The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C basically stating that 1.5°C will be bad, 2°C will be even worse, clearly indicating a maximum temperature rise of 1.5°C should be preferred. The report also covers several “pathways” to reach that goal.
I must confess, I haven’t read the whole report. But I am still going to suggest one thing we could do to keep resource usage lower. I don’t even know if it would impact greenhouse gas emissions, but I think sooner or later it will have to be done:
Going back to a replace and repair culture.
Replace and repair
I like my things, from my kitchen table and refrigerator to my mobile phone and my Mac. However, they all seem to follow the same philosophy of being used for a few years and then thrown away.
Take smartphones for instance. A modern, watertight phone is glued shut to be watertight. Trying to replace the battery requires it to be “broken” open and then it might not be watertight anymore if you’re even able to get in open in the first place without it shattering…
And yet. From an energy consumption point, a smartphone battery should possibly not be used more than a certain number of years. It seems after 2-3 it starts losing its charge pretty fast. After 5 you pretty much have to keep the phone constantly charging.
I could buy a new battery for my older phones, but newer ones, e.g. iPhones, seems to require that I hand the phone in for service.
Not to mention that the memory or processor can’t be replaced at all.
Another example. Refrigerators and freezers. A refrigerator/ freezer should be replaced after a while. Because they might leak freon, and they will use more power to reach the same temperatures.
However, is it really required to replace the whole unit? How about a repair that replaces only the parts that may leak or over consume power? I don’t see how the case should have to be replaced as well… but sure, make it higher quality and one might be inclined not to want to replace it.
Twice the price / twice the quality
In fact. My basic theory here is that if the quality of things increased, and parts could be replaced to upgrade them and make the need to throw away and buy new decrease, the cost for nature would be lessened.
For instance. A mobile that lasted twice as long, would use half as much resources … I’d be willing to pay twice the price (obviously! :))
To make this happen, though, the mobile might need replaceable parts (memory/CPU/battery) but mobile manufacturers would also need to slow down with the new-model-race.
Sure, they need to make their money and compete and all…but the whole point here is that they have two choices (like any other manufacturer of “the model of the year”-products from cars to TVs and so on) either compete and make money today, to see pretty hefty climate effects tomorrow, or think about the climate effects today… and see a much brighter tomorrow.
Beyerdynamic gets it right!
Let me offer an example of what I’m talking about:
My Beyerdynamic earphones.
I got my first pair back in… I think it was 2003 or 2004. I got my next pair last year. Yup, that’s 13-14 years lifespan.
Sure, they cost me 1500 SEK (that’s about USD 165). Pretty steep for a pair of headphones (they are in fact pro studio quality) but then again, divide that by 13 and you get a price per year of about $12.
How many years does a regular pair of earphones last and what do they cost?
Maybe you have a pair that would be on par with my Beyerdynamic’s… or better… but then again… I made a mistake when I bought my new headphones, because, guess what?
They have replacement parts for basically everything on the headphone… so my broken ear pads or the worn down headband cushion… I could easily have replaced only them.
Although, when I compared the old headphones with the new I realized the speaker elements in the old ones was pretty worn down. Literally no base at all. However…
You can even replace the actual speakers!
The only thing I think can’t be replaced is the plastic cups for the speakers. (But you’d pretty much have to jump on the headphones to break those…)
If every manufacturer followed this example the resource usage would be minimal!
Sure, studios might devour earpad cushions by the kilo, but they also have the option to keep them longer if they want to.
I believe in the new gadget economy, the price we should be most concerned about isn’t the price in money, but the price in resource usage.
And the best way to make that price as low as possible is to increase the quality and lifespan of products by embracing a replace and repair culture, rather than the use-and-throw-away culture we have now.
Besides, it would create new jobs.
Or, did you think I’d try to do the thing on the IKEA-compile-like image above myself? I’m pretty certain my earphones would never be the same again if I even tried…