Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Planned Obsolescence: The Hidden Trend?

By Kate Schneider

We love our smartphones, our tablets, our laptops and whichever nifty gadgets that make us feel technologically hip and up-to-date.  These devices keep us connected to our loved ones every second of the day, take cool pictures, allow us to submit work and correspondence to our teachers and bosses, and help direct us when we get lost with just a few swipes of our fingers.  The capabilities of today’s technology are quite astounding and undoubtedly useful in our daily lives.  When the newest iPhone or Galaxy comes out, many of us become convinced that we must get the latest updated version of what we already own.  These companies have successfully instilled in us the belief that the newest phone has just the specs and features that we have been lacking with our current device.  We also run into the unfortunate problem of a phone that just randomly malfunctions and we are then forced to buy a new one.

Many years ago I worked for a big cell phone company as a sales representative.  A young, naïve me was shocked at the time to learn that many of the leading phone manufacturers were purposefully designing their phones to have a shortened lifespan – about six to 12 months.  They intentionally created software to glitch on the user after a certain period time, or make the hardware of poor quality that would eventually break so that the customer had no other choice but to ditch their old phone for a new one.  Day after day customers would come in irate that the phone they just purchased a few months back defected on them.  We had no in-store tech support, so customers were directed to the 24-hour service line, only to get caught in the endless loop of transfers from one department to the next to try to get the issue resolved.  After the customers angrily hung up, holding their broken phones in their hands, I was then trained to artfully convince them that their next course of action was to buy a new device. 

These cell phone manufacturers have got it nailed down.  Other than customers simply being forced to buy a new product to replace a faulty one, these companies have strategically created a trend that has taken off on its own; when it comes to technology, people want to buy the “latest and greatest” gadget that’s fresh on the market, even when there’s nothing wrong with the device that they currently own.  People will go out in droves, stand in line for hours, and spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for a cell phone whose worth will depreciate in just a few months.  And it doesn’t end with just cell phones – we see the same trend occurring with just about every gadget out there from computers to TV’s to car navigation systems.  Mind you, this rant is not intended to be a vilification of the technology industry.  Technology is always advancing and bettering itself due to innovation – that’s a good thing.  But for companies to purposefully create a product with an enormous price tag that will only last a short period of time, or for these companies to manufacture their products in such a way that there’s no option to upgrade certain components (I'm looking at you Apple Watch), we must ask ourselves if it’s really worth it to support these conglomerates whose main incentives are to maximize their profits.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Textbook Costs - The Student Perspective

One of the largest implemented systems of planned obsolescence occurs right where it hits home: in our schools. Elementary schools through college and graduate schools all require the students and/or their parents to purchase text books. These text books almost always get some kind of new information or change the next year and the student is forced to use the new edition. The changes are usually placed sporadically throughout the book and most of the time causes a shift in page numbers so that it is difficult to follow if the student has the older edition. According to the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, textbooks can cost up to $1,200 per year on top of tuition and other fees. Some students polled even said that they forgo buying books to save money and they are aware that their grades may suffer. There have been so many proposed solutions for this problem of textbook costs, including perhaps adding the information at the end of the textbook or even creating a supplement so the student doesn’t have to purchase the entire book all over again. However, textbook publishers have a captive audience and a solidified niche in the market. They are ensuring that the old book editions become obsolete and the new editions are required. 

By Lindsay Pemberton 

Agbogbloshie: A Digital Waste Dump

By Alex Avila

Agbogbloshie, Ghana is a place that is generally not on many people’s radars. But, to a sizable part of the world, it is known as one of the world’s largest electronic waste dumps. Many cities in Europe and the United States have used Agbogloshie to offload tons of computers, hard drives, and many other scraps of e-waste, most of it completely unsalvageable. As a consequence, many citizens of Abgogloshie must cope with the unsustainable levels of pollution and waste.

Those aren’t the only implications, either: the dump has become a breeding ground for e-crime: it is possible for would-be criminals to buy hard drives that could contain a great deal of personal information, such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and other things that most people would not want to be compromised.

Many people’s lives are compromised due to the mountains of waste that pile in this city. This is a byproduct of planned obsolescence: as computers malfunction faster and become more irrelevant technologically speaking, the waste adds up, and cities like Agbogbloshie suffer the consequences.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Take our survey!

We want to know what's of the most importance to you as a citizen and as a consumer. To do that, we have created a survey to help us to that end. This will help us all get to thinking about our daily purchases in a new light. Please take our survey located on the link below to take our short survey; completing it only takes a few minutes!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fryer Oil to Fuel

By Blake D'Ippolito

Over the last few years, alternative fuels have become more researched and available to the public. One of these fuels are found in nearly every restaurant in the country: fry oil. Americans eat more fried food than any neighboring countries, which means that there is a surplus of used fryer oil. With this surplus, people have taken on ventures to collect these fryer oils and convert them into a usable fuel for their vehicles. These vehicles, however, need to be converted and updated in order for them to burn the fryer oil correctly.

 There are many benefits to this method. Bio-fuels derived from recycled cooking oil typically burn clean, have a low carbon content and don't produce carbon monoxide. While fryer oil is more expensive at around $10 a gallon, recycling and reusing this product is a priceless alternative to conventional gasoline.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Change Starts With a Simple Choice

By Laura Matthews

I recently came across an article written by Global Research News about a Man tired of a wasteful situation and decided it was time to make the world a better place one light bulb at a time. Pun intended, you could say a light went off and he was inspired to change the world. Benito Muros, a successful business man had a mission and desire to create the change he wanted to see in the world. On a business trip from Spain to America, he took the opportunity to visit a light bulb that has been lit for 111 years. Sparked by his frustration at the wasteful state of consumerism, he made the choice to come up with a light bulb that would last longer than any other purchasable one on the market. Benito succeeded his mission and created a light bulb that lasts over 84 years! We have the potential in all of us to make choices that leads to a healthier and more prosperous world. What would it take to change your mind in purchasing goods? What changes are you inspired to make in our beautiful community?


Cheap Oil = New Plastic 

by Jordan Berkley

I was recently listening to a story that aired on NPR’s Morning Edition entitled “How The Price Of Oil Caused A Downturn In The Recycling Business”. The April 3 2015 story speaks to the issue of cost, obsolescence, and sustainability with regards to recycling and oil production. As explained by Stacey Vanek Smith from the Planet Money team, “The price of oil has dropped 50 percent in the last year. Plastic is a petroleum product. When oil gets cheap, it makes more sense for companies to buy freshly made plastic than recycled plastic. The freshly made stuff is cheaper.” (Smith) In light of this problem, we have to ask how we can make the more expensive recycled materials attractive to the cost crazed market? How can we avoid planned obsolescence with regards to new, cheaper oil?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

E-Waste: Is there Hope?

By Zachary Cope
We live in a ever developing technological world, and with this comes waste. Each year a new product is created to replace the previous model. As consumers we wait in line to get on our hands on the next best thing. We leave our used outdated phones in a drawer, hoping to never see them again. Many times the new cell phones you are buying are just slightly better with a few new features. In many ways most of your old phones are still very functioning and going to waste.
It seems today manufacturers primary goal are to produce as much as they can, with little concern to where all these products end up. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency ) in 2010 cell phone waste in the United was totaled at 19,500 tons with 17,200 tons being trashed and only 2,240 tons being recycled. With such a high number being trashed, and such a small percent of that being recycled surely something must be done.

Roughly around two years ago a company came up with an idea, an idea that could change the phone industry for the better. The idea is simple, since most times when a phone breaks it is usually one component that fails. With this idea in mind Phonebloks was created, a phone that you could build upon itself. If a component breaks on your phone no need to buy a new one, just replace that component and continue on with your day. This idea if developed could alter the amount of waste produced by cell phones in the coming years. It is a simple clean platform that would make this process easy to use for all.

If you would like to learn more about Phonebloks or Recycle programs for your E-Waste, links below.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Ink Cartridges: Waste Through Technology

By Alex Avila

Ponder this, if you will: it’s the last week of class, and you have a very long term paper due tomorrow. After sacrificing weekend after weekend on your social calendar to finish researching and completing this, you have finally come to the light at the end of the tunnel. You feel a strong gust of satisfaction and relief as you click “print” to retrieve the fruit of your labor and be done with the class. However, something happens: the computer indicates that the printer is out of ink. You take the cartridge out of the printer, shake it vigorously to retrieve the last dregs of ink, and are shocked to find that the cartridge actually seems to still have quite a bit of ink! Flabbergasted, you put the cartridge back into place, and find that, according to the computer, the cartridge is empty. How can this happen?, you wonder.

This is an example of a certain type of Planned Obsolescence called Programmed Obsolescence. These days, printing manufacturers have inserted proprietary smart chips to disable the printer once the ink falls under a certain level, even in cases where there may actually be enough ink to do the job. This is a burden for both consumers and the environment: first, there is the fact that inkjet cartridges are expensive enough in and of themselves, and can often cost more than the printer. Second, roughly three quarts of oil and 2.5 pounds of plastic are required to manufacture each inkjet cartridge.

Want to learn more about Planned Obsolence? Click below.

Quality Logo Products-5 examples of planned obsolence