UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

My Year of Buying Nothing

That time the bread machine walked off the counter

By Lee Simpson

One of the eye-opening aspects of this year is how often the need arises to replace stuff in one's life, particularly appliances. I had undertaken a weekly supply of bread for my son-in-law and was working my way through a bread machine cookbook, when that machine shook itself into a frenzy over a particularly daring flaxseed dough, falling on the floor. Now, the answer in this case is simply to revert to handmade bread, which is proving quite rewarding.

The dishwasher is another case with an easy solution. It has developed a leak, and Danny, the repair person, advised that at 10 years of age, it would likely be "less expensive to replace than repair.” You will have encountered this modern wisdom, of course. The part plus labour (which I could just about defend under the rules of YBN) cost more than the replacement of our basic model. After consultation with my husband — because this situation requires his commitment, too — we decided to do all of the dishes by hand until yearsend.

But then the stove blew up. Black smoke billowed out of the oven upon pre-heating: it's only two years old, so clearly it was not up for replacement although inevitably two months post-warranty. We were able to repair the oven element. Danny and I had a philosophical chat over this one as he is at the pointy end of the repair-replace debate. He expressed genuine anxiety over how his business has grown. He thinks of it as “manufacturing assured destruction,” the diabolical twin of built-in obsolescence. He believes that the customer is not given a fair chance to extend the life of appliances because parts are so rapidly de-listed as newer, more expensive models come along. He also thinks that purchasers are given incomplete information to extend the lifespan of their appliances. For example, we are all taught to vacuum the coils on the back of our refrigerators to prevent early burnout. But did you know that those coils are now frequently under the machine? Danny showed me, but how would I have known this and performed the required action without a knowledgeable, sympathetic and strong ally?

This is the sinister underbelly of modern appliance marketing. The dreadful results are choking our landfills. And its big item garbage week where I live: on my country lane, there are no fewer than five discarded stoves and fridges. I suspect that some have no larger problem than simply being the wrong colour. White, after all, is the new harvest gold as stainless steel becomes the only thing a contemporary kitchen can wear. As the model with the new features comes out, the three-year-old machine suddenly develops a glitch, suggesting replacement.

I like the old features, both the ones on my stove and the ones on my face. I refuse to upgrade just as adamantly as I would object to restructuring my unstylish nose. Is this about my year of consumer resistance and (hopefully!) spiritual strengthening? Yes, and no: it is also about common sense. We must end the acquiescence to the manipulation of manufacturers without an environmental conscience.


Rev. Lee Simpson is a writer in Lunenburg, N.S. New posts of YBN will appear every other Friday. You can also check out a short documentary about Lee at http://www.ucobserver.org/video/2014/04/ybn/.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image