By Dan Hiestand, Houstory Marketing Guy
It’s that time again.
Houstory’s sixth-annual #NoMoreStuff campaign, which encourages people to skip consumerism chaos and instead invest in experiences during the holiday season. It’s also the third anniversary of our #WhiteFriday campaign.
Learn more about each of the campaigns here.
As we come upon this time of crazy consumption, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about…my toaster.
I can’t fault you for thinking it’s because I enjoy delicious, sliced bread, delicately browned on both sides by exposure to radiant heat and often smothered in butter. After all, you would be right. Okay, mostly right.
In reality, aside from my torrid love affair with bread, I’ve been thinking about it because it’s broken. This naturally got me thinking about when I got the toaster and why the hell it would break down after just a few years of use. (In other words, it’s not exactly a candidate for The Heirloom Registry.)
The answer? My toaster is a piece of #$Wc. I realize my options for continuing its lifespan in some capacity are, at best, limited.
Let’s examine my options.
- Repair it: Manufacturers are incentivized to sell as many toasters as possible. If they make it too easy to repair the toaster, consumers won’t need to buy a new one, and their bottom line will suffer.
- Recycle it: The toaster is a complicated piece of equipment, and our current system makes it very difficult to recycle its components. Therefore, recycling electronic equipment may not be a viable option in many communities, especially now.
- Toss it: I throw the toaster in a dump, as well as the precious metals and components that are in it, never to be seen again. For most toasters like mine, this is the likely scenario—evidenced by the sheer amount of electronic waste that is squandered every year.
Based on these likelihoods, a typical toaster lifespan often goes something like this: the manufacturer (1) takes raw, virgin materials to make the toaster; (2) the manufacturer makes the toaster; (3) the consumer throws it (and its precious raw materials) away as waste, never to be seen again.
Take. Make. Waste.
That is our current and unsustainable “linear” economic model. A straight line with resource depletion at the beginning and waste at the end.
Sadly, this process is ubiquitous with just about all the other stuff we own, too. Depending upon where you live, you can likely replace “toaster” with “cell phone”, “TV,” “sofa,” “blue jeans,” “iPad,”… you get the point.
I know what you are thinking: Dear God, Dan, why are you bringing me down with all this talk of non-toasted bread, shrinking natural resources and toasters rotting away in landfills, crying toaster tears in the darkness, filth, and muck?
Well, three reasons.
• No. 1: I think you should know I really like bread.
• No. 2: For those of you who decide to brave the masses and shop, I would ask you to slow down and consider my toaster before making an impulse, too-good-to-pass-up purchase. There is an excellent chance you will be buying a piece of junk that will actually cost you (and the planet) more in the long run.
• No. 3: I want to share an alternative, upbeat vision of the future with you. It is a future where lamely designed toasters don’t exist, and buying resource-depleting “stuff” on #BlackFriday becomes a relic of the past. It’s an alternative called the “circular economy.”
First, in a circular world, my toaster would be easily repairable. Then, at the end of its life when it’s beyond repair, its manufacturer would take it back and use it to create a new generation of toasters. At that point, it might be refurbished, remanufactured, or recycled, among other options. Even the energy used to create the toaster would be renewable. In other words, it would be a perfect “circle” where waste doesn’t exist.
Furthermore, consumers wouldn’t actually buy the toaster. They would buy the use of the toaster. In the end, the manufacturer would get the toaster back, helping to create massive new revenue streams and high-skill jobs related to product lifecycle extension. And consumers? They would have perpetual access to functioning toasters!
Sound to good to be true? It’s already happening at significant scale in many areas of the world. I encourage you to take a look at the following video to see what the future may hold when it comes to circularity and to learn more about the possibilities.
As you can see, circularity and #NoMoreStuff / #WhiteFriday have a lot in common. Are you interested in going circular in the meantime when it comes to your consumption?
Well, good news: there are things you can do to be more circular now as we get into the holidays. Below are four examples.
• Shop for refurbished or re-manufactured goods. They are often as good as if they were new.
• Shop for second-hand goods.
• Lease or borrow goods instead of owning. Here’s a great example of this concept.
• Upcycle and create your own special gift
In the meantime, Happy Holidays from myself and my brother, Mike. Thanks for reading!