The highlight of my 13th birthday: the gift of a brand new bike. My father took me to the neighborhood Schwinn store where I picked out a blue framed mountain bike with a neon yellow water bottle holder. The real miracle: I still use this bike every day!
For more than 20 years, this bike has served me well. At times, it was my only mode of transportation. It got me to and from work, grocery shopping and errand running. I explored my neighborhood, campgrounds in the summer, and nearby bike trails. Now my bike gets me to and from school nearly every day, and last summer it lived at Burning Man for a week, where it was decorated with accents and playa dust.
My bike has taken a few different forms over the years. A child seat was on the back for several years where my daughter rode around town with me. When she got older, I added a tag-along bike so she could help me pedal us around, though most of the time she simply cruised along “forgetting” to pedal. Two years ago, my bike was transitioned back to a single ride mode of transportation as my daughter learned to ride her own bike and gained independence with her very own two-wheeler.
I have seen nice bikes over the years that always tempt me for half a moment to think, “Oh, I would like a new bike.” However, my bike works great; there is nothing wrong with it therefore, how could I even consider getting rid of it and purchasing something new!
Most people are quick to jump on the “new” bandwagon. We want the next best thing, even if that means chucking something that is still perfectly useful. Consumers are not entirely to blame for this occurrence of course. Marketers purposefully create new designs for things every year so that individuals feel the need to keep spending their money to buy new things.
It’s a Type of Planned Obsolescence
Clothing and accessories are an easy example of this. New styles come out not just annually, but seasonally. It is easy to feel trapped into wanting to “fit in” with the newest fad. Technology is another big market for planned obsolescence. For example, cell phone models change nearly monthly, prompting consumers to throw out their perfectly functioning old phones for the newest models. Not only is this mentality a waste of money for consumers, but it is very hard on the planet. Many finite resources go into making all of our consumer goods, and every time we purchase new things, we are adding a burden on those resources.
I make a point with my daughter to explain the marketing behind new trends every year, and encourage her not to be “caught up” in that month’s biggest fad. I remember in junior high I just had to have a certain brand of jeans and winter coat; all the “cool” kids had them. Fortunately, I haven’t had to deal with those requests yet with my little one. She still gets a thrill out of going thrift shopping with her mom, though I’m sure those days won’t last forever!
As for my bike, it gets me everywhere I need to go and more. I might still look at the shiny bikes that pass me by, but feel good knowing that I didn’t fall for the trap of planned obsolescence!
For more information about “Stuff” and planned obsolescence, watch Annie Leonard’s phenomenal 20-minute documentary: “The Story of Stuff.” The link will take you to the website where you will find all her short clips. It is well worth your time, enjoy.
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