Sick of replacing your stuff? 4 ways to overcome planned obsolescence

There’s a new trending topic in ecologically responsible communities around the world: the planned obsolescence of products. Even if you haven’t yet noticed the articles and debates on this matter, the idea must have crossed your mind when you ran into some ancient, but functional hairdryer owned by your parents or grandparents. You might have thought “They don’t make’em like they used to”, but the practice of planned obsolescence dates back to the 1920’s. Government and journalistic investigations show that top light bulb manufacturers of the time agreed to reduce the lifespan of bulbs to 1,000 hours, in order to increase sales.

Another type of intentional obsolescence is through marketing campaigns. General Motors initiated this practice in the automobile world around the 1920’s, when they began to launch a new model every year, encouraging people to stay fashionable. All of this sounds familiar, right? Nowadays we change our smartphone after a couple of years, getting it replaced every time a new model is released. But we are also forced to buy new items as they break down regularly, due to low quality materials or flawed design.

As the earth is burdened with waste, we can start being mindful about our consumption.

These are some examples of products that have a short life due to planned obsolescence and some tips on how we can extend their life:

1. Light Bulbs

Some of the earliest light bulbs still glow today in museums, however, you probably can’t remember how many bulbs you’ve already changed. The solution is to Invest in some LED or fluorescent lighting, which whilst pricey, is a good choice for energy saving. Also, place your indoor sources of light strategically and make the most of natural light. Another option is to install sensors, but if you can’t afford them, make sure to turn off the lights every time you leave a room.

2. Ink Cartridges

Ink cartridges are expensive and you are almost certainly wasting some money, as every time a color is running low, a pop-up alert will advise you to immediately replace them. Ink cartridges can be recycled, but some are implanted with a smart chip, which is responsible for the alerts and also prevents you from refilling or using a third-party ink. You can reduce this waste by searching for affordable generic products, designed to be compatible with major brands. These cartridges will usually allow you to refill and considerably lower your printing costs. Also, try to format your documents before selecting “Print” to remove unnecessary paragraph spaces, headers, footers or ads.

3. Consumer Electronics

This is the area where planned obsolescence thrives! Often, components parts fail after the warranty expires and sometimes replacement is costly. Lithium-ion batteries, incorporated in many Mp3 players, laptops, and cameras are usually the first part to break down. Some companies design electronics that prevent owners from easily replacing the battery and offer a pricey service for that, which leads to many consumers to purchasing new products. One solution is to go off the beaten track and look for generic brand replacements. Additionally, taking good care of your goods will often keep them working years and years ahead.

4. Cars

The automobile industry is another top offender involved in the practice of planned obsolescence. The top-grossing cars are taken off the market, instead of being upgraded. Parts for older models are difficult to find, so fixing an older car is generally discouraged. The best solution is to buy a new hybrid or electric vehicle, which relies on software updates. These emerging technologies are relatively earth-friendly, so products are manufactured for longevity. Companies like Tesla use automatic updates that are activated while the vehicle is charging. Also, basic models include special sensors and hardware allow for numerous upgrades. However, electric automobiles are still pretty expensive, so the solution for the ecologically conscious folk on a budget is to use public transport or cycling where the savings are far greater, or if necessary acquire a used car. Some people change them every two years, so you can often find a relatively recent model with low emissions.

Other categories of products are affected by planned obsolescence, too. Appliances like air conditioning machines, refrigerators, coffee makers, and blenders have a short life span, but a lot of waste also comes from buying the latest fashion clothing. So, the best thing to do is to keep your eyes open and analyze your options every time you buy purchase goods. Maybe you can’t afford the latest technology like Tesla, but you can opt for earth- friendly services and objects when it comes to lighting, printing and small electronics.

Written by Amanda Grison

Light Bulb Conspiracy from