We recently bought some new equipment for our studio/offices. Like with most things that we buy, we spent some time researching different manufacturers ethics, sustainability and value for money. We decided to buy second hand equipment both more than 40 years old, and here's why.
Not made like they used to be
I believe it to be true that things aren't made like they used to be. These items are made from chunky hard wearing materials with not a piece of plastic on them. They have stood the test of time with the scales being over 60 years old. Made from cast iron they weigh 150KG, a quarter of the weight of my small car! When I looked for scales of a comparable price on Amazon I found these --->
I would love to see how these are fairing in 60 years time.
Businesses used to pride themselves on their reputation, and the brands with the best reputation would lead the market. Competition wasn't so much about driving prices down and cutting corners, but about making better products. We all get caught out and forget to consider who is profiting, in fact I just confessed that I was browsing Amazon! A company that we all know avoids Tax and treats its staff terribly!
Modern scales and sewing machines are made of brittle plastics, a material that has drastic effects on our environment. We accept this sacrifice in exchange for cheaper products and subsequently lesser quality. Manufacturing is outsourced to countries with lax or non-existent labour laws in order to cut costs, but at what cost? There are an estimated 150 million child labour workers worldwide and nearly 21 million people, thats 3 in every 1000 that are victims of forced labour. A lot of these will be found making the products that I speak of.
Capitalism has created a world of disposability. Whether it.s electrics, clothes or homewares, businesses have made conscious decisions to make their products disposable so that you keep coming back for more. This tactic is often known as planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence. Fashion is a great example of this with leaders of the industry pushing for micro-trends in order to phase out our traditional four seasons, which to some people will limit the use of their clothes.
When considering a products sustainability you should consider how far the finished product and its components have had to travel to get to you. Our scales were made in Birmingham and the sewing machines most likely in the Brothers Factory in Manchester. To get something sent from China it takes approximately 5000 air miles. Buying locally also helps the local economy.
Second hand holds value
When calculating value for money we forget to consider the longevity of the products life. Buying a T-shirt for £3.50 from Primark might seem like a bargain at first glance. But not if you can spend twice as much for a product that will last ten times longer.
Resale price is also something to think about. If in the future you no longer need an item, will you be able to get any of your money back? With these sewing machines and scales, I know that I will be able to resell them at the price I paid for them and I haven't contributed to more production. The moment you take a new car off the forecourt you have instantly lost hundreds or thousands of pounds. Buying second hand can be a great way of maintaining a products value. It's also a great way of buying for less in the first place. We have been brainwashed into believing that we need to constantly buy new things when most second hand products are as good if not better. You may also be saving them from landfill!