There’s nothing more annoying than agonizing about spending money on an expensive item. Then there’s the process of carefully researching the best deal, umming and ahhhhhing one last time, finally buying it, to then find yourself back in the same predicament a year later because there’s a newer, better model.
Planned obsolescence, or the way brands design products not to last, is a cheeky, rage-inducing and quite frankly, bloody annoying thing. For some, obsolescence is a business strategy; in-built and planned for each product. So when the time comes to release something new, it creates a knock-on effect that a lot of us, least of all the brands themselves, don’t think about. For starters, the environment gets piled up with even more landfill, our consumption habits become even more insatiable and consumers are left half resentful, half wishful and even more out of pocket.
As time goes on, and the cycle of newer and better increases, our FOMO gets worse. We buy an item and next minute, an upgraded version is released. We see other people with it. Suddenly, our shiny flavor of the month doesn’t seem so shiny or new anymore. This doesn’t just extend to electrical products like phones, laptops or gadgets. It’s everywhere.
Fashion doesn’t last a season before we’re suddenly tempted from every angle to replace the once hot-right-now khaki to the new must-have neon. These days, clothing is so cheap and accessible, many of us don’t think about the ethical or the environmental cost of fast fashion. Then there’s the kids toys. Something that they’re dying to have for their birthday is replaced by the next schoolyard fad by Christmas. Then there’s disposable cameras, cars, textbooks, light bulbs, game consoles – the list goes on. Planned obsolescence affects all areas of our lives. Despite most of us being smart, sensible people, that fear of missing out niggles away at us until we think, perhaps, I would look better in neon.
Apart from the moral and social problems with planned obsolescence, there’s the cost to the environment that’s already, quite frankly fucked, if we don’t do something about it. The trouble is, product longevity just isn’t profitable. It doesn’t fill pockets, please shareholders or buy crazy ass yachts. So instead, we pile the planet with waste. We’re like holiday goers who use every crevice of their suitcase, sit on it to zip it shut and still have to wear three layers to get everything home.
One of the problems are with every new product, there’s the discarding of the old one. Many products are either not recycled or un-recyclable, so they’re sent off to landfill to do nothing but concentrate on breaking down (sometimes toxically) over the next, oh, 1000 years or so.
Yeah, uh oh.
You see, many of us throw away unwanted things like electronic items without giving it a second thought. But we should. The environment and third world countries are paying the price for us. They end up taking our waste and our guilt so it doesn’t burn into our eyes or our back gardens.
Then there’s the whole resource aspect. The more things we make, the more resources we use. Manufacturing means more energy, more water and more transportation. It’s a vicious cycle. Then think about the clothes we have worn a handful of times, the shitty toasters we’ve bought and toys broken after one play. Quantity over quality is a bad, bad habit.
We want people to be Unfuckers. Part of this is saying no to things that fuck with and cost the planet dearly. It’s about taking a stand to things that we can easily change and control. Planned obsolescence is one of them. We can make brands change their behavior because we hold the purse strings. We have so much more power than we think. It’s time to get annoyed because none of this is ok.
Now, we’re not saying products should live forever. In a world where technology drives us, that just isn’t feasible. But the materials that make these fast moving products should be made better and more sustainably. The way we dispose of them needs to be responsible, ethical and eco friendly. As consumers, we should be demanding this. We should research the companies that do things right and reward them with our support.
Part of saying no is also making an adjustment to our attitudes. Basically, we need to get a grip. We need to stop and think before we buy things. We have a choice not to participate in the frenzy. It’s our responsibility not to automatically turn to buying something new and instead, think of alternative ways to prolong a product’s life. If it’s a electronic item, see if a part or battery can be replaced. If your computer is slow, get more memory instead of buying a new one. Find out if you can buy an item second hand. Up-cycle your clothes to give them a new look or swap with friends. Go to a toy library instead of the shops. See if what you need can be borrowed. Not only are you doing something better for the environment, you’re saving yourself money too.
When something does need to be replaced, think about if you really need it, why you need it and ways it can last longer. Look for quality, durable materials, parts that can be replaced within a warranty and try and swap the old item for a buy-back or recycle program. And while it sounds silly, take care of it after you buy it. Nothing lasts if you trash it. Just like the planet.
Original article featured on Collectively