Week 41: Everything Old Is New Again
by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood, 52 Weeks of Climate Action
I’m not sure where the attitude came from that we need to upgrade everything on a regular basis. The first cell phone I bought was a MuchMusic motophone. When I upgraded it to a smart phone, the salesperson treated it like it was an antique. “Oh, I wanted one of these so bad when I was 10!” she exclaimed with delight. So, I am clearly not an early adopter. But, there has to be some kind of reckoning between needing something and wanting it. Or buying because you’re bored. Or to keep up with your friend, whose new *whatever* is shinier and neater than yours. Let’s face it. There’s always a new gadget, and, if we keep replacing our old junk with new junk, we’re just going to end up with mountains of trash we can’t contain. Oh, wait a minute… I am old enough to remember that things didn’t used to be disposable. There was a TV repairman, and a small appliance guy, and a small engine guy, and all were nicely busy fixing things that broke down. I think I’ve said before, last summer our chainsaw broke, and after searching for a repair guy, he informed us that it was junk and to fix it would cost almost as much as buying a new one. So, we bought a super duper battery-powered chain saw that is outstanding, and will probably last us for eternity (thank you Gillian at John Deere dealership!). Why is consumerism a problem? Because a 2015 study found that 60% (yes six-oh) of gHgs were caused by the production and use of household goods. The more affluent a person becomes, the more things they buy. So the more money you make, the more gHgs you typically produce. You buy stuff because you can. On top of that, planned obsolescence is now a thing, meaning that your products may not break down, but the new version may have a few more bells and whistles they hope you just can’t resist. One of the biggest culprits is fast fashion. Fashion used to change twice a year - spring and fall. Now it changes weekly. Why? Because we are suckers for it. Shopping is a pastime, especially when it comes to clothes. It’s appealing because everything seems so inexpensive. Old Navy, Wal-Mart, Joe Fresh...the list goes on. When you can buy a pair of shoes for $2, why not load up? Well, because you honestly do not need another pair of cheap shoes that aren’t that comfortable and you don’t really like that much. Yes, that t-shirt is only $5. But the person who made it works in deplorable conditions, makes $45 a month, and it is manufactured on the other side of the planet. The environmental cost of that t-shirt is significantly higher than $5, with dyes, chemicals, processing, shipping, and disposal. Because you know, that $5 t-shirt will be shoddy and useless after only a few wears. Buy better quality. Don’t waste your money on 10 t-shirts in different colours when you could’ve bought one really nice one that lasts you years. And, don’t buy what you don’t absolutely need. Do you need 10 t-shirts? No. You really don’t. And neither do your kids. Shopping should not be a hobby. Buying things when you absolutely need them? No problem. Until then, take up crochet. So, this week’s challenge is to reconsider your purchases. There are options that don’t involve a trip to the dump.
Challenge 41: Repair things instead of buying new.
How, do you ask? Well, surprisingly, there are a lot of things you can fix yourself if you have a few minutes, and an internet connection. YouTube is a wonder for finding how-to’s on just about anything. Yes, a lot of the instructions are quirky, but, in the end, YouTube has saved us many a repair cost. If you happen to be just a little bit handy, and not too afraid to try it, you may find a new skill you didn’t know you had. Often it only takes a small part that you can order from a local store or online, and you’re all set. If you can’t fix it yourself, ask a farmer friend. Farmers can fix anything. Literally. Often I come outside to find my friend Dwayne and my husband standing on the driveway staring at some piece of equipment that needs another repair. But, in the end, they figure out a way to do it. If they can’t, Dwayne always knows a guy. So, take advantage of the wisdom in the community. Try a hardware store, or a farm supply store. Ask questions, and someone will know the answer, and probably have the parts close by that will get you through. If they don’t, they will also Know a Guy. If you need electronics repairs, especially phones, Mohammed at The Dollar Store on Hurontario St (Collingwood) is amazing, and reasonable. Before all this Covid nonsense shut down the world, the idea of Repair Fairs was catching on. If you have something broken, you take it to the fair, and onhand were a wonderful bunch of people who could fix it for next to nothing, often while you wait. Got a lamp with a frayed cord? No problem. How about a busted toaster, or fan? Check. Maybe a shoe that needs a new sole, or a dress with a rip. Simple things that can be easily fixed in just a few minutes, if you have the know-how. Hopefully one day soon these kinds of gatherings can be a regular thing again. Instead of buying something new, try to find a way to fix it. And if you can’t, look at buying higher quality items, preferably with an environmental mindset, so you won’t be replacing things so often. Buying one slightly more expensive fan is better than buying two cheap ones, and sending one to the dump after a few uses. Adopting your grandmother’s savvy sense of frugality is the new sexy. Try it on. You wear it well. Yours in Sustainability, Sherri Jackson & Laurel Hood 52 Weeks of Climate Action was created by Sherri Jackson and Laurel Hood. Sherri is a writer, speaker and musician. She is the candidate of record and communications coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Laurel Hood, is a retired secondary teacher, transportation lead for the Collingwood Climate Action Team, and volunteer coordinator for the Simcoe-Grey Greens. Visit our blog or sign up at www.52weeksofclimateaction.com.