Disposable day

Today is one of two weeks of cleanup performed by the city in Siloam Springs. Place anything you want to dispose of by the road and by Friday it is supposed to have disappeared, carried off either by the official crane-truck or by citizens hunting for treasures.


And there are some treasures. Two houses down from my own were two pieces of furniture that caught my eye, one a decent looking table top. Both were gone within hours of being placed roadside. I didn’t even wander down to examine them after thinking about the storage nightmare they would create — this on a weekend I spent cleaning and organizing. In fact the pile in front of that particular house dwindled down to almost nothing before being restocked this morning with a beastly, legless pool table among other odds and ends.

This post, however, refers to the darker side of the twice annual junk-fest. I couldn’t help but think of the wasteful society we live in as I passed by pile after pile of stuff. Regular readers know this rant already. In our mass-producing, mass-consuming culture little consideration is given to how many of these trinkets will end up in landfills. With the environmental movements of recent years this is changing to a degree, but very slowly.

Take the chair in the above photograph for instance. We’ll ignore its lack of aesthetic appeal in this particular dialogue. First off it’s not in that bad of shape. Why is it being thrown away; did the owners trade up? The dog got a hold of one corner and the fabric is a bit faded, but most college students would love to have this in their dorm room. So it might be missing its feet; what are bricks and two-by-fours for!

I can imagine, just by the looks of it, that is a cheap chair — like so much factory fare in our day and age. The company’s bottom line drives design and choice of materials. Everything has to be as inexpensive as possible in order to maximize profits to pad the CEO’s bonus and keep the shareholders happy. Further, the shorter the life-span of a gadget or appliance the sooner it will need to be replaced, thereby ensuring future sales for the company — so long as they can create brand loyalty and/or attract new buyers.

Can’t companies come up with ways to create more enduring products and still make money (Or do we first need to get them to agree to make less money?). Do consumers need to be convinced it’s worth it to spend a little more for a chair or dining room table (or house, for that matter) that possesses some staying power?


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

One Response to Disposable day

  1. We need to collect and provide the growing evidence to companies to show them that shifting the paradigm from a mass-produced, mass-consumerism society to one that values sustainability makes good environmental, social AND economic sense. Consumers need to be awakened to the effects of hyper-consumerism on their communities and on the global scale and become aware of simple choices they can make to start making a difference. But that chair? UGLY!!! I’d look at my teenage son funny if he had that in his apartment!

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