Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

April 5, 2009

Things That Last: Does More Expensive Cost More?

Category: Conservation,Household – Tom Harrison – 2:17 pm

Yesterday I wrote about our frying pans. I am thinking about the things we have today that have been with us for a long time.

dead_electronicsI have behind me a pile of dead electronics. A printer, computer, monitor, iPods, headphones, wires, keyboards, mice, phones. None of these is more than five or so years old. In my basement, there’s another pile of old devices (stereo receivers, another printer, etc.). The list would be bigger if we didn’t do our best to pass along the stuff that is still serviceable.

We have been replacing pottery with new sets from Pottery Barn as needed — we’re pretty careful, but it’s all chipped on the edges, and many pieces broke. We got some wine glasses from Crate and Barrel and others from there, too. The wine glasses are etched (from the acid in the wine). our set of glasses is the remains of several attempts to restock. Yet the porcelain pottery we got when we were married have not a single chip, and we use it frequently.

I have several wool suits I bought shortly after I graduated from college. I have some cotton shirts that I inherited from my father. But the shirts I buy now seem to last only a year before they are stained, faded, or in tatters.

green_design_coffee_tableNone of the furniture that is made of particle board or MDF has lasted. Reasonable quality desks had thin finishes which have worn off leaving many stains from pens, water and scratches. High quality cherry furniture from Green Design has only become more beautiful with age.

Our town saved money on a high school building built around 1970. It was poorly designed and has had ventilation problems, mold, poor lighting and lasted only 38 years. It is being replaced now with a carefully designed and very expensive replacement.

I have a travel mug for my coffee that I have had for at least 10 years. The cheap plastic ones have fallen apart from being washed in the dishwasher.

We saved money buying “good” quality cabinets for our kitchen. The finish is coming off and the hardware is poor.

So the question is, what is more expensive? The very expensive things we bought, made of high-quality, natural materials, or things having thoughtful design? Perhaps the premium for these things is twice what you might pay for a similar product made of lower quality materials. And all the cheap stuff needed to be made, transported, packaged, then disposed of.

Quality is usually an environmentally responsible choice, as well as being less expensive in the long run.


  1. Tom,

    I ran across this thought for the day…it seems to coincide with this post of yours.

    “Going to a junkyard is a sobering experience. There you can see the ultimate destination of almost everything we desire.” Roger von Oech

    Comment by Jean — April 9, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

  2. Tom, as much as i love that quote, i have to disagree!!! You see, junk, isnt always junk :D it was once amazing and incredible! well.. somethings were.

    I saw “Green certified Site”, does it have to be Green to be certified… hehe :P


    Comment by Kelly Anne - Basement Finishing — November 20, 2009 @ 8:09 am

  3. Kelly — a follow-up to this is that we were able to sell much of our “junk” to people who felt they could use it, using craigslist. We just set very low prices — this gets us halfway up the “reduce, reuse, recycle” ladder, to “reuse”.

    But to the post — my point was that most of the things that ended up as junk were junk because they were poorly constructed and designed to break (no, really, “planned obsolescence” is very real). While it was my error to buy the stuff in the first place (should have “reduced”), it was amazing to see how much junk there is indeed.

    As for the “Green Certified Site”, you can get them regardless of which color your site is ;-). This is a service provided by a company called CO2Stats, which buys carbon offsets for the aggregate energy they calculate is consumed by servers, pcs, browsers, and all sorts of the bits that make the web possible. Click the link — it’s pretty impressive, actually.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — November 20, 2009 @ 9:56 am

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