Don’t Replace It

sigg-adI’ve been seeing these ads a lot lately.  They sort of drive me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for helping the environment, But ads like these make people think they should replace their old plastic water bottles with new environmental friendly water bottles.

You know what helps the environment?  NOT buying products you don’t need.  NOT throwing away your perfectly good non-environmental-friendly water bottle.

This works a lot like cars.  If you’re attempting to help the environment you should be driving a 1974 Chevy until it blows a piston rod, then you should buy another 1974 Chevy and drive it until it dies and then buy another… get the point?  That brand new Hybrid just means that another car will rot in a junkyard instead of on the road where it belongs.

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12 thoughts on “Don’t Replace It

  1. I agree with the first half, but disagree that when something old has been worn out completely that it should be replaced with the same old thing. If your 1976 refrigerator that uses freon (a harmful CFC) and 1500Kwh per year kicks the bucket, you’re telling me to replace it with another instead of a new energy efficient 2009 fridge with a non-CFC coolant and only uses 500Kwh per year? I think not.

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  2. The point is that if no one uses that old refrigerator, it’s just going to go to the dump, so as long there is an old one out there, might as well use it.

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  3. Google Reader needs discussion threads. That said, replacing old stuff with more old stuff to save it from the dump may not have a positive net effect on the environment if the energy it wastes or the pollution it creates is more damaging that the space it would take up in a landfill.

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  4. @Brion – it’s not the space in the dump that is that big concern, but rather the cost, in both energy and materials, to produce something new.

    If we want to discuss further I suggest we take it to the comments of Randy’s blog.

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  5. You’re absolutely correct, there is a lot more that goes into determining which option is the best, even if only considering the environmental aspects. To do so you’d need to know the net effect on the environment of both options.

    That being said; I’d argue that the consumption of resources and energy to build the new item will most likely outweigh the cost of operating the old out of date item.

    Even if that is not the case, it is Always better (for the environment) to buy used. In your refrigerator example anything produced after 1996 (when the usage of Freon was banned) would be perfectly fine.

    Buying used products often comes with headaches and there are certainly other factors to consider. I’m not making any suggestion that you should always buy used. I’m simply stating that the suggestion that you buy new environmentally friendly products seems completely ridiculous to me.

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  6. As Randy stated there will be exceptions, however it does hold true for most things, even houses. The problem is the general public is very short sighted when it comes to weighing in the total environmental impact.

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  7. Ok, well that’s a bit different than your first statement/example isn’t it? I wholeheartedly agree that buying used is, generally speaking, better overall for the environment than buying new. What I disagreed with in particular is buying a very old replacement for a very old car.

    Aside from having variety (the spice of life) in your automotive ownership, I’d argue that buying very old cars (unless you’re a mechanic and have the intention to replace the inefficient parts) is not a good idea. Buying slightly old cars is a good idea both for the value and the environment.

    “My” only new car ever was actually my wife’s Honda and that died 3 months after the 6 year mark (just outside of warranty) when the cost to repair was about 70% the value of the vehicle. We replaced it with a used late-model vehicle of about the same size.

    Quite honestly, I like a very large number of things second- (or third-) hand. Some things I prefer to buy new (such as items of a personal nature or that may provide a danger of bought second-hand). My house is old, my cars are used and probably 60% of the items in my home are used.

    I just thought your initial suggestion to perpetually buy a very old vehicle was not necessarily the best idea for a variety of reasons. I’m sure there is someone, however, who would be happy and willing to keep buying the same car forever. One thing to keep in mind if doing that though, is that any car you buy is aging with every car you had. By that I mean, if your original would have been 50 years old, this “new” one *is* 50 years old and is probably not in terribly much better condition than your original (unless it’s been rebuilt one or more times). So buying used = good. Buying the same = not likely so good.

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  8. There are many more things to take into account when buying a vehicle than when buying a water bottle. My original car example is just an extreme and was meant purely to illustrate my point.

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  9. Isn’t the entire point of replacing a plastic bottle with a non-plastic one because certain old plastic water bottles leach/leak toxins linked to cancer and other problems? In which case I’d argue it’s less about helping the environment and more about helping yourself.

    Also I’m positive that SIGG ad isn’t telling you to throw out your old water bottle, I think that campaign is more referring to actually using a water bottle as opposed to buying aquafina or something like that every day. In which case you are saving a lot by simply using a water bottle, SIGG or not.

    Just saying I think you misinterpreted their ad, right on their site for that water bottle they say:
    “With 2.5 MILLION(!!) plastic water bottles being thrown away every hour in the United States, StopGlobalWarming.org is proud to partner with SIGG to create a re-usable water bottle so we can all do our part and ditch the plastic!”

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  10. I don’t disagree on any particular point, but I think we’re talking about different things.

    I’m not saying the ad tells you to throw it out, I’m saying the public is stupid.

    They don’t realize that it’s OK to keep your water bottle if you have it (provided it’s BPA free and not porous plastic). What I’ve seen is that when someone finds out that “product A” is better for the environment than “product B” that person will dump “product B” to buy “product A.”

    Sorry for the confusion.

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