In a free market society, competition drives businesses to create cost-effective products and services. Companies that innovate secure the funding necessary to generate more sales, higher profits, and grow.
Obtaining materials and goods at the lowest possible cost is ideal, but cost-effective products come at a price: they’re often disposable, which means they’ll end up at the dump. Considering humans produce hundreds of millions of tons of garbage each year, and landfills are intentionally engineered to prevent decomposition, the future looks grim.
It’s time to ditch the disposable mindset
Everyone’s familiar with small disposable items like paper plates, plastic straws, and plastic silverware. Thanks to the desire for convenience and a willingness to accept cheap goods all around, things like computers, clothing, and furniture have become disposable, too. It’s common for someone to redecorate their home and replace the majority of their furniture including drapes and area rugs.
One hundred years ago, it wasn’t normal or affordable to get a new couch or kitchen table every three years. A functional need usually drove the desire to have new furniture. In those times, there were several acceptable reasons to buy a new table: if you needed a bigger table, your table broke, or when you saved enough money to buy an expensive, hand-carved table. Either way, old tables weren’t discarded and abandoned but repurposed.
Disposable furniture is relatively new
Years ago, it would have cost a small fortune to replace so many big items. Today, goods don’t have a long lifespan and are cheaper because they’re low quality. For example, you can buy a dining room table with chairs online, and it will arrive in a small box – assembly required. When you’re done putting the items together, the chairs will probably feel unstable, and a few months later you’ll trade them in for something better.
Affordability is the main culprit of the disposable mindset
Buying low-quality goods that will inevitably break seems reasonable when you can afford to buy a new one. For instance, each summer, millions of people replace faded patio furniture and weathered outdoor structures like sheds and gazebos because they’re cheap.
Like indoor furniture, outdoor sheds and patio furniture should be a significant investment. You’ll get what you pay for. For example, buying a cheap shed means you’ll be replacing it every few years when the structure rots. Cheap sheds aren’t built with quality siding, and without proper siding, a shed will deteriorate quickly. When you buy a shed with proper siding, you’ll pay more, but you won’t have to worry about your shed falling apart. For example, a shed with proper siding resists heat, damage from impact, rot and fungal decay, and termites.
Kick the disposable habit – not your old furniture – to the curb
- Buy patio furniture you’ll love long-term. If faded plastic bothers you, don’t buy soft plastic patio furniture that fades fast. Instead, get hard plastic furniture you can put cushions on. The cushions will protect the plastic from the sun, and if you get bored with the pattern, you can create slipcovers from new fabric.
- Buy indoor furniture with neutral colors. When you’re compelled to redecorate and paint every few years, neutral colors ensure your furniture matches throughout your changes.
- Buy an expensive dining room set. Spending good money on your dining room table and chairs ensures you won’t toss it out on a whim. Should you choose to buy a new set of dining room furniture, you can sell the old one, and it won’t end up in the landfill.
New furniture doesn’t make anyone happy
There’s excitement in bringing home new furniture like a couch, loveseat, or dresser; it gives you something fresh to look at, but only for a brief time. When the honeymoon phase ends, your excitement fades with it.
This external pursuit of happiness can develop into an expensive habit for you and the planet. If you’re often drawn to buy new items for your house, consider that the source might be something deeper than a desire for change.
Be aware that every box of stuff you drop off at Goodwill will eventually end up in a landfill. If you can’t kick the habit for yourself, do it for the planet!