I was having dinner with my family at a restaurant last week when I saw a couple sitting next to us who were almost finished with their meal. After the couple asked for the check, the waitress asked if they wanted to take their meal to go (there was a good amount of food left), and the couple said “no.” What?! I thought to myself! The food was perfectly good, and they could have brought it for lunch the next day or had it for dinner. I wanted to ask them if they knew there were starving children who would love to eat that food (sounding like a mother scolding her child for not finishing all the food on the plate).
It’s not just food that we throw away though, it’s pretty much everything. This seems to be the societal norm here. Lap top is a few years old, throw it away and get a new one! Tired of driving the same car for the last three years, trade it in for a newer model! It seems like we’re always getting tired of what we already have, and searching for something new to buy. This is especially true with technology. There’s always a new model every year with a few new “must-have” features encouraging consumers to throw away their old outdated products to upgrade to a new one.
Having grown up in a family that despised wasting anything, this is one of my pet peeves. We always brought home leftovers and we eat leftovers that we make at home. We were always told to turn off the light when we left a room. My parents don’t throw much away and use things until they’re unusable. I think I’m pretty good about not wasting things and not always upgrading immediately, but they put me to shame. They had the same tube television for well over a decade, only replacing it when there were red streaks on the images. As a matter of fact, I bought them a flat screen television last year because we often visit on Sundays and I couldn’t bare to watch football on that tiny 25 inch television. Yes, I am spoiled =) They have furniture and appliances in the house that pre-date me and I’m 34 years old. Now that my parents have a grandchild (Baby LRC), I’ve seen my mom take out my old toys for him to play with. Yes, I kept my toys in great condition and they are still working fine!
While it does seem as if the quality of the products that we use nowadays is poorer and does not last as long as the ones we had the previous generation, I do think that this generation just likes throwing away the old stuff and upgrading to new stuff. The media’s exaggerated portrayal of what a “rich life” looks like and all the ads encouraging us to BUY, BUY, BUY has wired many to think that we constantly need new things to be happy. We have an expectation that life is how it appears on the television we watch, in the magazines we read, and on the Facebook posts of our FB friends. Oh you know those Facebook posts where your “FB friends” upload pictures of the exciting and exotic vacations they just went on, the new car that they just bought, or the newest iPhone which they had to wait many hours to be the first one to get.
So what should you do the next time you get that itch to throw something away or to buy something new?
Think about the financial costs
It’s pretty obvious that you can save a lot of money by not constantly buying new things!
Think about the environmental costs
The production of goods and the need to deal with discarded waste puts a strain on the environment. This is especially true with electronic waste since many of those components contain contaminants which are difficult to dispose of safely.
Think of the clutter you create
Clutter bothers me, especially since we have such limited space. Buying more stuff inevitably leads to more clutter, which leads to the need to declutter at some point in the future.
And, the next time you decide to buy something new or throw something old away, ask yourself do you really need it and if the newest features are really something you can’t live without? With regard to the old stuff, ask yourself whether it still works and if not whether you can repair it?