Mindfully navigating an environmentally harmful system widely accepted in manufacturing and marketing
In our daily lives, we make countless decisions, ranging from small and seemingly insignificant to those vitally important for us and the world around us.
For many, living in line with what we value and hold dear is of the utmost importance, though it can be incredibly challenging in a world steeped in a ‘planned obsolescence’ mentality.
From the vantage point of living in line with what we value, we are likely to consider the following:
- Where and how we spend our money- voting in currency.
- How and where do we choose to spend our time and life energy?
- What and who do we desire to support?
Needing a new washing machine is FAR from a romantic or even partially interesting topic…
….but I share it because it’s a decision I need to make that is part of a much bigger environmental picture!
I rarely venture out into the world of mass production and consumerism. I dont buy into it. The out-of-the-house ventures that feed my soul are time in nature, a yoga or dance class, workshops/learning, or to the natural food store and farmers markets.
After approximately thirteen years, the washing machine in my home lost its ability to be a functioning member of the washing machine community. A lovely repair person was optimistic that he could fix it with a part he brought. Upon inspection, he said the problem was deep within, and it would take about ten hours and a lot of hassle to take it apart and put it back together to repair it. He suggested getting a new one.
Hmmm, why is that part so difficult to get to, I wonder!!??
So the machine sits, lifeless. I have not been minding doing laundry by hand for the past month as the machine was slowly dying but trying to squeeze and wring enough water out of our thick and wintery clothes is not easy! Living in a year-round warmer climate with lighter clothes that can be hung outside to dry could work?!
A change of perspective
I had to work myself up to the ‘task’ of replacing this machine. It was close to the bottom of the list of things I wanted to do that day, or any day, for that matter.
The previous day, I read a wonderful Medium article by Judy Walker called “This Simple Phrase Rewired My Brain and Gave Me Back My Freedom to Choose.”
In it, she speaks of the impact of replacing the words I ‘have to’ do (fill in the blank) with I ‘get to’ do (fill in the blank). I noticed the internal energy shift I felt from one to the other. Saying the words, I ‘get to’ feels like an exciting proposition within me.
As I was getting ready to head to the first store, I said to myself, I ‘get to’ go and research and possibly buy a new washing machine. Surprisingly, there was that excited feeling.
Well, after the first 5 minutes in the first store, this faded in a hurry! I will explain why.
What is planned obsolescence?
In a high school social studies class in 1990, we were introduced to the term ‘planned obsolescence.’ Learning that countless items are planned and calculated to have deliberately shorted lifespans to generate long-term sales, as when they break down at their specified-behind-the-scenes-expiry-date, this forces the consumer to go out and buy another one of those items, whatever t is.
It can also mean producing a product to become out-of-date, so to sell an upgraded product. Many of us have experienced this.
“Today, this concept has been legitimised and is built heavily into manufacturing and marketing cycles. Planned obsolescence drives profitability and has been largely accepted by the business world and consumers alike.”www.uk.buyonce.com
When I learned about this, I felt angry and disgusted, which remains. It is manipulative, dishonest, deceptive, wrong, and unnecessary (except if money, greed and consumption are your only motivators!). It is ecologically (and in other ways) disastrous and, in my option, needs to be stopped finally!
I am doing my absolute best to mindfully support companies that, with honesty and integrity, are compassionately aware and attuned to the bigger picture and design their products and systems to last and, in all ways, put the care of the planet first!
Also, companies might hinder the repair process. Possibly, what I experienced with a part that involves dismantling the whole machine to access?! Which causes the consumer to have to replace the product.
Still, before companies do this, they must feel confident that there is a good likelihood that the consumer will buy a replacement from them.
Thirty years have passed since learning about this, and I find myself face-to-face with it yet again
A woman greeted me as I walked into the first store. I told her my two non-negotiable requirements for this new washing machine- extremely energy and water-use efficient, durable, well-made, and long-lasting.
When I told her I got approximately 13 years of service from the last one, she laughed, and her face indicated her surprise. Her reaction made me feel like I narrowly got away with something, like I was one of the lucky ones; she said, “you are lucky to get 5- 8 years!”
My insides screamed, “WHAT????” She gave no indication that there might be anything seriously wrong or problematic with what she just said. She is in the business of selling more (and more) appliances, after all. These companies would not be in business if the products lasted decades like they used to!
The other two things that were important to me were the manufacturer is as close as possible and not an outrageous price.
My head was already spinning.
Some planet wins, and some planet NO!’s existing simultaneously = ultra confusing!
I went to five more stores (not too far from that one). In between, I was researching on my phone and read that the average life of a washing machine is ten to fourteen years, and I also read places that confirmed what she said, five to eight years.
A person at one store told me they have less life span because of all the electrical functions. I learned that there are ‘fancy’ functions that enable people to start a load of laundry from an app on their phone! Wowzer!
So what I was learning was:
- Fancy’ electronics that (claim) to make some people’s lives easier last for a fraction of the time they used to!
- Newer appliances are more energy efficient and use less water, which is undoubtedly a positive.
- The lesser life span due to the electronics is also at the expense of lasting durability and the planet!
Something else I noticed was stickers on some of the washing machines highlighting their partnership with well-known laundry soap/liquid brands—marketing buddies. No thanks. Just clean, biodegradable, non-toxic products for me!
Revisiting I ‘get to’…..
- I ‘get to’ do my best to make conscious, mindful, Planet-first decisions in an industry of insanity.
- I ‘get to’ my vote in dollars for what aligns with my values amongst companies desperate-for-sales-no-matter-the-environmental-cost.
I am grateful to Judy Walker for writing about this change of perception!
What most of us don’t consider is ALL the energy and resources it takes to produce each appliance/thing, the man/woman power, packaging and all its energy and resources, shipping far and wide to countless retailers (and moving them around again to a different warehouses destination), and delivery from there to the customer. Someone must collect the so-called ‘old’ machines and whatever happens to them! Recycling some parts?? Landfill? And repeat.
I made a decision based on a new machine based on my two top values, but I still don’t feel good about it. I would have liked to have bought a machine that did not have to travel as far, so I had to compromise on my third value.
The economy and mass mindless consumerism are human-made constructs.
Without a healthy Planet, companies fighting to get the new sale and ALL the ‘fancy’ technology and so-called ‘conveniences’ in the world won’t make a difference.
It’s the Earth that sustains life in every possible way- this is what is REAL!!
When are we all going to start living from a stance of immense gratitude, awe, and respect for the beautiful Planet!!???
With love from: