I have often been fascinated by some of the products that made it from concept, through pitch, all the way to production and sale. Especially toys for children and pets. I found myself staring at them, imagining the conference table where someone said, yes, this is it, let’s make a million of them! Recently I worked a temporary job processing orders which consisted mostly of cheap crap. With such ease and speed, we can end up impulsively buying something that barely functions or breaks quickly. I am not immune to this and I am also unsure of what to do with my disdain for the situation other than share my perspective here.
Just as often I saw products which could be considered well-crafted yet solved a problem that didn’t really exist. I recall reading long ago if you wanted to ‘get rich’ you’d invent a product by finding a common problem, developing a solution and marketing it to a niche. Yet so many of the ‘problems’ human beings face have already been ‘solved’. Manufacturers and businesses have now moved on to fixing ‘first world problems.’ No one really needs a special device to pour their wine, or taco stands, or a water bottle that can play music. I wonder… are we just aiming to be lazier and lazier for what appears to be no good reason or are we merely giving in to the marketing ploys promising us a better life if we buy their useless crap?
The greatest power the average person has to change the world, is to be actively aware of their own affect and make choices accordingly. Consider the item you are about to purchase, how was it made? Were the employees involved paid a living wage? Is the material a quality that will last? Is the material safe for you and your family or does it contain potential hazards? How far did the materials travel from source to production to packing to sale? How long is it going to last, and how useful is it really going to be? Finally, what will happen to it once you are through with it? Can it be repaired, recycled, resold, or will it sit in a landfill?
Every item you choose to buy funds a company, I found myself amused at the variety of slogans printed on flags made by the same company. Ideals and slogans of the political variety that you often see on the imaginary sides of the equation. While no one is ever “one of those people” all of these particular consumers spent their money through the same printing company in order to waive the flag of their opposing opinions. Effectively though they are all supporting the same cause, the continuation of that business which imports cheap printed flags from overseas and sells them so cheap none of that money makes its way into our local economy by way of wages to employees of the distributors.
As a culture we seem to have developed the habit of amassing and hoarding insane amounts of products. My own relatives suffering from a constant need to buy new things that may sit unopened for weeks, months or even years. I have actually found completely unopened products quite often while helping to clean out garages and basements. There once was a time in my life when I was continuously buying materials and tools for projects I wanted to complete, suddenly I realized I was spending time shuffling materials out of my way for projects I wasn’t getting around to doing. The hope of “someday I’ll find the time to use that” keeps us costing ourselves time and money we could be putting into action now.
Where is the line? I think it might vary from person to person. Doing our due diligence requires us to choose do we really need this product, are we going to make use of it right away, and how can we ensure we choose the best quality for a decent price. Some people live in the constant churn of planned obsolescence because their income doesn’t afford them the ability to purchase anything more than the cheapest of products. I found once I determined to wait, and save and invest in higher levels of quality in the products I use, the quality of my life improved drastically. Not just because I wasn’t re-buying the same thing sooner, but also because I was buying less things in general less often and I was focusing on the most important things rather than spreading myself thin. My time became my own again, and I feel that I am managing my own life rather than being indentured to the objects in it.
I implore you to join me in considering the far-reaching effects of your consumer choices. Happiness has bloomed within me, knowing that every time I spend my money, I am not just buying something of quality that will be useful and lasting, but also that I am supporting the best choice of companies, who in turn support the community movements I care about. A single person, with self-awareness, dedication and who arms themselves with knowledge can effectively change the world one dollar at a time.