Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We try to be thrifty and green...

....and then this happens. They really don't make things like they used to. This article outlines a few of the items that are actually designed to wear out or need to be replaced, not repaired or re-used. This is frustrating to me, in multiple ways. It makes me feel like the companies are lying to me, and just duping me into a vicious cycle of consumerism. It's hard to break that desire for new things. Hey - I may as well be honest - it is hard for me sometimes. And, it's not green to design throw-away things, especially throw-away electronics, and such. And, it is not frugal to buy things that are simply going to wear out on you, with little to no hope of being repaired.

There are only five things (or categories of things) on the list, and most of them are things that we can do without. Like MP3 players. I really like my iPod; it was a Christmas present from my husband a few years ago, and I love the portability of it, and how much of my music collection can fit in such a convenient package. (In total, I think I've spent less than $40 on iTunes - the vast majority of music on my iPod is uploaded from my CD collection.) If it broke down, or required a super expensive repair, I'd probably go back to listening to my CDs, the radio, or to playing the songs in my head.

I can't say that I was super surprised by fashion, textbooks or ink cartridges being on the list. I just shared an article about saving money on printing by being savvy with your font. So, there's that. And textbooks, especially college ones, where you actually have to go buy the books yourself (something I didn't have to do at public high school).

I could probably rant and rave about textbooks for a good while, but won't. I'm just happy that as a language and literature major, I was spared the exorbitant cost of science and math textbooks, for the most part. I briefly talked about what I did to recoup the investment in college here. I would also try to buy what I could from these sources, saving me money.

Fashion. Well, I've never been particularly fashionable myself, although, sometimes what's "in" cycles around to include my tastes. This is when my packrat tendencies work in my favor, and I can dust off that old pair of stockings or pants, and wear them with confidence. Although, truth be told, I was probably wearing them even when they weren't "in." I like wearing some current pieces, and new clothes do make me feel special, but, having been a youngest child, I'm used to wearing hand-me-downs, and while it took me a while to get this attitude, they are just clothes. As long as they are clean, well-kept, and fit (and I like them), I'm usually ok with not being "current." It is just easier to focus on a few, classic pieces that look good on you, and are well made.

Anyway. The deliberate making things to be a lesser quality, so that consumers are essentially forced to re-buy things really upsets me. It feels like they are lying to me. Not a big fan of that.

Does any of this surprise you? How do you feel about it?


Margaret said...

No, none of it surprises me.

A few years ago I bought a wooden dish rack. It has slowly fallen apart and I have been thinking about another dish rack. We don't have, and I wouldn't dream of getting, a dishwasher so I think we do need something for the dishes to drain from.

Last week I saw someone offer a plastic one on our local freecycle group. I went and got it, although it was a bit further than I would have gone normally.

My reason. If I went and bought one I would be asking the manufacturer to make another one. And the world/environment cannot afford more plastic dish racks.

I'm not sure what sort of things you are buying that are built to fail but when you learn to make things yourself you really value them, look after them and know how to repair them yourself. It might be more expensive but the quality is worth the price. For example, your bread. It might be more expensive than shop bought bread but the quality will be better.

Everything that I buy really cheaply from a shop (I'm excluding 2nd hand stuff) is saying to the shop, please carry on exploiting the animal, the child, the migrant worker, the environment so I can have more stuff!

Have you seen the short film, "The Story of Stuff". Annie Leonard explains about built in obsolescence along with lots of other things.

I suppose it depends on what we mean by frugal, thrifty, cheap. Perhaps we could just decide to do without. If our grandparents didn't have whatever it is we think is necessary perhaps we don't need it either.

swiggett said...

Margaret - great points. All of them. Thanks for the perspective. I do love making, and then eating bread, and because I am/was so picky about what bread we actually bought, I think that making it may actually be cheaper.

I haven't seen "The Story of Stuff," but will be on the look out for it now.

Thanks again!