It has cooked hundreds of meals.
Filled my young sons’ tummies with healthy food.
Created countless comfort food meals for cold winter’s nights.
Saved me from ‘slaving over a hot stove’ on hot summer days.
Now it’s helping to nourish my children’s children.
And I look at this little pot and see how it can help us save the world.
The little pot is a slow cooker – an old Crock Pot. It was a wedding gift more than 32 years ago.
If you could convert electronic life into human years – like you can say one year in the life of a dog is equal to seven human years – I believe this little pot would be amazingly ancient. After all, anything electrical has a very short lifespan.
It was made before the idea of built in obsolescence crept into everything we buy. Today’s crock pots often stop working after as little as two years.
The idea of built-in obsolescence is not a new one. In fact, General Motors head Alfred P Sloane Jnr borrowed the idea from the bicycle industry when the automotive market in America began to reach saturation point in 1924.
The phrase “planned obsolescence’’ was made popular in 1954 by American industrial designer Brook Stevens.
He described it as “Instilling in the buyer the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary.”
The Waste Makers, written by Vance Packard and published in 1960, was promoted as an expose of “the systematic attempt of business to make us wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals”.
Well, hasn’t business done a fantastic job of that? It really has ticked all those boxes for many of us.
All you have to do is look at a few simple statistics to know I am right.
MAKING US WASTEFUL
Australians produce 18 million tonnes of waste each year. Around seven million tonnes comes from the household sector. In fact, each Australian family produces enough rubbish each year to fill a three bedroom house from floor to ceiling.
If you tied together all the plastic bags used by Australians each year they would stretch around the world 24 times.
Australians produce an estimated 140,000 tonnes of e-waste each year. Only four percent of that is recycled.
The sad list goes on and we are not even the highest waste producers per head of population in the world – though we are frighteningly close to the top.
MAKING US DEBT RIDDEN
According to the latest figures, Australia’s personal debt is one of the highest in the world. Some of this debt is attributed to personal loans and credit card debt. Imagine the debt we could avoid if we held onto things longer.
MAKING US PERMANENTLY DISCONTENTED INDIVIDUALS
A quick browse of the internet will bombard you with stories or tips on how to be happy. Clearly, there is a need for such advice which indicates many of us are permanently discontented individuals.
Around one million Australian adults will experience depression during the next year. While not all depression can be linked back to consumerism, this number indicates that material things do not increase happiness and the desire for them can actually make us depressed.
WASTE AND THE WORLD
It’s no secret our world is in dire straits and almost all of its problems stem from an imbalance created by us.
- Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases all help trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere as a part of the greenhouse effect.
- Landfills emit carbon dioxide and methane, plus they contaminate our soil and waterways.
- The burning of fossil fuels (to produce the energy needed to produce all our stuff) and deforestation, have intensified the greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
- Plastic rubbish is responsible for killing more than 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles worldwide every year.
RAGE OVER RAZORS
The obvious answer to help our planet is to consume less. While it won’t solve all the issues, it will go a long way towards restoring the balance.
I appreciate how difficult this can be given our options.
A few months ago I was looking to buy new razor blades. The blades come in a plastic case that holds eight. For about a quarter of the price of those eight blades I could buy a new razor with a blade attached, plus one extra. What really made me angry, aside from all the plastic packaging around the razor, was that the spare blade sat in a plastic case designed to hold eight blades – what an incredible waste! Yet so tempting to go for the more economical option.
Major stores have a policy of throwing out items that have been returned, I was horrified to discover.
A customer service officer in one such store told me the company she works for had this policy in place to avoid lawsuits.
“Anything that has been returned, even if it’s because the customer didn’t like the colour, cannot be resold,” she said.
“Once it’s left the store floor, that’s it”.
She said giving the items to charity was not an option either because it could still leave the company open to lawsuits (if someone hurt themselves on the item or discovered a hygiene issue) further down the track.
It goes to landfill if not snapped up by a staff member.
My son was given crutches at the hospital’s emergency department when he tore the ligaments in his ankle recently.
‘Hygiene concerns’ means he cannot return them. Similarly, there was no option to rent the $200 leg boot he was forced to wear and he cannot resell it.
LESSONS FROM A POT
I remember secretly thinking what a stingy person my mother-in-law was as she rewashed disposable cleaning cloths after use.
I’d see them drying on her clothes line and hope I’d never be that miserly. Not a very kind thought, I know, and I am shamefully reminded of my ungenerous thoughts every time I see my own disposable dusting cloths drying on the line.
Our mothers knew how to reuse things until all the life was out of them. It wasn’t just to save money but because they couldn’t stand waste. They appreciated the value in every creation – the energy used to make it, the transport to deliver it, the space used to display it for purchase.
My pot doesn’t have programmed cooking times, a digital control panel, the ability to sear, boil, roast, steam and double as a griddle.
It doesn’t have a ‘warm’ setting (there is some suggestion this is not a healthy option to use anyway).
However, it still cooks wonderful meals with minimum effort. I don’t see a need to ‘upgrade’ while it is still doing its job.
And that’s the wonderful lessons from a pot. Hang onto whatever you can for as long as you can. Ask yourself how vital it is to have the newest of gadgets that offer more but don’t last.
Think of the consequences of every purchase – the energy used to make and transport it, the money it costs you to buy. And how it effects our world when you throw it away for the next new thing.
When you do buy something new, consider the vintage option and if possible, repair instead of replace. And if something no longer suits your needs, consider changing it into something new.
For some really cute ideas for reusing plastic bottles and keeping them away from landfill and oceans, come back for this week’s Wacky Wednesday project.
Check out the Wacky Workshops section for some more great recycling ideas.
Have a gleeful week, Tamuria.