Monday, December 12, 2005

*Click here to empty recycling bin*

This weekend, I strengthened my resolve to never let anything go to waste.

I was working at the Recycling Jackson drop-off site, a little cubby-hole of land where Jacksonites can drop off cans, bottles, newsprint, etc. to be recycled.

As a board member of Recycling Jackson, we're asked to volunteer a weekend or two a month to help out. No problem there - a little hard work never hurt anyone (but I learned that 16 and 17-year-olds hate volunteering their time, however - at least the ones I met).

Our organization is also starting an e-waste program, where folks can drop off old TVs, microwaves, and computers to be recycled or disposed of. Electronics tend to be stuffed with harmful gases and materials that can do some real damage to the environment, so the idea is we'll take care of it harm-free.

One lady pulls up in her van and drops off some computer equipment. I look in the back of her van and there glows, turquois-green, one of the original iMacs that Mr. Steve Jobs and company released unto the world in the late '90s.

"Does that thing still work?" I asked the lady.

"Yeah, our daughter used it, and we decided to upgrade," she said. "There's nothing wrong with it. It works fine."


I'm glad that there's a program to dispose of e-waste properly. I'm also glad that this lady didn't just chuck her Mac into the dumpster, smashing the screen and releasing who-knows-what into the atmosphere.

And I'm glad I got a free iMac. You betcha.

But then I thought, "Good Lord, is that what we've come to? A $1,000 piece of equipment is tossed in place of an updated version just a couple of years later?"

In other words, I have an issue with waste. Always have. I remember using the same waterbottle (an Aquafina 20 oz. model, I believe) through two years of my college career. When it got empty, I refilled it in the drinking fountain. It worked just fine.

I hate Styrafoam. I hate paper plates. And I really hate those new Swiffer dry mop thingies, where you use them and then toss the little static pad. What a waste.

Renner used to make fun of me for it. "We have a new czar of recycling," he used to tell me. "Don't you know some people say recycling uses more energy than it saves?"

This coming from the man who would make 200 copies of a three-page article for a 20-student class, and never went double-sided.

The idea that we can use something, throw it away after one use, and never look back disgusts me. But there is an opposite extreme. Take my gramma. She will use a hammer, lose it, and buy another one. Then she finds the old one. Now she's got a dozen hammers in her garage. She'll never run out as long as she's alive (unless she loses all of them - which is very possible).

So the system most of the world has in place - planned obsolescence, I believe it's called - just drives me crazy. I know that the iBook I just bought will be obsolete in a couple of years. And what can I do about it? Well, I can spend a butt-load to upgrade it, knowing that at some point all hardware reaches a ceiling. There's no durability. Not any more. All because companies want you to re-buy what they sell.

Take a lightbulb. There are lightbulbs out there that will last years and save you money over their lifetime. But most folks don't want to pay what they see as a higher price initially. It's madness! And some of the practices are downright sinister. Even Apple does it (here too)

Luckily there's a group of people out there who have found inventive ways to re-use electronics. Like making your iMac an aquarium.

So should my new seafoam beauty crash without the hope of recovery, I know I can make it into a great piece of urban art, like a Bauhausian kitty litter box. But it will not go to waste.

My car isn't the most stylish, or the fastest. But it sure gets me where I need to go. My clothes aren't that fashionable, and I often shop at Goodwill - and when I lose interest in an item, or it doesn't fit, I donate it back to Goodwill. It's a cycle.

There comes a time when a product's effectiveness and viability become absolutely terminal, and at that point I may replace it. But it better have lasted me a long time.

Give me something with a lifespan, damn it.

Or give me an iMac - and I'll put it to good use. I promise.

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