Planned Obsolescence (4/4)

10 Ways to Combat Planned Obsolescence

The good news

The good news is, if you share our vision for a sustainable future and you’re already taking steps – however small – to live more sustainably, then you’re probably already fighting planned obsolescence – even if you didn’t know it existed!

The answer is conscious consumption.

It’s okay to consume. We need food, clothes and yes, we need some ‘things’. But consuming does not have to mean consumerism; this culture of mindless consumption and subsequent thoughtless disposal that we’re currently stuck in. 

We understand that some of the options and choices listed below are only available to people with significant privilege. Like all personal and environmental improvements we encourage you to do what you can, do your best and don’t stop trying.  As one of our muffin flags (displayed at our points of sale) says: Intention, not Perfection. 😉

Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

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Consider your needs

If you read our last article you’ll have read about how planned obsolescence manipulates the consumer to believe that their desires are, in fact, needs. 

Suggested exercise: go to our last article on the psychology of planned obsolescence. Halfway down the article you will find a diagram of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Take a moment and consider how each of these needs are met for you. Perhaps you’d like to physically draw it out or maybe just visualise. Once you get past physiological, safety and love needs, start to consider your belongings, what they mean to you, why you have them and whether any might be surplus to your needs. 

Second hand furniture, reused glass jars to store food and an old “inherited” bread bag.

Reuse

Reusing just means to use something over and over again, until it really can’t be used any more. 

Did you know zip lock bags are totally reusable? Old jam or condiment jars can be reused to save food or to keep your own, homemade preserves and condiments in! Or even to take to the bulk store to refill with something yummy!

Buy with the intention to reuse

You can also buy things with the specific intention of reusing them afterwards. Sure, you’re still buying something new, but you’re buying something that will last.

When we first started planning on taking our food truck full of muffins and coffee to fairs, we chose to take reusable ceramic cups – made by some artisan friends of ours – instead of single use paper or plastic cups.

We knew this decision would mean a higher economic cost for us, taking into account broken and missing cups, cleaning time and carefully packing them away after each event; but we believe that extra expense in order to minimise environmental impact ought to be factored into every business’ costs.

Reusable sanitary towels and the menstrual cup are a few more excellent examples of a one time purchase with the intention of reuse.

Our ceramic cups at VeggieWorld Barcelona, 2019

Buy second hand

We love going second hand shopping. So much so that we wrote a whole separate blog post about it with GitteMary. 

You can find so many things that you need second hand; kitchen-ware, furniture, basic technology items, jewellery and of course, our personal favourite, clothing! Going second hand shopping can be such an adventure and a fun day out! You never know what you might fall in love with.

And if you need something specific you can always try sites like eBay, Wallapop, MilAnuncios, Preloved and Gumtree, just to name a few.

One of our flags

Upcycle

Upcycling is the process of taking something you already own that no longer serves its original function and modifying it to fulfil another purpose (even if its new purpose is a cool art piece).

You can find so many cool upcycling ideas on Pinterest and Instagram!

Suggested exercise: have a wander around your house, is there anything broken that you haven’t found the right way to recycle? Or something you don’t use much any more? Can you think of anything cool to make it into? Or any way to make it more attractive so you’ll start using it again? 

Old milk container bought in a second hand market; used to store kitchen utensils.

Buy refurbished

This one is especially useful (and important) for technology products. As much as fighting planned obsolescence, buying second hand technology also fights one of the biggest slave trade industries of our time. 

There is an entire section of Amazon called Amazon Renewed entirely geared toward the sale of second hand technology. 

There are also a whole host of independent sites of various qualities where you can get anything from cosmetic seconds (aesthetically imperfect but basically new and perfectly functioning) to ex shop floor models (items that have previously been on display in an IT store and can’t therefore be sold as new) and fully refurbished well used items. Refurbished products are usually much cheaper than their brand new counterparts but if you opt for manufacturer refurbished items or take the time to look for a high quality independent refurbishing company you can still be confident in the products’ functionality. Most will come with a good warranty – try and pick products with the longest warranties possible, it shows the refurbishers have confidence in their product, so you can too.

Make your own

There are so many things that we buy without thinking that we could, with just a little more effort, make ourselves. Toothpaste, deodorant, shopping bags, cleaning rags… there are so many things you can make – and creating is half the fun!

Check out: these cool and unique ideas by BuzzFeed, Going Zero Waste’s awesome beauty DIY’s, home zero waste DIY by Litterless and recipes for all natural homemade deodorant and toothpaste over at Hello Glow!

Fix what you have

This may not always be an option only for the more privileged but it depends on the product that needs repairing. If you can’t repair it yourself, repair cafes are an amazing community initiative, find one near you (in Spain) here.

Sometimes a repair might involve sending the product back to the manufacturer to avoid breaching your warranty which is where you can start incurring big costs.

This old piece of furniture used to be in the entrance of a house until our founder and her partner upcycled it into a bathroom unit.

Recycle (properly)

Recycling is not as simple as just recycling or not. If you put the wrong things in your recycling container or you don’t clean your recycling you can be doing more harm than good. Things like plastic bags can get wrapped in and damage machinery, anything that’s contained food, if not washed, can leak onto other recycling products and contaminate an entire load of recyclable materials as the machines can’t process things with food on them and anything put in the recycling that can’t actually be recycled just wastes workers’ time (Simmonds, 2019).

Do recycle, though! Just make sure you clean everything and you put the right things in the corresponding bins.

Pay extra for things that last

We’re aware that this option is for those with perhaps more monetary privilege than some others but, if you are in a position to, investing in a more expensive item that you’ve researched and is built to last is a great option for when you really need something.

Conclusion

All is not lost and we at La mala leche truly believe that, between us all, we can make a difference. As with everything, being a conscious consumer is all about doing what you can, within your means. We believe that a little action is better than no action.

We’d love to hear what you’re already doing to combat consumerism and planned obsolescence, have you tried out any of our suggestions or made any changes?

Author: Anna Kommers
Spanish translation: Anna Kommers & Estefanía Lozano