Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Fix Stuff


So often we hear/think "it costs more to fix it than to buy a new one," like there's no more thought needed... I learned just how damaging this thinking is from reading "Living The Good Life." (do click! the photos themselves are inspiring!) Linda talks in depth about embodied energy. The definition: "the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a [thing], from the aquisition of natural resources to product delivery, including mining, manufacturing of materials and equipment, transport and administrative functions" - T. Marshall, horitculturist and founder of The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture. Here's what really changed my life, in Linda's articulate words:
"Every product we purchase has a level of embodied energy beyond that of its physical self. For example, a medium-sized apple has around 80 calories. Yet there are estimates that for every one calorie of food it takes another nine calories (I've heard it's as high as 17 in Canada) of energy to produce it. The extra nine calories were consumed during the processes that occurred while the apple grew, such as spraying, weeding, watering, harvesting, storing, packing and transportation to the supermarket. The apple may also have a portion of energy allocated from the creation of the machinery that was used to implement these processes, such as the spray equipment and the refrigerated truck. The apple could have an embodied energy of 720 calories by the time it arrives in the family fridge.
Everything we own inside our house has an embodied energy, not just the food on the plate, but the plate itself, the bottle of detergent we use to wash the plate, the tea-towel and the dishwasher (which has a far higher embodied energy than the tea-towel). Incorporated into the price of any product is the cost of the energy it took to manufacture it; we take not just the product, but partial responsibility for that energy use. Most of that energy will be derived from fossil-based fuels, such as oil and coal."
So this is what I'm thinking -- only part of that REAL cost is incorporated into the price we pay for an item. In terms of dollars, the cost is there, in terms of the damage on the earth caused from the production of that product? not there. and THAT is more the responsibility I'm thinking of when I go to replace something on a whim. I'm so very aware of this responsibility and have been really striving for diligence in extending the life of my stuff. I no longer think only in terms of how much my toaster will cost to fix as compared to buying a new one, for example. It recently cost me $28 to have mine fixed, and the following day I saw really flashy new ones for $19.95. But the real cost to my planet of tossing mine into the landfill and buying new? Well, I can handle the responsibility for the embodied energy of ONE, I can't handle it for two. I took my favourite wallet to have the broken zipper replaced, and the leather worker told me it would cost too much and she wouldn't do it. I had to convince her with a prepaid bill to oblige. Yes, it cost $25. But again, the embodied energy of that wallet convinced me it was worth it. Besides, what if our local small appliance repair guy couldn't make ends meet and we LOST the ability to choose to have our toasters and kettles fixed? There's something to be said for keeping these skills alive in our communities... and to acquiring these skills ourselves!
Would you consider fixing your stuff? Will you give some thought to the REAL cost of the things you consume? Please try to find a way to love your stuff all over again...
Later Edit: And if you really want to be inspired, read what my friend wrote about this very topic here. It takes "living consciously" to a whole new level... I'm so inspired...

4 comments:

Mary-Sue said...

andrea

Andrea said...

All you said was, 'Andrea'? That is funny we were on the same wave length yesterday but somehow, not surprising.

What I thought of reading your post was that if the real cost of things had to be reflected in the actual cost of what we pay for it, hand made pottery dishes (which already do this naturally if the clay used is produced locally) would be cheaper than corelle.... I think I am getting myself the hand made dishes I have wished for for years...

Andrea said...

And now you have to read Monique's blog of the same date! Maybe we were all just on the Goddess' wave length on the day before the first day of spring...

http://dragonflywarrior.blogspot.com/2007/03/of-villages.html

Monique said...

Ok, so Mike had a great idea. We need a law that says that anyone manufacturing anything in this country needs to have facilities in place to take it back and recycle it. So that deals with the end of things. But of course - the beginning of things needs attention too. We burned a couch a few weeks ago and it has triggered much angst in me. I could have set it in the woods as a wildlife refuge. Or something. It could have been recycled into a new couch. Something. When our kettle died we took it apart and have things for plastic recycling and metal recycling. Ok fine. But what about other things? And why are we buying things that only last a few years? Why can't a kettle last a life time? Hm - sounds like I need to do more blogging. Thanks for the inspiration Mary-Sue and Andrea!