Tag Archives: planned obsolescence

Planned Obsolescence: What Is It?


If you’ve spent any amount of time in zero waste spaces whether online, or in person, you’ve probably heard the term planned obsolescence thrown around, but you might not know what it means.

Don’t worry! Before I started looking into the zero waste lifestyle, I had no idea what it was, either.

Planned obsolescence is when companies create or build a product with the intent of making that product fail within a specific amount of time. (Usually, a number of years) This can be anything from making the product actually stop functioning, or even something as making the product seem so undesirable no one wants it after a certain amount of time.

This means companies are purposefully planning for their products to fail, before they ever even leave the assembly line!

Why would they do this? Well, if companies were to make products that were so amazing you only had to buy them once in your lifetime, they wouldn’t make money. So unfortunately for us, their solution to staying in business is to force consumers (that’s us) to buy replacements.

Have you ever wondered why your phone starts acting funky right around the same time a new one is released? Or why certain colours are considered ‘in’ during a certain time of the year? Or why there seems to be so much societal pressure to have the latest whatever-it-is? Whether it be the latest tech, newest fashion trend, the ‘best’ car, etc.? These are examples of planned obsolescence. Creating that sense of must-have is companies way to not-so-subtly influence consumers into buying more, or buying something specific.

Now obviously, this tactic will work better with some products than others, but that won’t stop companies from doing it.

Unfortunately for everyone though, this planned obsolescence is not only annoying and mean we’re shelling out more money, but it’s also not good for the planet!

Think about it: if say, you have to buy a new phone every 2 years, instead of 4, that’s double the amount of phones that get tossed in the garbage and sitting in a landfill. Now times that by basically every product on earth, and you’ll hopefully start to see why this is a problem!

So, what can we, as consumers, do to help offset this stupid thing? Well for one, if you ditch your clothes and buy a whole new wardrobe every season change, stop. I promise you, no body cares if you’re wearing ‘a blouse from three years ago’, or, if they do, they are not people that you need to listen to.

I’ve been wearing mostly the same clothes since I was in gr. 7 (I’m short, thanks genetics!) and the people in my life who care and love me couldn’t care less. If people are only hanging out with you because you always wear the newest shirt, you need some new friends.

Another big thing is tech. What will really happen if you don’t go out and buy the latest phone the day it comes out? Will the world explode? No. Will you save money? Yes! Will people make fun of you for using an ‘old’ phone? Maybe. Does that actually matter? No.

Keeping up with trends I know is especially hard for people who are in school. But as lame and cliche as this will sound: don’t give in to peer pressure! It’s honestly not worth it.

If you feel it starting to get to you, just ask yourself: would you rather have the newest toy, or a planet to live on?

Because those are the stakes.

And yes, you can argue that that’s too much pressure to put on ourselves as consumers. As said above, this is the companies’/capitalism’s fault. But while we’re lobbying, protesting and writing companies to change their practices, we need to hold ourselves accountable, too.

A company won’t do something unless it makes them money. So if we stop buying the latest thing as soon as it comes out, and start keeping what we have longer, they’ll (eventually) start to make products that last longer.

Remember: Voting with your dollar is real and one of the best almost-passive things you can do to help enact change.

Now, this is all well and good, but as I mentioned above, these products are designed to fail, so if the product is truly no longer working properly, obviously buy a replacement. BUT, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy a brand new one. Check out some second-hand stores or thrift shops, or for tech, look into refurbished products. Those are products that were previously owned, and returned for whatever reason.

Usually, this means you can get a product that’s maybe a couple years behind, but is cheaper and that’s almost like buying everything on sale and really, who wouldn’t love that?

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