Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Don’t Buy and Help the Economy

While at Taste of the Danforth, Toronto’s largest outdoor street barbecue, I happened upon The Green Vehicle Exchange. Naturally I was curious. The woman at the booth explained that this program helps owners retire vehicles eight years or older by offering to find good prices for the old car and rebates when buying a newer and fuel efficient model.

The woman asked if I was a candidate for the program. I explained that rather than own a car I am a member of AutoShare. I rent fuel efficient cars at an hourly and nominal rate whenever I need to do car-required errands – like take my cats to the vet.

The woman ended our chat with a reminder of the benefit of their service: they remove old polluting and inefficient vehicles from the road so that drivers can buy new and help the economy. Buy new and help the economy? What particular economy? I didn’t get into it with her. I didn’t want to spoil our lovely chat. I was tired besides and wanted to continue to enjoy my ice cream cone.

The Next Day
This encounter lingered with me next day as I drove my AutoShare car to pick up my printer from Ota – a local computer repair company. My printer’s rolling mechanism was quite mangled (Blacky, my long-haired Persian cat, pressed her paw on the ‘go’ button, causing the printer to swallow her fur. She’s fine. The printer wasn’t).

Chris, the repair guy, took one look at the Brother model and forewarned trouble if it needed parts. Brother doesn’t make any available. My only option would be to send it to Brother’s repair centre (wherever that is) or replace it entirely with a new machine. Happily this wasn’t necessary. Chris was able to de-mangle the printer. His advice to me for the future when my printer completely falls apart is to invest in a Hewlett-Packard – particularly models designed for offices. I may have to pay more upfront, but HP provides parts for repair guys like Chris so we don’t have to throw the machine out with the bathwater - so to speak – when some simple gizmo breaks down.

Throw Away Culture
Like a car that significantly depreciates in value the moment you drive it from the lot, electronics are built to become obsolete the moment you buy them. We live in an age where people line up overnight for the latest gadget and where machines are built to be replaced as soon as possible. The question is: where does this plethora of plastic and toxic parts go when we’re through with them? A great majority of it ends up in dump sites where, if they remain, they will poison the groundwater for hundreds of years as they break down.

The Greenest of Green-Collared Jobs
The repair shop seems like a relic of a bygone era. My Uncle Clarence, a brilliant TV repairman, can speak to this. When I was a child I would sometimes come home to find the entrails of our TV scattered on our living room floor. This meant only one thing – Clarence was over for a visit. The TV was fine but he knew he could make it better. In the 1990s he was a highly valued member of the repair unit at Toshiba, until globalization and shifts in product development rendered his skills obsolete.

I believe, however, that the repairperson, in the immortal words from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is not dead. Not yet. Like phoenix rising from the ashes, the mighty repairperson will make a rousing comeback. Why? Because I think we are sick of spending our hard earned money on products made useless when one simple part bites the dust. And with the economy suffering with a grim prognosis, fewer will be able to afford to merrily toss major electronics and appliances without thought.

Now that ‘green’ has cache, the repairperson holds one of the greenest jobs around – keeping perfectly sound machines in operation for as long as possible.

It’s the Economy, Silly
So buy new to help the economy? Any economy that depends on the steady depletion of nonrenewable resources is a runaway train headed towards a cliff.

By giving my business to AutoShare and Ota, more of my dollar goes to support the local economy than if I were to buy from multinational companies that divert a good portion of my dollar elsewhere.

So When Buying
When buying electronics and appliances chose models that are strong on quality and have proven track records for longevity and easy maintenance. Do they make parts available and if so, how expensive are they? When they do eventually breakdown, what company offers hassle-free e-waste programs? Think of the lifespan of your purchase.

Find repair shops you can trust and ask them what companies and models they would recommend.

In the News

An S.U.V. Traffic Jam
They’re practically giv’n them away.

Amazon rainforest threatened by new wave of oil and gas exploration
It’s a vicious circle. Less trees to absorb carbon dioxide and more fossil fuel to produce it.

1 comment:

ralph said...

hi,saw your latest blog.always interesting items on it. ...its sad about brazils rainforests being destroyed for oil . . .when will they ever learn . ..but . .some good news . .the suv dealers are going broke . .hope they are not bailed out by the gov't. . .p.