posted by Becca Thomas

sewing machines fight climate change

Confused about how repairing your stuff helps cut carbon? Make sense of the issue with Becca's guide to embodied carbon

Bike repair workshop at 10:10 HQ

Simple bike repairs can keep your trusty steed riding like new

We live in a world where things aren't always built to last. For manufacturers this is ideal, as it means we're forced to keep replacing things when they break or wear out.

No one enjoys throwing things away, but it seems to have become the norm as many of us don't know how to repair things when they go wrong. And fixing a well-loved possession can be a lot more rewarding than buying something new.

Should the carbon footprint of your new jeans include the shop assistant's bus ride to work?

It's easy to understand how driving your car or running the boiler uses energy, but we don't tend to think of things like clothes or bikes as having their own carbon footprint.

Embodied energy

Embodied energy is the total amount of energy (and associated carbon emissions) used to make a new product – mining raw materials, refining them and assembling the product, transporting it to the shop and so on. 

Each of these processes produces CO2, so every time we repair something rather than replacing it, we're cutting our carbon footprint. Each individual fix might not amount to much, but by picking up the skills and getting into the habit of fixing first, the savings can really add up.

Running the numbers

Calculating specific figures for embodied carbon is quite tricky, partly because good data is hard to come by, and partly because it's not obvious where you should draw the line. For example, should the carbon footprint of your new jeans include the energy used to make the paperclips in Levis HQ? How about the shop assistant's bus ride to work?

However, Mike Berners-Lee’s book How Bad Are Bananas? does a great job of explaining how embodied carbon works, and giving solid estimates on how much there is in almost everything, from a single email message to an international football tournament.

These numbers are great in theory, but our Remade project is designed to help people take the next step – getting the repair skills to translate our knowledge into real carbon-saving choices. Check out our intro blog to get started.

Further reading: How to cut carbon in China