The feeling that things don’t last like they used to is a sentiment shared by a lot of us. While there may be some truth to that statement, it’s difficult to tell whether the problem is on the manufacturing or the consumer end. Are things actually not built to withstand use, or have we just become accustomed to giving in easy and buying something new?
Appliances are one household item that can fall into that category. Instead of committing to the fridge or washer we have, too many people are happy to look for something new at the first sign of stress. It’s this attitude that has helped contribute to the 25.5 million tons of durable goods that get discarded annually.
By making a few small changes and a taking on a different approach when purchasing appliances, we can all help bring this number down. Here are a few suggestions on what you can do to help make a difference.
Appliances are a huge expense, so the decision to buy them shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you’ve made up your mind and are in the market for something new, here are just a few things you should take into consideration before making any decisions.
Think long term – What’s popular now, probably won’t be in 5 years. Keep this in mind so that you’re buying something you won’t grow sick of. That bright green washer and dryer might look cool now, but you might feel a bit different about it after a few years.
Size – The larger the appliance (think heavy duty washing machine) the more energy it will require to make it run.
Settings – Most modern appliances come with a variety of settings, from steam clean to pre-wash. While these options may be convenient, they aren’t always necessary. A few you’ll probably want to look for are cold water (washing machine), energy saving modes (dishwasher) and air dry (dishwasher).
Energy Star – The US Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency are the minds behind the Energy Star label we see gracing home appliances these days. This system was created to pinpoint those items that are more energy efficient than their elder counter parts. Although these models can cost up to 40% more than standard appliances, they can also cut down half of your daily energy use.
Making it last
Once you’ve bought the perfect appliance, making it last is the next logical step. Being mindful of how much abuse your things take is a big part of the equation, but it’s not the only thing you can do to ensure your appliances have a long and happy life.
Regular maintenance – You’re not the only one who requires a good grooming every now and then. Be sure to read through your owner’s manual to find out what regular cleaning your appliance may require. Common tasks include cleaning out the dryer vents, vacuuming fridge coils and emptying the drip tray, and running a natural cleaning agent (like vinegar) through your dishwasher.
Overuse – This applies mostly to appliances like your washer, dryer and dishwasher, but is a good thing to keep in mind in general too. There is a fine line between a full load and way too much – find a balance that works well for you and your appliances and stick to it. There is no need to put on the washer for a handful of items – you’re wasting water and energy, but stuffing the drum with everything you own will only increase wear and tear.
Making a repair – You wouldn’t discard a car because it has a flat tire, and the same goes for your appliances. If your washer starts acting funny, start Googling. Not only are you sure to find out what’s wrong, you can probably figure out how to fix it yourself too. Every appliance repaired, is one less for the dump.
If the time has come to bid an appliance farewell, be sure to think about all of your options before kicking it to the curb.
One man’s trash – Is another man’s treasure. Just because you can’t use it anymore, doesn’t mean someone else can’t. Be sure to throw an ad up on Craigslist or in your local newspaper to see if there is someone else who may benefit from your old stuff.
Donate – There are plenty of organizations out there who would be happy to take your gently used appliances off your hands. If you’re in the market for an upgrade, considering paying it forward by making a donation to someone in need. Habitat for Humanity’s Restore is one of many reputable resources always looking for household items.
Recycle – If your appliance really is at the end of the road, always remember to recycle. Do a bit of research to find out whether the electrical utility in your area offers a bounty program for old appliances, or whether your municipality offers curbside pick-up and disposal. If these aren’t an option, load things up and head over to your local recycling depot where they will take the appliance off your hands.
Appliances might be a big-ticket item, but making them as eco-friendly as possible doesn’t have to be. Making a commitment to treat the earth as kindly as possible doesn’t mean you have to change everything about the way you live your life. It just means we have to be conscience about the decisions we make and the impact they could have on the future. Find out what works for you and go for it – there is no better time than the present!