Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sustainable Saturday- I'm Falling Apart-Are You?

No, it really isn't me falling apart (although my back, which suddenly has decided to trouble me again, might make me change my mind), but, rather, my laptop.

I cracked the lid and epoxy didn't work.  The crack got bigger and bigger.  Now I can barely move the thing without the lid separating from the screen.  I am going to have to make a decision - try to get fixed (I am not sure ducttape will work) or get a new laptop.  Or a tablet.  Or something. 

This laptop is practically the most important thing I own.  It's my communication device with people all over the world.  I blog.  I play FarmVille (again, with an international cast). I write.  I buy things. I email.  I tweet.  If I could, I would cook on it.

When did we get out of the habit of fixing things? Or, for that matter, making appliances or devices that aren't junk?  Not having to fill our landfills with stuff is part of sustainability, after all.

For example:

We own a waffle iron.  It was given to us by my mother in law.  It was made in the 1950's.  Still works fine.

How many people own refrigerators from the 1950's that still work?  Maybe you keep one in your garage, or your basement, as a 2nd refrigerator for party supplies or extra food for company.  They still work.  Or an old toaster?  OK, I know waffle irons and toasters are relatively simple. But still.  They were metal, they didn't melt, and they kept working and working.

Does anybody reading this have an old telephone affixed to their wall?  Still makes calls, doesn't it?

No, instead, we are stuck with examples like this:

Exhibit 1 is our refrigerator, which we have limped along for some 6 years.  A tiny part in the freezer kept breaking.  We would come home from work or wherever to discover that our no-frost freezer had turned into an Arctic ice cave.  We had bought an extended warranty (I love Consumer Reports, but totally disagree with their stance concerning extended warranties) and for the first 3 years got free repairs.  And then the same part would go out, over and over. 

Once it was out of warranty, we paid money for a local repairman to come out.  He said, for some extra money, we could get said part in metal instead of the plastic the extended warranty people were using.  We took his advice.  No more problems.  (Now, if only we could get decent crispers instead of the worthless ones that came with the fridge.  They keep cracking.  I refuse to pay the price Sears wants to charge.

Exhibit 2- we had a similar problem (plastic part, kept breaking, but in this case no metal available) with a dryer.  Our flood last September finally put that appliance out of its misery.

Exhibit 3 - now our phone (yes, we have a landline)  is malfunctioning.  Sometimes it makes calls.  Sometimes it doesn't.  Sometimes weird things happen when you think it is making a call.

Almost makes you want to go back to the days of Ma Bell black rotary phones  doesn't it?

Exhibit 4:  a beautiful pot we bought years ago, again from Sears.  (I'm not putting Sears down.  Just saying....) The handle broke.  No way we could get a new handle. Why?  Sears didn't make them.  No one made them.  We ended up giving the pot to someone with welding skills.  I hope he was able to fix it for his own use.

Look, I am realistic.  I know that old isn't always better. I enjoy having a phone with caller ID (this minute, I am ignoring a junk phone call.  Nice to be able to do that.) and a built in answering machine. But I can also remember a time when quality mattered. Now, I think, manufacturers are in a race to produce products they should be ashamed of.  Where is our pride?

This isn't good for our wallets.  That isn't good for the environment, or the landfills.  It isn't good for repairmen (they deserve to be able to make a living, too.).  It isn't good for any of us.

Do you have stories to tell about devices that died before their time; ones you wish you could have gotten repaired?  Or, do you think this modern trend is good?


  1. My husband ruminates on this topic all the time, that quality just isn't the same anymore. We replaced our refrigerator last weekend. Our old one is 25 years old and still cools/freezes fine, but the inside plastic is getting a little brittle and breaking, and we'd been wanting a newer model. So, we brought in brand new and just today took the old one over to my sister's house, as her 35 year old fridge has finally given up the ghost. We all expect that our new unit will break down long before the plastic has a chance to become brittle and cause us to want a replacement primarily for cosmetics, and that's kind of sad.

  2. I think that quality decreases every time a new generation comes out. Partly because the manufacturers want for you to keep buying, and partly because the need for quantity can't keep up with the quality.

  3. I use my grandmother's waffle iron, which was also made in the 1950s. Right before Christmas, one of the beaters on her old Dormeyer mixer, again from the 50's, or even 40's, broke. Of course there is no replacement, short of getting lucky at a flea market or antique store. Too much cheap plastic in things manufactured these days.


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