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Wasting Resources, and Effort

How many times have you bought a pencil, only to find that the pencil’s eraser is incapable of actually erasing a pencil mark on a normal piece of paper – unless it does so by ripping a hole in the paper?

This is a small but perfect example of why sustainable development is important. There are too many products that only partially or fully work. Or they don’t work at all; my favorite example being a rubber duck bathtoy that couldn’t float right-side up that my kids received at a party.

Doesn’t anyone think to test these products?

But the real question is why do we even bother making them? It would be easy to blame China but really the blame lies with our whole society. The only reason to build something that doesn’t work is to make money, because at the right price (i.e. super cheap) we will buy a dozen pencils or rubber ducks and feel like we are getting a “great deal”.

But we aren’t getting a great deal. Think of the effort that went into manufacturing that cheap product, the resources required to get it to a store where we can buy it, and finally the resources required to take it to the garbage dump. I am sure that when you add up all the true costs of these cheap products there is a net loss to society. But we don’t notice because these products are picked up and distributed by wholesalers who ship large numbers of products at the same time, which means that what we pay for real goods covers the costs of bogus goods too.

My solution? I believe in paying enough for a pencil that if the eraser doesn’t work I take it back. Retailers need to know that the products they sell have to work. If enough people did the same, then retailers would get the message to the wholesalers, who would stop buying this junk in the first place, which would put the cheap manufacturer out of business or force them to raise their quality standards. From a sustainability standpoint we have to do this, since we should not be investing in goods that just wind up being thrown away!


Comment from totomix
Time June 20, 2010 at 9:22 am

Great info, thanks for useful article. I’m waiting for more

Comment from Mom
Time May 15, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Wow! Your mother has the same question about pencils! Love your solution – I’ll return them. Thanks!!

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