In almost all cases, the most environmentally friendly item is one that never has to be made*! If you can repair and keep using a product, that takes much less resources than having to manufacture a replacement.
Unfortunately, many products are deliberately designed to have a limited lifespan. This is known as planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence, or built-in obsolescence, in industrial design and economics is a policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete (that is, unfashionable or no longer functional) after a certain period of time (source). The rationale behind the strategy is to generate long-term sales volume by reducing the time between repeat purchases (referred to as “shortening the replacement cycle” (source)).
Here is an interesting (and somewhat depressing) article about planned obsolescence and electronics waster: “Death by Design“.
How to repair things!
One way of fighting the every increasing mountains of waste on our beautiful planet is to repair things. There are so many things that can be repaired and so many ways to repair them, that I couldn’t possibly list it all here. Instead, I will just tell you how I approach a repair problem.
If I need to repair something and it isn’t obvious to me what I need to do, I just search for clues online! Chances are that someone else has had the same problem. Use a simple search string such as replace plate light Prius 2008. Or Indesit D42 dish washer flashing LED error. It is a bit of an art to write a search string that gives points you to useful sources, but some key tricks is to avoid common words and include make and model numbers. There are tons of YouTube videos how to fix things, so don’t forget to also check out the video results.
To repair things you will need tools. Check out my sections about the Tools you need (and tools you want…).
*Exceptions to the rule that it is better to repair and extend the life
There are rare exceptions to this rule; certain products would be better to recycle and replace. This is the case for products that has the main part of the resource use and pollution in the use phase, not the manufacturing. Cars is an example of such a case.
Cover photo: Me repairing something on our race trailer. Definitely not my favorite job, that smile was just for the selfie. Note that the trailer is still standing on its wheels and the wheels are safely chocked. You must not work under a trailer unless it is still standing on its wheels, or it is very safely jacked up on stands. A trailer will crush you to hamburger meat if it falls on you (and they fall off the stands all the time, particularly if you are pounding on something underneath!)