The True Cost of Disposability
The disposable nature of consumerism is constantly on my mind.
Cheaply made things line the streets of my neighborhood, some in perfectly usable condition, destined to clog our landfills, break down into microplastics and potentially harm the environment.
It bothers me more than a lot of you would probably believe. When you don’t have the means to buy quality goods you acutely notice the cheapness of products. You notice that cheap products break more often, don’t work as well as advertised and actually cost you more because of increased maintenance and replacement cycles.
I spent most of my early adult years with products like this. It was frustrating and it actually cost me more money in the long run. No shop fixes the cheap vacuum you bought, the inexpensive TV you picked up or the one cup coffee maker you bought on sale. They cost too much to send away for repair and no one in your town works on them. So what do you do? You throw them away, buy them again and repeat the process.
I love thrift shops. I think it’s very fortunate that we have shops that will accept, process and resell donated clothing and the mountains of goods that we’ve outgrown and don’t need anymore. And I love the movement that has been rising for quite some time of shopping vintage and pre-owned first.
In my family, we try to do this as much as possible. Most of my two-year-old son’s baby gear, clothes, and favorite toys have come from the local pre-owned stores in town. We try to be selective with our purchases of material goods; but as I look around my house, I can’t help but think that even we own too much stuff.
Take a look at these pictures: Printers, clothing, games, and toys...some still in their original plastic shrink wrap. Endless pieces of furniture sit unwanted and carry no residual value because of how cheaply they were made or because the design is outdated.
There’s a good chance that most of this ends up heading to landfills if the store deems it to be unworthy of resale and cannot simply give it away. It seems that as a society we spend an enormous amount of time and money acquiring things that have no residual monetary or emotional value.
We’re bombarded with marketing that insinuates that owning more things improves the quality of your life. That might sound like a cliche, but it’s so deeply embedded that I don’t think most people ever so much as question the assumption.
Cheap pricing is used as a means to justify spending your money on the next new vacuum, pressure cooker, mixer, printer, or piece of clothing. The selling point is rarely about how a product is produced with such high standards that it’s the last vacuum, pressure cooker, mixer, printer or pair of jeans that you’ll ever need.
Think about that for a moment. Of all the advertising you see, you’re almost never told that you should buy something because of its quality. We’ve been programmed to value the act of replacing cheap crap with other cheap crap. Everything is a novelty designed to keep us happy for a few minutes until we move onto something else.
Most of the products on the market are produced with obsolescence in mind. The motors will wear out, the plastics are cheap and will eventually break and clothes are so cheaply made these days that you immediately start worrying about favorite jeans or sweater becoming threadbare. The products we buy seem to be getting more disposable by the day.
That’s why it’s important to consider the real price of this kind of consumerism. It’s more than just the number on the price tag. It includes the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll paid by the unskilled workers laboring for next to nothing who creates most of these cheap products across the globe.
And it’s the involuntary monetary price you pay, having to replace cheaply made goods, pulling money out of your pocket month after month and year after year.
“The race to zero,” as you might call it, is destroying the planet and the workforce that makes the goods we consume.
How often do you buy the same items over and over again and justify the purchase because it’s “cheap”? This is short-term thinking, and we’re all guilty of it from time to time. And why don’t we demand higher quality? Because in the back of our minds we know it may not exist and higher prices aren’t a guarantee of higher quality.
But we’re not powerless. We can all do something to help fix this problem and steer us back toward sustainability and a healthier relationship to the things we buy.
What Fifth & Cherry is doing to end disposability:
Every cutting board we produce isn’t just warranted for life -- we also refinish our boards for life for free. That why we can say, with complete confidence, that it’s the only cutting board you’ll ever have to buy. Our business model is our way of fighting back against the cheap, inferior disposability model that predominates the world’s kitchens and homes.
Fifth & Cherry is proud to be the leader in creating products that last forever and that honor the environment and the craftspeople who create them. We all know that if consumers had a choice, they’d always choose products that last forever and are backed by the highest level of service...sadly, we just aren’t given that choice anymore. That’s exactly what we’re out to change.
Imagine if every product you purchased was built to last forever and taken care of by the manufacturer without hassle. How much money would you save, and how much value, in the truest sense of the word, would you derive?