I was browsing an online store the other day when I came across a gadget that I had gotten along pretty well without for 40 or so years. I suddenly experienced a burning need to buy it so it would enhance my life. Well, that’s what I was told it would do anyway.
Thankfully, the question “do you *really* need it?” sprang to mind. I left that online store a little richer and the environment a little better off for it. I’m pleased to report my life has not suffered as a result.
Some gadgets can make life a little easier, safer, more fun (depending on your definition) or increase efficiency, but most households would have a collection of various items gathering dust around our homes, or sucking electricity unnecessarily.
In the kitchen, many of us have one or more appliances or tools that claim to chop, slice, dice, mince, julienne and so forth. Some of them are an absolute pain in the butt to clean and any time saved in the actually processing and such is lost in doing so. In a Holy Grail-like quest, we might continue to buy these appliances, hoping to stumble upon one that actually works as advertised and doesn’t require taking annual leave in order to clean it each time the appliance is used.
Another gadget many of us have bought or acquired multiple instances of is the mobile phone. While a cell phone is certainly a useful tool, we’re upgrading our phones at times without even really needing to. A new model of phone will be accompanied by a lot of hoopla, but when it comes down to it, it might not do anything new that we *need* or perhaps even use – upgrading simply becomes a case of perceived obsolescence.
While cell phone recycling is a great idea, even better is not buying/upgrading if it’s really not necessary to. A phone is a complex array of components made from plastics, rare-earth metals, heavy metals such as mercury and other items that may be environmentally toxic.
TV’s are another gadget that have gone from being a luxury to a must-have for many of us. TV’s have grown in size in recent years and while they have become more energy efficient, screen size is chewing into those gains. It wasn’t all that long ago a 21 inch screen was enough for anyone. We would also have our sets repaired when they went on the fritz and a new set usually wouldn’t be purchased until the TV was well and truly dead. TV’s also seemed to last a lot longer just a couple of decades ago – last year I wrote about an old color TV set that had only just recently died which was manufactured in the 1970’s. Planned obsolescence has become far more pervasive in the last few decades.
It’s not just the size of the TV’s we buy or how often we replace them – it’s also the number we possess at any given time. When I was a lad, it was pretty much one television set per house. Now it’s common for there to be multiple sets in homes so everyone can watch what they want. Viewing TV was once a privilege in many households and if you didn’t like what was being viewed by the adults, you went and did something else; usually involving the imagination or physical activity to some degree. Nowadays TV is a constant companion and often left on even when it isn’t being watched.
Cell phones and TV’s certainly have their place – but then there are other gadgets with very questionable functionality; such as disposable vibrating mascara brushes, automated fly sprays and soap pumps.
Further down the ladder are the cheap gadgets that perform no useful function whatsoever except to amuse – briefly, before whatever inane function they perform becomes boring or they break. These are often purchased as gifts for their “fun” aspect – the problem is all this fun is at the expense of the environment.
The many gadgets we have, large and small, also often require electricity while in use and in stand-by mode. A couple of kilowatt hours of mains electricity and a disposable or rechargeable battery there all adds up. For example, according to Britain’s Energy Savings Trust, the love affair with electrical appliances and gadgets in that nation could result in it missing its carbon reduction targets for domestic appliance electricity use – by as much as 7 million tonnes.
The Internet has brought a world of gadgets to our attention that we were otherwise blissfully unaware of. Many of these can be purchased with a click of the mouse button and a few keystrokes. As much as I love the web, giving careful thought to purchase decisions has been somewhat compromised by 24/7 shopping from the comfort of our homes.
While it’s sometimes necessary to acquire or upgrade gadgets and appliances for one reason or another; the acid test should always be the question “do I really need this?” or if it’s more a case of want, ask ourselves why.
Our acquisition and choice of gadgets is something we have a degree of control over, this is where we can make a difference – it’s one of the simple green actions that work.