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Podcast 041 - Planned obsolescence

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Location: Kingston, Canada (USDA zone 5a)
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Credit: Kevin Murphy

Paul and Jocelyn have both watched the same movie, Pyramids of Waste, a.k.a The Lightbulb Conspiracy. The movie does a good job documenting how companies plan obsolescence. Jocelyn gives a shout out to Eric Kimmitt for finding the movie. Paul discusses his forum post and how the movie really got lots of attention at Reddit.

Jocelyn explains how printers are made stop working after a certain number of print jobs. This equipment has become disposable. These products are international and across many countries, not just here in America. Paul likes how the movie tells this story over many industries. Paul gives a spoiler alert about the movie. Should a person spend $200 to fix his printer or spend $100 to buy a new one. In the movie the printer owner found software to reset the print count.

Paul talks about the lightbulb conspiracy and how a group of manufacturers got together and agreed to set the life expectancy for bulbs. Paul talks about the bulb that has been burning for over 100 years. There was an inventor who made a filament that would last for a very long time but he took that secret to the grave with him. Livermore California has a lightbulb that has been around for 110 years now; got to Centennialbulb.com.

Paul likes Reduce Reuse Recycle. He likes that order. Jocelyn mentions that the movie talks about an LED bulb that claims to last 25 years. Paul still likes incandescent bulbs over LEDs. The movie highlights planned obsolescence over conservation. Jocelyn explains how they talk about all the hidden costs in the fluorescent bulb industry.

Paul talks about the frugality forum and what a hit it is. Jocelyn talks about pantyhose and how it used to be made too strong. Paul likes the idea that permaculture does not buy into the idea of planned obsolescence. Paul uses his experience of his recent laptop purchase as an example of the best way to go. Paul likes how Patagonia makes things that last a really long time. Cast iron is another example of how something can be used a really long time.

In the movie, a design instructor buys a bunch of cheap products and asks his students how long these products will last. Jocelyn explains how shiny and new may not be better than tried and true. Paul likes the idea that when companies get together to plan obsolescence that this should be breaking a law. We as consumers should be better informed and not purchase products from companies that plan obsolescence. Jocelyn likes the idea of having less product but of a higher quality. Paul feels that throwing too much away is not good for the environment.

Paul explains his Wheaton Eco Level and how minimizing what we purchase is good for us, but Paul doesn't want to tell anyone how to live their life. Jocelyn recalls how in the movie it says we have 26 times the amount of stuff but that we are less happy and work more. Shopping is not something Paul or Jocelyn enjoy very much. The society we live in tends to want to buy more disposable products. If we buy higher quality products we will require less. Jocelyn uses a high quality towel verus a cheap towel that might need to be replaced yearly.

Paul discusses how our used electronics get shipped to Ghana and children are burning the plastic to get to the metals and how toxic the burning plastic must be. The law states that we cannot ship garbage, but if it has a label that says "Used Computers" then it is ok to ship even though 80% of the computers do not even work. Lobbyists seem to block making any real progress in Washington when it comes to changing environmental policy.

Paul discusses the shampoo topic. Paul used to use shampoo everyday, but now he only rinses. His hair seems fine. He washes each day but does not use shampoo or soap. Jocelyn explains how not using makeup, not shaving or not dyeing your hair can help women save time and also money. Paul is not sure what the connection is between Permaculture and anti-consumerism but there is something there. A smart strategy is to use less. Jocelyn likes that some municipalities are helping by teaching about recycling and composting and gardening. Paul likes that when you buy the best you will consume less. Another idea that Paul has is the idea of living in a small community and you share a shed. You put things in the free shed. One side is where you put the free stuff you want to give away, the other side is stuff that will be taken to the dump after a given period of time. There are some communities all ready doing work like this for example church groups. Managing the free shed could be a draw for businesses. Paul feels that people throw things out rather than share them. Paul has set up a free shed and it worked very well. Paul and Jocelyn conclude with a microphone discussion and how a future podcast on community is coming soon.

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