Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Reduce? Reuse? Recycle? Repair? Repay.

You know, I do my best for the environment. I recycle, I reuse what I can, I even compost household waste. My husband and I try to reduce what we consume as well. We buy what we need and we make it last as long as possible. In the past few months I have come to wonder why I bother at all.

Before Christmas my watch died. At first I thought it might be the battery, so I had it replaced. The new battery did not bring the watch back to life so I brought it in to be repaired. As I handed the watch over they quickly surmised they could not fix it at that location; it had to be sent away. It is a pretty watch, one my husband gave to me a few Christmases ago so I agreed. “We will call you with a price before we fix it” they promised. Somehow I was not comforted.

A month later I get a call- it can be repaired for the bargain price of $85.00! It needed to be retooled. Ok. Don might have paid 150 for the watch when he bought it. I just blew 30 bucks on a new battery, and now it will cost me even more bones to fix it? At this point is it not cheaper to buy a new watch? I gave them the go ahead to repair it because it is better on my wrist than in a landfill.

Around that same time our TV died. We could still get a picture and sound, but with the added bonus of a high pitched whine- like a cat being skinned alive a few houses down the road. We bought this TV, a Slim Fit Samsung CRT, in 2006, it should still be working as far as I am concerned. But it wasn’t, and it was our only boob tube, so off to a repair man it went. That was last November.

Last night he called to tell us it had been repaired- for a cool $285.00 plus tax. Mmmmm. A CRT TV- the kind not even being made anymore, will cost over three hundred bones to be repaired. Meanwhile I can go to Crappy Tire and pick up a new 42 inch LCD TV for less than $500!

A friend of mine bought a new computer a few years ago, and with it came a fairly decent printer- one with great photo printing. When the ink ran out he went online to buy more; he found out that the ink was so expensive it was cheaper to buy a new printer. So that is what he did. The old printer was given away.

Indeed, Dell printers won’t even allow you refill their cartridges- at least not the model we have. We got away with it once, but on the second refill the computer no longer sees the cartridges as full- and the only way around it is to buy new Dell cartridges. Such a waste.

It drives me nuts. You can’t walk down a store aisle anymore without being smacked in the face by some green version of your favorite products- with a higher price tag. The garbage men on my streets won’t even pick up your recycling or garbage if you haven’t packed it just so. And anyone caught in a grocery store having forgotten their reusable bags is looked upon with scorn and derision when they have to ask for plastic. I must have about 20 “Green Bags” because I just cannot bear that look from the cashiers. I cave and buy yet another reusable bag.

Yet, no one is raising any kind of a stink when it comes everyday items we have in our homes. Business don’t seem to have a problem with the fact it is more cost effective to buy new than to repair the old, and their customers seem to accept this as fact. It is just the way things are.

In so many ways our lives have been improved by the things we own- the technology we have acquired in these past few years is really astounding. The calculator you have at work has more computing power in it than the computers that were used to send humankind to the moon in 1969. And yet, somewhere along the way we forgot how to make anything that will last. Anything that can be easily upgraded. Collectively society seems to have lost a sense of pride in what we create, manufacture or service. These are concepts that seem to have died out with a wind up watch and manners.

All the while, despite all that desperate recycling, the vilification of plastic bags and the many green, recycled and organic products that have invaded the modern marketplace, the landfills continue to grow.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more; except with the 'man landing on the moon' part, but that is a whole other topic. It has always bothered me how technology becomes obselte almost before it hits the shelf and that is it made so carelessly because they want you to upgrade in the next year or two; they want your hard earned money... again. All of this is done with very little regard for the e-waste that crowds our planet.
I just watched a documentary on China last night and thier industry, it was very interesting!


Jo said...

I hear ya, Nadine. They dont make anything like they used to thats for sure. Ipods have, on average, a 1 year life before the battery gives out....a new battery is almost as much as a new ipod. Furniture is this way too. I have a 5 year old sofa set that is crap...falling apart junk...but my 1970's sectional that I found at a yard sale is as sturdy as can be. Kinda makes me sad.

nadinebc said...

It bugs the crap out of me. We throw so much away, and then we buy more.

Steve said...

Reprimanded. Reminded. Redirected.

Very good post. Aside from the garbage we buy to replace the garbage that just broke, we (and by we I mean me) buy so much shit that we "need" or stock up at Costco as if we wanted to open our own and then end up throwing all that stuff away. Just two weeks ago I cleaned out my pantry and tossed out a dozen cans of cream of mushroom soup that expired in December 2005.