Warning, it's a long one!
Recently a colleague posted about how much unnecessary packaging there was in a simple bottle of vitamins. The bottle was two thirds filled with cotton, the actual vitamins only occupied one third of the space in the jar. Many reason were tossed around along with other examples of excessive waste in packaging.
One reason manufacturers do this is as Americans the "Sheep of the Big Box Monopolies" - we associate value with size. A bigger diamond should cost more, a bigger house cost more, a bigger case of tomato paste HAS GOT to be a better value! Heck for years environmentalists preached, wise shoppers buy in bulk, it reduces packaging in the landfills! The larger the better! Less waste they said!
At that time, it was true - why? Manufacturers used to actually put MORE IN that package. As times went on we resisted price increases, buying less often or chose a lower priced competitor instead. So instead, they kept the same size packaging and price point and decreased the amount of products in the containers. They've gradually decreased the amounts, thinking we wouldn't notice. For liquid products, we started seeing those noses poking up through the bottom of the bottles, so they still looked full from the outside.
When it comes to everyday essentials, our society would rather spend our cash on FUN things right?! We constantly look for ways to S T R E T C H our budgets and products that satisfy our needs with our perceived value get the sale. Thus the BIG vitamin bottles! We've all said it, " Are they serious? $30 for THIS LITTLE BOTTLE?" Most would walk away, reach for a better price or go to that big box monopoly again.
And those big boxes have even made it easier for you - they ship direct to you! Hallelujah! With guess what - MORE PACKAGING!! When we could of used our reusable, recyclable bag to bring it home from the store we STILL frequent anyways. But somehow our society went from paper bags to plastic bags "to save trees" then realized, "Oh these things don't go away!" to reusable fabric degradable bags, NOW suddenly ignore the fact those same items are arriving separately at your doorstep at an alarming rate in a BOX! How many paper bags could you get out of the same amount of raw material for that box? Don't even get me started on that large truck running deliveries of individual items all over town, when most people STILL frequent the same stores they order from and could of just brought it home in their bag and their car only ran one across town. Now we're seeing our fav stores no longer carrying the products we grew to like, why? You can get it online! Ugh
Ok so how does this rant of excessive packaging, increasing waste in our landfills and pollution by increasing our environmental footprint do with design? DISPOSABLE FURNISHINGS! Remember the tricky grocery item scams, hiding what you won't notice? Guess what! We've been tricked again... And as a society we not only ALLOW it, we BUY INTO IT! We've watched home prices soar in the last 30 years. But we still expect to pay the same price for the furniture to go in them. How does that add up? People still expect to pay $1000 for a good quality sofa to last 20 years, $150 for a coffee table, $50 for a dining chair... right? So then I must be CRAZY when I show clients a $5,000 sofa, right? Because we still see ads every day confirming we are correct. The part that has changed? The insides - the quality - the expected lifetime of the piece.
That $1000 sofa today is made of inferior cheaper products, thin MDF board or even worse a HEAVY CARDBOARD! (We're not joking) The thin material is cut half haphazardly, joints don't match up and are stapled together creating a weak joint, strong enough for you not to notice or assume you abused it when it breaks. Support is plastic webbing, rounded arms are created with a cardboard base. Inferior toxic foams are created in other countries without as strict environmental regulations create your new cushions for you to cuddle with. They are meant to last a MAXIMUM of 5 years. However, if it is your main sofa in your family room and receives daily use, it's dead in 2 years, maybe LESS. $1000 sofas USED to last 20 years, right?! So over 20 years, we insist on not spending more than than a $1000 each time and we replace that sofa 10 times. We've now spent $10,000, but it didn't seem like it because it was stretched out over time. And each of those sofas were shipped in a container overseas to the US and then trucked to your home 10 times, 10 times the amount of materials were used to create those sofas, 10 sofas off gassed their toxins into your home, there are now 10 sofas sitting in our landfills and remember that lovely toxic foam? Yep, it's now polluting our landfills! BONUS!
Back to that $5,000 custom American made sofa, yep, do the math, it's HALF the price! And what do you get? It's made with solid hard wood frame or furniture quality 5/8" thick plywood with mortise and tenon joints that are glued and screwed together. The seating systems using US steel 8 way tied springs, foams and fills that were produced in the USA to our stricter regulations, where most of the products used in construction are made or harvested in the USA employing even more of our neighbors. It doesn't have to be shipped in a container overseas to get to you, there's only ONE truck and ONE delivery, shrinking that footprint, and it's made to last 20 years. Wait! What? They STILL make things that last?!! No way you say! Yes! It's true they DO! They are simply at today's actual cost of goods and not last centuries. So you may think I'm crazy when I show you a $5,000 sofa, yep! I sure am! Crazy like a fox!
Think about it, watch what you buy and how you receive it. Just how much is your convenience worth today vs the planet your descendants will have in the future. Sure it's only ONE plastic bag... right? Only ONE water bottle... they can't possibly add up to be that big of a deal, right? Since we haven't found another planet to inhabit and ruin like Earth and we don't have spaceships to rescue the planets populations like in the movie Wall-E, this is it, the only one we have. So, speak up and buy the product with the less packaging, do your shopping in one trip, not box by box, save a little longer for the right piece of furniture, you'll be happy you did.