Here’s an Earth Day action I can get behind: Last Year’s Model, which encourages you to buy good gear—and then just use it. It reflects my own preferred method of consumption, which is to spend a little extra to get something that is exactly what I want, then try to use it for as long as possible. (I often fail, but I’m better than I used to be.)
I’ve got an HDTV that I bought two years ago that should hold me for years. My Canon Rebel XT DSLR, just back from a cleaning, still has more functionality than I ever use. My Kindle 1 still supports words. My iPhone 3G is doing great until they come out with a new one in June which I will instantly buy. (Moderation!)
There’s a panic that I feel when something I own doesn’t quite perform as I’d like it to, which sets off an escalating and enjoyable process of shopping and comparison, fueling daydreams of how wonderful my life will be with my New Thing. I’ve been trying to replace “Purchase” with “Projects”, though, so that I’ve always got a few things that are in a state of repair.
My turn signals stopped working in my old BMW yesterday while I was driving back from the hardware store. (I was shopping for a reel mower, which I ended up buying from Amazon after comparing prices in-store with my phone, although I’d needed to go out there anyway for more charcoal and fertilizer.) I caught my brain spinning up, spitting a litany of excuses why I should go buy a new car: I need at least one reliable vehicle; it’s a good time to buy a car, with interest rates very low; the Nissan 370Z exercises the corpus cavernosum.
But I’d bought Ruby in part because I knew she’d break down and I wanted to learn car repair. So I pulled into the garage, ran upstairs to spend 30 minutes reading the BMW 2002 FAQ forum, priced turn signal replacement parts on eBay, and went back to pop open the hood. I took out the #6 fuse, wiped it on my pants, and put it back in. The turn signals work just fine now, and I just saved myself $35,000.