Friday, September 9, 2011

Wear it out

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

When something starts to break, people go around saying they "need" to buy this item of clothing or they "need" to buy that household object, but there is a difference between want and need. Mindful consumption is about evaluating whether you truly need it, and whether it will be worth the expense not only in terms of your bank account, but also in terms of depletion of natural resources, pollution, and unfair labor.

For example, this was my old backpack. When a hole first started appearing over a year ago, most would run out and replace it with a new backpack right away. This particular backpack company also offers a lifetime warranty where you can send backpacks to be repaired, but when I called to ask about the specifics about this, it was very unclear as to whether the rips in mine fell under their warranty policy or not, and I wasn't willing to go a month without a backpack to find out. Instead, I repaired the hole with needle and thread, and later when the mended stitch no longer held, with safety pins, and eventually just went around with a giant hole in my backpack. Was it unsightly? Yes. But was it still functional? Actually, yes, it was. As long as I had an umbrella when it was raining. Finally, I decided that it was time, and that I wanted a new backpack that would carry my groceries more securely. My old backpack saw me through high school AP textbooks, treks lugging my computer and notebooks around my college campus, and NYC bike rides weighted down with a lock and groceries, so it lived a long life, and it got a second life when I donated it to the textile recycling stand at the Greenmarket.

Likewise, I got a new computer this winter. My previous computer was an 8 1/2 year old dinosaur purchased for my college freshman year. Over the years, it was repaired with a new keyboard, motherboard, and hard drive. But for probably the last three years I had it, it was plagued with slowness, frequent freezing and poor internet connectivity. I dealt with this by using my then-boyfriend's computer (which he wasn't too happy about) or getting things done on my computer at work, or simply having patience. I resisted getting a new computer, since I recognized that I didn't absolutely need one. I originally planned on waiting until it died a nasty death. I finally decided it was time this winter, when I wanted to be able to blog easier and do demo recordings of my music. I went with a refurbished macbook, which is rated as having adequate environmental controls. Luckily my old laptop was a Dell, which you can recycle at Staples, but Staples will also accept non-Dell electronics for a $10 fee. Electronics Takeback Coalition has a useful guide to electronics recycling here.

The delayed gratification involved in mindful consumption also makes me appreciate it all the more when I finally buy something new. How do you feel about mending broken goods and making do?

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