this is the year for smelly appliances and DIY solutions. A few months ago, it was dishwasher funk. And then recently, we noticed a linty residue on our clothes and a moldy smell coming from the washing machine. (The residue was not laundry powder; we use soapnuts.)

So, how is fixing a washing machine related to plastic? Well, we did end up with some plastic waste during the week-long ordeal. And learning to fix things in general is one of my strategies for avoiding new purchases and hence, new plastic. But really, I’m just so tickled that I was able to take the whole thing apart, clean it, and put it back together again, that I have to share!

This post will be long and winding and contain a lot of pictures. Hopefully it will be funny, too, because who doesn’t enjoy a good washing machine repair story? And since I spent a ton of time on the web looking up parts and procedures and advice, I’ve included a list of all the resources I found… Read the rest