Do We Live in a Disposable Culture?


Over the past number of years there’s been a great movement to cut back on waste, recycle more, and be more environmentally-conscious.   As a collective society, we pile up landfills at an alarming rate, so thankfully many individuals make a real effort to combat the production of trash. Even with recycling in my household, it startles me to see how many bags of recycling we take to the recycling center each week. It’s amazing how much packaging we run through on a regular basis.

But the disposable culture extends beyond plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. What about appliances and clothing? Do stores like Walmart and Target encourage us to live a life of “it’s cheap so I’ll just buy another”? I grew up in a house where, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was the accepted philosophy. When we still primarily used landline phones in the 90’s, the phones were from the 70’s, my parents kept the same tv’s for years (and still have a couple of them), and we only got things like new backpacks every few years. If something broke, you tried to repair it because you originally invested in a worthwhile product. If you bought something new, you followed the same line of thought: quality over quantity.

I think it’s important to invest in good quality. While my motives are both financial and environmental, I think anyone can gladly hop on the financial part of this bandwagon. Why spend more on a regular basis, when you can spend a little bit more on something and get extra years of use out of it? It’s difficult with clothing for me because trends come and go and I like to look nice. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. But I have found that I can satisfy most of my shopping needs by buying more classic and simple looking pieces and filling in every now and then with something a little trendier. Buying appliances shouldn’t happen all the time either. Do a little research before you get a new appliance for your apartment. While it’s difficult buying a lot of things when you’re just starting out in a first or new apartment, consider talking to your friends who are moving and see if you can get something secondhand.

Another forgotten habit is learning how to fix things. Sometimes all you need to do is tighten a screw or glue something back together. Try learning how things are put together so you can possibly fix them later. Remember to keep your manuals when you purchase an item, too. You also might be surprised how many manuals are available online if you decided not to keep the paper copy. When it comes to mechanical objects having problems, it’s not so much a question of “if”, but rather “when”.

I may sound like a curmudgeon here, but I simply think that as a society, we should consider how we value and take care of our things. Object-worshipping is not the point here, but if you take care of your possessions, it will pay off in the long run!