Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My grandmother's toaster and sustainability

And it's ridiculously cute too.
This is my grandmother's toaster. We use it regularly. It was made in 1937.

Let me repeat that: this toaster, which works really well, was made in 1937.

I've talked before about quality design and manufacturing, and this is another amazing example.  I just can't imagine any small appliance bought today -- heck, almost anything I buy today -- being used nearly 80 years from now. When we have to buy something I've found myself buying either the commercial version (they still make ones to fix, even if I have to save up for them), handmade metal and wooden, or "antique" items. (OK, my parents recently replaced my un-fixable KitchenAid food processor with another, brand-new identical one gotten at an auction, and gave it to us free, so yeah, there's that.) That, or things get refinished and re-purposed, even if they weren't meant to be.

I recently ran across this great article about heirloom design, what it means, and what it will take to return to it. One thing that it does address that I think is incredibly important is the fact that currently people rely on WalMart priced goods because they can't afford anything better at a given time.

Then there's this gem:
"If products were more durable, Cooper argues, some jobs lost due to the decrease in consumption would be offset by the addition of more highly skilled maintenance and repair jobs. And whereas the lost jobs might be overseas, the repair jobs would be local."
Merrill used to have a thriving manufacturing base based on high quality, repairable merchandise (and we used to have more repair shops too). I think of what it could mean for us for this kind of manufacturing to come back, and I get all happy inside.

Now, how can we make it happen?

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