Sunday, July 20, 2008
I'm shopping around for a new house. I want one that's smaller than where I live now -- even though I live in a townhouse -- and one with a yard so I can grow my own veggies. When a friend saw online photos of a house I'm interested in, she didn't like the kitchen. "The stove doesn't match the refrigerator." I hadn't even noticed that the stove was black and the fridge was white. "But you can always buy new ones."
Huh? Why would I want to buy a new stove if that one still works? Does a stainless-steel fridge protect my food better than a white one?
This perceived need to purchase new products is one issue discussed in "The Story of Stuff," a 20-minute online video I just watched.
A thought occurred to me six months or so ago. My grandparents had lived in a small house (at least by American standards), but the houses being built nowadays are much, much bigger -- with seldom-used living rooms and even bonus or game rooms. Why? Family sizes have shrunk, not grown. Most women of my grandparents' generation didn't have to work outside the home. Today that's not the case. I'm all for women working outside the home if they want to. But I'd rather a two-parent income be a choice, not a necessity. Where's the logic in buying a big house if you have to work more to afford it?
Why are storage facilities popular now? With our big houses, don't we have enough room?
We need to get back to basics, back to simplicity. We need to stop deriving our self-worth from the objects we own. We need to recognize that companies want us to consume, have trained us to consume.
About 10 years ago my cordless phone broke after only six months or so. Shopping with my sister, I lamented about how quickly the phone had become useless. A customer next to me complained that was commonplace with a lot of products nowadays.
It's called planned obsolescence (ie. obsolete), according to "The Story of Stuff." Companies make their products to break earlier than they should so we go out and purchase another.
The second kind of obsolescence is perceived obsolescence. The iPhone came out only one year ago, yet last week people -- who own the 2007 version -- were camped outside Apple stores overnight to be the first to buy the newer version. And, of course, people who had a cell phone before the original iPhone came out ditched it in favor of the newest thing, at the time.
Now this isn't to say that I'm never wasteful. No one is perfect, and that's not what any of my blog posts are about. My posts are about sharing what I've discovered about animal rights, the environment and our health. With knowledge we can each improve how we live our lives.
So watch "The Story of Stuff" and think about it the next time you feel the need to buy new clothes or the latest gadget.
(Image courtesy of climatex.org.)