Monday, July 9, 2012

Eco-Friendly Pet Peeves

Caring about and for the environment is an important value for me as a result of seeing it modeled by my parents (and they seeing it modeled by their parents). It also is something that I hope Sophia and Olivia value as they grow up and eventually become adults.

There have been a couple things that I've been noticing in recent years that are rather frustrating - both on a personal level as well as a more global environmental level:

- Planned obsolescence
- Products that have been reduced in size, but the price remains the same

Planned Obsolescence

According to Wikipedia, planned obsolescence is "planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, that is, unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time.

"Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence."

The main way that this has happened with me is with products I've purchased that no longer have parts available for it when they needed to be replaced. At that point, the item cannot be repaired and must be thrown away and a new one purchased which I find very wasteful.

There are so many different - and subtle - ways that planned obsolescence occurs. Often times, consumers aren't even aware that they are happening. Other times, they are and feel like they need to get the latest style of something - whether it be a better cell phone, computer, clothes, or car. 

So what are the consequences of planned obsolescence? In the short-term, producers maximize their profits at the expense of consumers. They are overproducing goods at the expense of the planet and its natural resources. 

The waste generated because of planned obsolescence impacts people in many ways:
- There is greater pollution caused by greater resource extraction.
- The cost of living increases because products must be bought multiple times.
- There is a loss of participation in more meaningful and culturally-enriching activities because there is less discretionary income available.

Products that have been Reduced in Size, but the Price Remains the Same

About four years ago, there began some subtle changes in the packaging in food and other products that come in boxes, cans, or containers.

I first noticed it when using recipes that I had for a long time. For example, the recipe would call for a 16 ounce can of pineapple. When I went to the grocery store, there were no longer 16-ounce cans of pineapple available. They had been decreased by an ounce or two.

Perhaps that was an isolated incident, I thought. It wasn't. Slowly, I noticed more food products coming in different size packages or the same size package, but with fewer ounces.

Recently I bought cornstarch and was surprised that when I opened it at home it was only half full. Very tricky. It looks like you're getting a full container of product...when, in fact, it isn't even close.

Manufacturers began making these changes around 2008. In fact, an article in Newsweek called "That Shrinking Feeling" covered this issue quite well. The article stated that "up to 30 percent of all packaged goods, not just food, have had some sort of size reduction."

During June, Sophia completed a 4-H project that compared the prices of 18 products at four different stores. Not only did she find price differences, she found quantity differences. For example, there use to be half gallons of ice cream. Now, she couldn't find two quarts anywhere. They’re 1.75 quarts. Some are even down to 1.5 quarts now. 

Because of these changes, I now look at the price per ounce on all products to make a more informed choice about what is the better value and to help stretch my budget.

I am hoping that these package reductions stop soon. What's already happened is more than enough.


Sara said...

I always check price per ounce, too, because I also really hate the reduction of goods but not price!

Dorky Crystal said...

I always notice that with the less-important products, like potato chips and snack mixes. But it's happening with everything now. Detergent, dish washing liquid, toothpaste. And I love how it says on the packaging "Family size 20% more!!!" when it's exactly the same size that it was last week. lol

Anna @ Cozy Corner Crochets said...

Because I use a lot of cotton yarn, I have become upset that the popular yarn I usually buy has gone down in size. They used to be three ounces per ball and now they are two. Same price, but now I have to buy two balls for my projects, then I have leftovers. What a waste.

BTW, I love that you used "fewer" correctly. Misuse of that word is one of my pet peeves.

Shayla Burks said...

PPO is the only thing I look at. If it means buying a huge thing of Mayo, then so be it. ('Cause my family wont let that mayo go bad, I promise!) If I know we're going to use it, I'll buy bulk for a better value.