Before I start this article, I want to say that I completely understand why so many people are quick to accept capitalist ideals. Not only were we raised to blindly follow the system we were born into, but we’re also told that all other economic policies will lead to death and corruption (kind of like what we’re already experiencing).
This article is also not meant to convince you to become socialist or communist, I am simply pointing out the flaws in our current economic system and the correlation it has to environmental issues.
Also, I do not have any formal education on economic theories, I am just stating my opinions based on the research I have done myself.
What Is Planned Obsolescence?
Without going too in depth, planned obsolescence is essentially when companies make products with the intention of them becoming unusable relatively soon after they are purchased. They do this so that you’re forced to repurchase the item again and again, therefore increasing their profits.
You might be wondering why companies would purposefully make products lower quality. Wouldn’t that deter people from repurchasing their goods in the future?
Well think about it this way: When’s the last time you really questioned the integrity of an item you bought? You might have thought, “wow, that didn’t last as long as I expected it to” but most likely didn’t wonder why.
And even if you were aware of what these companies were doing, it might not matter to you. We’ve been conditioned to equate consumerism with happiness (like retail therapy!) so you may not mind continuously replacing your products.
However, this proves to be very problematic for the environment.
The Effects Of Planned Obsolescence On The Environment
Its obvious that planned obsolescence creates more waste, but the effects can be much more drastic than you might think.
For example, imagine that every adult in the U.S. (roughly 209,128,094 people) buys a shirt. If the manufacturer that produced the shirts makes them the highest quality possible, they’ll probably last a few years or even longer. But if they use planned obsolescence, the shirts will likely be unwearable in a few months to a year. That’s 209,128, 094 items in the landfill every year, rather than every few years.
Now if that still doesn’t seem like a lot, apply this to every single purchase you make. Phones, shoes, furniture, and even cars are being trashed much earlier than they should be.
How Are Corporations Responding To Environmental Issues?
As sustainability becomes more important to consumers, brands will make an effort to appear more eco-friendly, but very rarely are their actions actually commendable (this practice is called greenwashing and if you want more information, you can find my article on it here).
The point of this is that consumerism under capitalism can most likely never be fully sustainable, so while it is definitely beneficial to support companies making sustainable efforts, our main focus should be decreasing our consumption.
How Do I Avoid Brands That Practice Planned Obsolescence?
Unfortunately, as much as I wish I could give a definitive answer to the question, I’m not sure that there is one. I could suggest buying higher quality items, but that’s not an option that’s accessible to everyone, and even then there are still “high-end” brands that use planned obsolescence.
The best advice I can give is to trust your gut when purchasing anything. If a product seems like its too good of a deal, it may be because it was cheaply made with planned obsolescence in mind.
While this may make it seem like there’s no good option for buying products, any effort you make to improve your buying habits has the potential to spark change.
Also remember that the pressure to be sustainable should not fall primarily on the consumer, but is the responsibility of the companies who make these products. So don’t feel guilty if you occasionally have to buy from these brands.
Thank you for reading, have a lovely day!