What if Objects Were Designed to Last Instead of to Be Replaced?
Planned obsolescence is something that I find infuriating. The idea that we design things to fall apart is absurd, especially when we consider the world of mass consumption, and mass waste, that we live in. These days it’s so easy to toss something broken and buy something new to replace it. But even worse; often if something is broken, you might not even be able to get it fixed at all.
I take a look at this topic in my latest piece for Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator, featuring a new smartphone – the Fairphone – that is designed in the complete opposite way of most of our technological devices: it’s designed to have a long life.
Our modern culture has become synonymous with throwaway culture; when something doesn’t work, things are cheap enough that it’s often less expensive for us to toss whatever doesn’t work and buy a new one. Of course, the real costs of getting rid of something and buying something new to replace it are externalized. The price it costs us to replace an object is often far under the real environmental and social cost of producing a new one.
Consider this: in 2010, Americans threw away around 310 million computers, monitors, TVs, and mobile phones. That makes for hundreds of thousands of phones thrown away on a daily basis. When it came to smartphones, only about 11% of those that were disposed of were recycled, leading to a significant amount of e-waste. Certainly there is a part of that number comes from a desire to just have something new, but another part of it comes from being forced to throw something away because it’s just not possible to fix.
In its second iteration, the Fairphone is said to be “designed to change the way products are made.” This isn’t just a new phone design; this is a design challenge to other industries, asking them to step it up and think smarter about design. Besides just design, Fairphone is rethinking the entire economic model that most businesses base their practices.
Read the full piece here.