Rectifying Our Throwaway Culture

our throwaway culture

Our microwave is broken. It’s only about 18 months old & no longer under warranty but the keypad no longer works. We don’t use the microwave very often for cooking so it’s not a big deal in that regard. Unfortunately, the microwave doubles as the exhaust fan over the range and that kind of is a big deal as we cook 3 meals a day at home.

All of that aside, we’re renters, and as thus it’s our duty to report all non-working appliances to the landlord. The repair men came, took one look and decided it needed a new board and that it was just easier to replace the entire microwave.

I did some research. I could get all of the parts for the microwave, which is like a really simple computer, and install for about $100 and an hour of time, with the added cost of the repairmen doing it we’re talking about $200 total. Or the landlord can pay $200 for a new microwave and let this one sit in a landfill for a very long time.

The landlord opted to have a new microwave installed.

…and it got me thinking…

Our society has been conditioned to want new & exciting. We’ve become willing to sacrifice quality for ease and a cheap price. The view that everything is disposable is our new normal.

our throwaway culture

Think about it, we (the collective we, not necessarily me or you) trash our perfectly usable mini-computer cell phones for brand new ones, often signing up for long-term contracts and payment arrangements to do so.

Clothing, too, has become so cheaply made that we’ve reached a point where jeans aren’t expected to last more than a season and “growing out of something” usually happens well after the item has been worn out. I’ve noticed this especially with children’s shoes, even the expensive brands, they just wear out faster than they did 17 years ago when I was shoeing my oldest child.

Computers were once designed to be upgradable and repairable, and yes they were expensive, but they were workhorses that would last 8 or 9 years (I know, I still have one!) Today computers are much cheaper, but now most are designed to be replaced after only 2 or 3 years. Back in the day a computer repair shop was on every corner, today it’ll cost you a hundred bucks to have a tech say “Your computer is 3 years old, you should just get a new one.”

Where does the computer end up? In the same place as my microwave.

This disturbing trend isn’t just about stuff, it happens with people and animals too.

I dare you to walk into any animal shelter and look at the cards of the homeless animals. The shelters are overrun with unwanted animals. That cute puppy someone just had to have got sick and the owner didn’t want to pay the vet bills. The adorable kitten that was purchased at the pet store got pregnant because the owner neglected to have her spayed, and now she and 5 other cats are homeless. The iguana your child begged for outgrew his cage and became territorial so he was given up.

Ya know what? Animals chew things, they pee on the floor, they grow out of their cuteness, they get pregnant. We’re living in a society that thinks it’s ok to abandon them because they’ve interrupted our sense of ease and they aren’t new anymore.

And people? Let me tell you this: I used to work in the home healthcare field providing basic care and housekeeping for the elderly. I was the person who sat with your mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, so you could get your hair cut. I was the person who drove your grandfather to the pharmacy so he could get his medication. I was the person who changed your mother’s sheets when they were soiled and made sure none of the food in her fridge was spoiled.

One case in particular still haunts me. There are some visions I cannot get out of my head, and while I cannot get into details, I am still heartbroken over what this elderly woman had to live through because everyone else forgot about her.

I am taking a stand here and now. I will no longer be part of this throwaway culture.

As of today I strive to repair, donate, or recycle before I replace.

I will “make do” more and replace less.

I will seek out used items before purchasing new.

I will find a happy medium between my desire for style and my commitment to waste less.

To the best of my ability I will buy quality over convenience, even if it means I don’t make a purchase at all.

I renew my commitment to treat people and animals as living beings, and not things.

For more information on what to do with those used or broken items:

Repair Clinic has thousands of parts available for all sorts of household appliances

iFixit is a large community of people who know how to repair just about everything

The Thrift Shopper is a nationwide directory of thrift stores

Upcycle That has ideas, large and small, for reusing items that are no longer being used

The Freecycle Network is a local volunteer organization that matches your unwanted/broken items with people who need them and can repair them.

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