Again, I have been watching a documentary that made me think about sustainability and the cautious use of resources. The documentaries name is: “Planned Obsolescence Conspiracy” (video on Youtube).

In the documentary it was outlined that the first example of planned obsolescence originated from a cartel of light bulb producers in the beginning of our last century. What happened was that the light bulb producers felt that their light bulbs just have a too long lifetime, so people don’t buy new light bulbs soon enough to ensure nice profits from the light bulb manufacturing and sales business.

Technically it was already at that time no problem that a light bulb could last for 10s of years, as the famous fire department light bulb in Livermore (CA)  shows, that is now “on” for incredible 110+ years. A light bulb that was produced so long time ago and did not need to be replaced since saved a lot of production resources: the material, the energy, transportation into the shops, etc., and also it saved the owner money and time to not need to buy a new light bulb.

Looking around in our western world, in particular technical goods have a lifetime of about 5 years… and, thinking of the first iPod from Apple maybe even less (see iPods battery problems on wikipedia)…

Only 5 years? why? Is it a matter of that we cannot do better?

No! We can do better.. as ironically the former socialist system showed. Goods produced there, for example a fridge or a TV, did last for a minimum of 20 years. And even more so, you could repair them! In fact there was a whole business just about repairing such things. And why was this? Because resources, such as copper, tin, gold, etc., to produce these goods where sparse or difficult to mine (…while labor actually was not). So, returning to our light bulbs, the documentary tells us that East Germany was proudly developing and producing a long-living light bulb. It tried to sell it at product fairs to western countries/producers… but guess what: there was no interest in that, because it would harm business.

So what do we take from that? Considering that the resources of our planet are not endless we should probably stop wasting resources by implanting Obsolescence. The jobs that we loose in production and transportation could be re-gained in a service industry around products, or – as we have more time and money at our disposal – in a service industry where we want to spent our money (like a spa or a theater, etc.) or some other nice products.

Watch out for Obsolescence products at your home – it may safe you money and it saves the environment and resources for future generations!

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