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How I Balance My Love Of Gadgets Between My Concern For The Environment And My Wallet.

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Each day in the U.S. alone, approximately 400,000 cell phones are discarded…thats about 146 million per year. Each one of these cell phones contain trace amounts of lead, mercury, and beryllium, to name a few toxic chemicals. Add to those numbers the amount of televisions, radios, home phones, computers, etc. that also get thrown out, and you have quite a toxic mess on your hands. Sure, some of them get recycled, but the majority of them don’t.

Unfortunately, manufacturers deem it necessary to come out with the latest and greatest every few months or so. This causes the general public to feel like they need to buy the “new” version of something or they won’t be cool. I have fallen for this as well, as I have always been a gadget guy who loves to have all the “necessities” of life. But as I have gotten older, I have started thinking more and more about not only the financial costs of getting something new every six months, but also the environmental impact that my decisions could have. I used to spend money like it was not even mine (cause it wasn’t…it was the credit card’s) on anything new and shiny, but I have changed. Want to know what I learned?

For starters, my cell phone does exactly what the new iPhone does best…make phone calls. Really, isn’t that all we need in a cell phone? I have not had a data plan on my cell for years and I don’t miss it; I don’t need to access the internet if I am out walking around. I managed before and I will continue to manage. So for me, my phone does what I expect of it and what I need it for. When I got my Treo a while back, it was not because the Treo was cooler than my phone but rather that my old phone had died. And since I wanted to get something that would last a while and not be out of date the minute I bought it, I went ahead and splurged. Because of this, I do not need to get the latest cell phone because mine already does what the new ones do…sure, they might be shinier and a little faster, but mine works just fine, thank you.

As for the iPod, I bought one years and years ago and it is still going strong. Does it hold my entire music collection? Nope. Do I need to carry around my entire music collection? Nope. I can only listen to one song at a time, and I can pick and choose in iTunes what I want on the thing. Sure, I could go buy a new one and fill it up with all my songs, but what happens when I put another album in? Do I have to buy yet a newer one with more storage? The cycle is never ending, and I wanted to put a stop to it. So I am going to keep my iPod until it crashes and burns.

I could go on and on talking about different electronics that people buy every six months only to throw away the one that was working perfectly fine. It’s called “planned obsolescence”, and its a ploy by manufacturers to get you to buy the newest thing TODAY while tossing your old one. So for me, I buy the best one I can afford at the time when I need something so that it will last a long time. That way I still get my gadget fix! I would rather buy a $250 phone and have it last a few years than buy $100 ones every 6 months in order to get the coolest one. I would rather save my money for something worthwhile down the road and give up the instant gratification of buying the same product I already owned…just because it does 1 or 2 things better than my old one did. The same can be said of cars, clothes, televisions, etc…these things should be kept as long as possible to reduce both the effect on your finances and the effect on the environment. Because as soon as you buy the latest thing today, tomorrow the next version will be announced. Stop chasing your own tail as it will never end until you put a stop to it. In my mind, it’s better to invest in the best you can buy and let it ride until it no longer works…your bank account and your world will thank you. And that way, you still get to have the gadgets you want on your schedule!


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Comments (6)

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  1. I actually use my phone more for data (especially SMS) and PIM functions (PalmPilot) than phone calls.

  2. david says:

    I use text more, but since it is included in my plan, I counted it as call use. I dont pay for internet service though..

  3. Brip Blap says:

    Another area with a lot of planned obsolescence is software. Every time Windows is “upgraded” (and I use that term loosely) it’s a big headache trying to stick with the older versions. That’s one of the reasons I go open source as much as possible.

    I took the approach of buying “top of the line” with digital cameras and it’s served me well – buy an expensive high end one once every 6 years instead of a new mid-range one every 2 years. It’s hard to apply this everywhere in your consumer life, but it’s a good idea, whether you’re talking about coffee cups or tires or cell phones or furniture.

    I hate your opening stats about discarded cell phones, by the way… makes me feel guilty just owning one!

  4. david says:

    Software is another biggie Brip Blap, I agree.

    As for cameras, we too bought a top of the line D-SLR and it has served us incredibly well for quite some time!

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