Sad potbelly saga

I’m a bit of a bargain hunter; it comes from spending a good chunk of my earlier life dirt poor.

Like many people, far too much of what I buy is made in China. It’s a habit I’ve been wanting to change; not so much that I have anything against the Chinese, but I’m a little more conscious these days of issues like food miles and the conditions that items were produced in.

So many products we buy travel thousands and thousands of miles and we buy them primarily as they are a few bucks cheaper than locally produced goods. These thousands of miles have a substantial footprint on the environment – the fuel consumption and resources that go into transport infrastructure. China also doesn’t have a good environmental record; cutting corners is what helps them produce stuff so cheaply; which is what we demand. Thankfully, that’s slowly starting to change and the Chinese are beginning to understand a booming economy isn’t sustainable in a collapsing ecosystem.

Anyhow, I was in the market for a small potbelly wood heater to use in my shed in the outback as I discovered that I’m not as tough as I thought – it’s getting darned cold out there now!

There’s plenty of wood laying around on my patch o’ dirt, so I won’t be cutting down any trees and all new potbelly stoves sold in this country now have to meet emissions standards. Free non-fossil and renewable fuel locally harvested, relatively low impact in terms of emissions, plus the old-world charm of a potbelly stove? Sounds wonderful from a green point of view.

So off I went to hunt down a potbelly; fully intending to buy something made in Australia. The first problem I hit was that many of the heaters I looked at were Chinese rebrands carrying Australian company names. The second problem was even the rebrands were terribly expensive.

So, I bought a heater that was unashamedly Chinese for $200 – $300 less.. and here’s the real irony. Guess where the steel to make this heater came from? Australia, my own country.

The ore was mined here, smelted here, then shipped all the way to China where the potbelly was made and then it was shipped back here for me to buy – all 70kg’s (around 150 pounds) of it; wrapped in layers of plastic and including a plastic pallet. I didn’t discover this aspect until after my purchase. At least 12,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) went into the production of my new acquisition, just in transportation of the steel. Talk about a double/triple environmental whammy!

Today, I continued to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution; but at least I’ll be warm I guess. This knowledge will take a little of the toastiness and the feeling “getting back to basics” when sitting in front of it out in the middle of nature though.

Like I’ve said repeatedly in the past; we should ease up on damning China a little – we’re the real problem.