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Typical post-Fix scenario

When Fix ended and I started buying stuff again, I approached consuming with a new perspective.  The research I did during Fix made it clear how resource-intensive new things are, and I still believe that buying less stuff, via repairing old things, buying used, borrowing, renting, or simply deciding you don't need something, is one of the most environmentally friendly lifestyle changes one can make.   At the same time, I've had a little more money to upgrade the products I surround myself with to ones that are made better and I can repair with more success; I also feel it's my responsibility to buy things that are made more sustainably because I can, hopefully proving the viability of these models and therefore lowering the price in the long run.  (With the current economy, who knows if this will ever happen...)

Recently I embarked on buying a new razor.  I wasn't entirely happy with the Preserve razor I purchased at a premium last year, so I thought I might follow a fellow eco-blogger's advice to try a safety razor.  She bought hers used on e-Bay. (This may seem gross but there are sites devoted to teaching you how to clean it and replace the blade so it's safe for shaving today.)  I thought this was a good idea, preferring the used option for most things these days - books, clothes, paper, etc.  I spent a good hour researching the recommended kinds and then another hour researching where to get them online.  e-Bay had a model that seemed right, a year old, at 2/3 the price of a new razor.  I bid, and another zealous buyer had set a price higher than mine, so the price kept going up and up.  At a certain point, the used price started to seem ridiculous - the same as a new one!  I know a new razor costs more to produce than a used one; at the same time, the e-Bay razor will have been packaged and shipped at least twice.   Plus, I'd have to buy a special soap to clean it, which will have its own packaging and shipping.  Finally, the idea is that I will use this razor for the rest of my life but is this really true?  What if it's a total hassle?  I will have purchased a razor and blades for a substantial amount of money and resources...I suppose I could always sell it again on e-Bay...

The point of all of this is that I've spent now at least two and a half hours on this razor, which seems like a lot of time to spend on a product.  I'd rather spend two and a half hours researching a trip to Greece, or - more to the point - my time might be better spent on the phone with 311 about the recycling (again), volunteering at a soup kitchen or local tutoring center, or writing my congresspeople, city councilmembers, and state senators about the NYC e-waste and congestion pricing bills.   In short, some of this "environmental action" feels a little like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  All this energy could be spent in more eco-productive ways.   And I still don't have a new razor. 

I'll leave you with another example, one that feels a little less futile than the razor but illustrates why I think a lot of people just shut their brains off about this stuff.  I was in the store buying mints.  They didn't have the kind I usually buy, so I tried to evaluate the rest of the options.  There were a bunch made by huge companies, rolls wrapped in foil, i.e.: not a lot of packaging per mint.  There was another organic kind in a metal tin; at the time, I figured the tin could probably be recycled with the metal, and at the very least re-used for something like paper clips or buttons or something.  So I bought those, at a considerable cost.  But later, as I pull mints from the tin, I think to myself, "I already have a little box for paper clips and buttons."  And when I move, I'll probably come across the empty mint tin and think, "I'm not gonnna drag this thing to another state!"  And then I'll throw it out - I'm sure the NYC recycling people only recycle metal in the shape of a can.    

Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2008 at 05:43PM by Registered CommenterMegan Metcalf in | CommentsPost a Comment

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