Using Something Longer – Environmental and Financial Benefits

It’s simple, but at the same time a big shift in consumption habits. More importantly, the environmental impact is huge.

Use the things you have to buy more than once a little longer. A year. Two. Make it a game and see how long you can go before replacing.

Take my phone. I got it in December 2012, which makes it 3.5 years old. Since age three, the battery was bad enough to give me grounds for replacement, but I chose to keep it at least a year longer, tiding myself over with a portable charger. Imagine I kept all my phones an extra year.

iphone save_use longer

Let’s do the calculations for my lifetime: when I got the phone, I was 21.5 years old; my life expectancy is 79.01 years. This means 57,51 years of phones left in 2012. Assuming each phone lasts three years that makes 19.17 phones until the statistical end of my life. But if I keep each phone one year past its prime, it will only be 14.3775 phones, saving 4.7925 phones. Keeping it two years longer: 11.502, AKA 7.668 phones saved. Imagine that pile of discarded phones shrinking. Imagine everyone did that. Imagine how much the environment would rejoice, if it were anthropomorphizable.

Not convinced? Let’s talk money. An iPhone SE – the phone I’ll be replacing my 4S with, eventually – costs 589€. 4.7925 SEs cost 2822.78€, 7.668 4516.45€. That is a very long vacation, retiring a few months earlier, sending a kid to college for a few months. That’s almost 22 months rent for my current room. If I redid these calculations regarding my laptop, I’d save even more. If I had a TV, a car, or expensive furniture, my unborn children would be set for college with those savings.

You can do this with every physical item as long as it’s safe to use – obviously avoid driving cars that are falling apart. For less expensive things, the benefits are more environmental than financial: shoes, bags, clothes (especially large items like coats), yoga mats, kitchen utensils, tools, anything you can think of, really.

Just think about the dwindling landfill.

With this approach, you have to learn to live with small imperfections. Because before things are truly broken, they can be sort of broken for a very long time. Or maybe they’re just no longer new – the consumer part of my brain sometimes confuses the two. Sure, my phone has little battery life and sometimes the camera crashes. My yoga mat sheds little blue bits. My bike is heavy and anything but sleek. Some of my clothes have holes in well-hidden places. But nobody who matters cares and I feel better for living according to my values – owning less, spending less, polluting less. I for one certainly don’t care what consumer culture expects of me.

PS: Frugality: Greed vs. Generosity

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25 Things: A More Conventional List

I turned 25 last month, and while I have learned countless things in this quarter century, here are another 25 worth sharing:

Juli

  1. Save some money to throw at problems. More often than not, sadly, money helps. If nothing else, your emergency fund will help you sleep more soundly.
  2. Automating your savings will help tremendously with this.
  3. Diets don’t work. If they did, that industry wouldn’t exist. See The Fuck It Diet and Isabel Foxen Duke for more expert advice on this.
  4. You outgrow fashion magazines faster than you’d think.
  5. Minimalism is the shit.
  6. But getting used to not getting gifts is still hard, despite the time you spent convincing your loved ones that no gift can also be a gift. But you’ll feel better for it.
  7. It’s ok to quit something that is not “your thing.” For me it was playing the oboe – time is just too limited a resource. It is also ok to take it up again and then re-quit.
  8. It’s ok not to finish a book. Again, time being valuable.
  9. But you’ll never regret time spent reading a good book.
  10. In the same vein: libraries are truly god-sent. My book-buying is way down.
  11. Just because everyone acts like it’s fun doesn’t mean you have to enjoy it. Thanks to Gretchen Rubin for this one.
  12. People don’t treat you differently for wearing makeup or not.
  13. Or for losing or gaining 20 pounds, for that matter.*
  14. Don’t comment on other people’s bodies, ever. Or the food they choose to eat.
  15. Eating or not eating certain things does not make you a good person. There is no moral aspect to food.
  16. Don’t buy expensive sunscreen. You’ll use it too sparingly and burn.
  17. Shaving your legs just for yourself can be an act of self care.
  18. Sometimes you need to leave to truly appreciate home.
  19. Get enough sleep. Really. Everything is better on enough sleep.
  20. It feels good not to need coffee first thing in the morning just to be able to function.
  21. You might need more time for yourself than you think you do.
  22. It’s absolutely ok to say no to something you have no desire to do.
  23. Figure out how you like to spend time with your friends: one-on-one coffee? Large groups out on the town? Planning activities together? Taking a vacation? A social life that matches your nature is much more rewarding than doing what everyone else thinks friends “should” be doing.
  24. Not being able to run due to an injury will certainly teach you patience. You learn to accept the hand you’ve been dealt.
  25. Old things, e.g. phones or bikes, can give you peace of mind: Neither my 3.5 year-old iPhone, nor my 14 year-old bike are very likely to get stolen, even in a big city.
  26. If you want a serious relationship, admit it to yourself.

*My experience is limited to “normal” or only slightly “overweight” weights, so I obviously I cannot speak for people at further extremes of the weight spectrum.

PS: In Defense of the Default and how to unplug for what remains of summer.