OMG the new iPhone just came out, do I really need it? Of course I do! I have a perfectly good working iPhone 7, but it’s not the new iPhone X. It is just a cell phone what’s one more to the environment, no harm there right? I mean there are only 50 million tons of e-waste generated annually (Kamal, 2017) and me buying a new phone is only 4.55 ounces of that, so what’s the big deal?
As a consumer who enjoys new gadgets, I find myself having the above debate with myself each year, once Apple announces its latest product. I wonder what is the environmental impact of waiting another year? Truly, who knows, who cares?
Well I hope someone cares. Sometimes I believe companies intentionally design their products to last a limited amount of time, enticing us to buy a new one on their timeline. Would they actually do something like that?
So no iPhone for me this year, maybe a new car instead? I was really thinking I could use one of those. My car is a gas-guzzler, I could save the environment some carbon emissions by upgrading to a brand new hybrid, or how about one of those trendy electric cars?
I did pass a used car dealership the other day that had a 2014 Nissan Leaf – a smart purchase. I could repurpose a perfectly fine asset that isn’t being used. On second thought, it wouldn’t have that new car smell, which I quite like and someone else drove it before me. I just can’t do it, I work way too hard to drive someone else’s leftovers, and what would the neighbors think?
I would rather just keep my massive carbon footprint till I can afford something green, whoops, I mean ‘new and green’. So what exactly am I going to buy? I need that immediate gratification that comes with a new purchase. Maybe some new clothes, everything in my closet is so last year. Vintage is in this year, there is a thrift shop up the street maybe I’ll check it out, then I can make use of items that someone else is no longer using. I could even take my old clothes to the thrift shop. Hold up, you mean I can buy clothes that someone else has already worn. I shudder thinking about it, gross. I mean I can just buy new stuff that looks old – that’s my kind of vintage. As for my clothes, why donate, I mean I really can wear them again once they come back in style, then I can have real vintage items without having to go to a thrift shop and wear someone else’s old stuff, so at least my items won’t be joining the 84 percent of unwanted clothes that end up in landfills or an incinerator (Jacobsen, 2011) – well at least not yet.
We’ve all heard it before and despite comments similar to these being a comical parody, they are part of an ugly reality that the middle and upper classes of society are trashing more items now than ever before. As a result, we as a society are literally reaching a critical irreversible point where excess consumption is adversely affecting the sustainability of our planet. We live in a time when the concepts of reduce, reuse, and recycle only drive the majority of consumer behavior when it is fashionable and convenient vice merely out of an attempt to preserve our precious environment. A change in consumer behavior is critical to prevent massive amounts of garbage being sent to landfill, ultimately taking up space, which we are rapidly running out of, not to mention the deadly air emissions that are released into the atmosphere from landfills through the biodegradation process (Environmental Protection Agency, 2017). This results in Methane emissions that are often times as, if not more, dangerous that than carbon dioxide, as well as, present hazardous concerns to our global water supply. We are no longer our parents environmentally oblivious generation; since we were children, we have been told and understand the importance of waste reduction, reusing items, and recycling, but though we thoroughly understand these concepts, seldom do we practice them. To obtain a clean earth we must reduce energy, limit out waste, reuse our products, and recycle to enable the preservation of our natural resources. As corporations continue their attempts to increase their profits by selling more not less, we have to be cognizant enough about the environment and the individual effect each one of us can have on it without buying into marketing ploys that would lead us to believe that we can just buy our way to a greener environment. So when you are contemplating buying your next treasure, remember that with a few exceptions, most often buying nothing at all or someone else’s trash is better for the environment than purchasing ‘new and green’.
Environmental Protection Agency. (2017, April 14). Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from United States Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases
Jacobsen, J. (2011, September 08). Fast Fashion: Cheap Clothes = Huge Environmental Cost. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from EcoWatch: https://www.ecowatch.com/fast-fashion-1994121280.html
Kamal, B. (2017, September 27). Where do 50 Million Tonnes a Year of Toxic E-Waste Go? Retrieved November 13, 2017 , from Inter Press Service: http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/50-million-tonnes-year-toxic-e-waste-go/