Green Tip 14 - Demand Durability

Hocking Hills, OH –

It always is gratifying when I have something that was made well and lasts a long time, is durable. While watching my son play soccer, I sit on a large terry picnic blanket that I purchased 21 years ago, hardly faded, no torn spots. When I tell people how old it is, they find it hard to believe. My husband and I love to cook, so for our wedding registry we listed Wusthov knives and All-Clad pots and pans. To most people good pots, pans and knives might not seem that important and a mundane wedding gift. Each knife and/or pot ranged (13 years ago) between $70-$100 each. Many think it too pricey for one knife or cooking pot. To my husband and me, quality and durability have always been important. We pay up front to purchase items that will last our lifetime and also be in great shape to pass down to our children. This is the way it was a generation and two ago and before. Household items such as furniture, appliances and cookware were made well enough to pass down to future generations.

Today we still make attempts to make high quality purchases, with sustainable materials such as wood, glass and metal. This is getting to be more of a challenge though as our society has moved toward a "disposable society", not valuing or demanding quality and longevity from the goods we purchase and the stores and manufacturers providing them. Some items we have purchased over the last two years barely last for one to two uses before malfunctioning and/or falling apart. Let me share some examples.

Two years ago I purchased a $125 stainless steel coffee maker with stainless steel carafe. The majority of the coffee maker was sustainable and durable stainless steel. A well-known kitchen small appliance manufacturer made it. I thought I made a good purchase that would last a very long time. Upon brewing my first pot of coffee, it mal-functioned. Something was wrong electronically, which would cause it to turn off before brewing a full pot. I returned this item two times. The second time it had another electronic error. After two returns, we tried it again and it made lukewarm coffee.

Two years ago I also purchased a vacuum cleaner that broke after the first few uses. It was overheating, resulting in the vacuum shutting off. Upon calling customer service in a foreign place with a representative I could barely understand, I was told that I was using the vacuum improperly. I found this hilarious, as I had been experienced in using a vacuum cleaner since I was about 8 years old!

This spring I broke down and ventured in to a Big Box store. My son outgrew his flip- flops, so I purchased a pair for around $5-6 thinking they would get him through summer and then get passed down to his younger brother. After wearing the flip-flops two times, all of the glued layers that made up the soles of the shoes came apart rendering them useless. When I returned them, the same pair wasn't available (thank goodness), so we traded in for another pair, different style, with no layered soles. After wearing this pair for a few times, they came apart, so we had to return to the store again.

There are several problems with cheaply made, non-durable products. First, it is a waste of valuable resources to make these products that don't last. Next, most of these items end up in landfill space, many of them plastic, leaching toxic chemicals into our water, soil and air. Finally, it is wasting our precious dollars that could be used for items such as groceries, gas, utilities, retirement, college tuition, or a vacation. Items from furniture to appliances to household goods to clothing should last longer than they are nowadays. When making a purchase, demand durability. When you don't get it, boycott the store and or manufacturer of a poorly made product. Buy something used and/or wait until you can afford a high quality item.

Byline Bio:Gwen Corbett, owner of Bear's Den Cottages, Green Lodging
Helping Individuals and Businesses Go Green