T132: Trashing Costs and Consumerism

tr.v. trashed, trash•ing, trash•es Slang

  1. To dispose of; throw away; discard:
  2. To subject to scathing criticism
Television, telephone, and truck are all essential to my life – or so I used to think. They are now part of the trash heap of my past way of life. I am disposing of these three things, getting rid of these costs. Well, that’s not entirely true as I have adapted my ways to utilize all of these in a different way, with a lighter footprint and my primary search for frugal alternatives. But, I intend to ‘trash’ them insofar as I intend to be critical of dependencies, fads, addictions and my own non-conscious use. These are all pivotal elements of connection or entrée to a consumer lifestyle.

Truck – Pony Boy is my cool little 1994 Nissan truck I’ve had for 11 years. I was going to make it an Art Car and even wrote about it in make-a-(green)plan.

But I procrastinated. And then I stewed and fretted if I really needed a car besides having to pay several hundred dollars for registration renewal, insurance, AAA, new radiator and a tune up. I drive so little it seems a big expense for so little. The last two years I put off servicing and maintenance to lower my expenses. Even so the annual costs including gas were around $600. Am I trashing driving? Yes, I am. In my semi-retired life I should be critical of my own dependency on my truck because I am within walking and biking distance of most everything I need. It is simply my sedentary ways (at present) that keep me driving everywhere.
  • I am going to give over ownership of my truck to my son, whose car needs too much repair. It is no longer a part of my life in a significant way. I know that I can use it if I need to, but it is no longer my responsibility. And, just out of respect that I am not paying costs, I hope to avoid borrowing. This would help me increase my fitness.
Television Service– I’m just shy of a full 10 years on the dark side, my expression for getting digital cable. Since the summer of 1998 when my back went out for several weeks, I slowly turned into a zombie, even leaving the television on all night for white noise. In my prior life I’d read a novel a week and wouldn’t have dreamed of having a television in my bedroom or left on all night. But, over this last decade I went from digital cable to satellite television. My television service cost me approximately $600 last year.
  • But, it has now been two months since I suspended service. In truth I have used the internet to watch Lost, the ABC series I’d never followed and several other television shows now available online without commercials. I have been outside more and I don’t have Air America radio on during the day. It is really about withdrawing from the accustomed habit of background noise. Period. As with most addictions, the idea of stopping was probably much worse than the reality.
  • I suspect it will only be a matter of time before this online streaming won’t be free (or free of commercials).
Television Sets – I have two television sets that I would like to pass along. One was given to me by a neighbor and it supposedly has a DVD player and VCR built into it. Sadly, the DVD player doesn’t work on newer DVD’s. I received a free DVD player from a neighbor on Sunday, so I don’t see a reason to keep the big set in my little house. The truth is it reminds me of my zombie life and it annoys me. The shed has a small Motorola I used in Arizona for my office / bedroom. In addition to these sets there are the two DirecTV converter boxes and remote controls. Oy. These are not costs, but they are trashy – as far as symbols.
  • I think Freecycle is the place for these. Analog sets days are numbered anyway. And that will be an e-waste nightmare.
Telephone – I gave up my land line telephone and service 6 years ago when it made more sense to have a cell phone alone. At the time I worked within a building where Verizon’s signal worked best. And at the end of last year I let Working Assets special offer buy out that Verizon contract. I am a big fan of Working Assets, now called Credo. I had their long distance service for a decade until I switched to the Verizon mobile phone. So much money! Last year I spent around $600 for phone service. Although my monthly fee is less with Credo, last month I only used the cell phone for 42 minutes of the 200 minutes available.
In his most recent exhibition, Running the Numbers, Jordan looks at contemporary American culture through “the austere lens of statistics.” Each image notes a staggering statistic, and portrays a large quantity of something (i.e. 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day). The image makes the statistic real, almost impressionistic in style, as it appears simple or monotone from afar but detailed up close (see the zoomed images of [. . .] cell phones below). “The underlying desire is to emphasize the role of the individual in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming,” he says. This link takes you to Photographic project by Chris Jordan. I particularly liked Chris Jordan's mind boggling images of our cell phone and water bottle waste, done with an artist's eye.

The thing that really nags at me is the knowledge that these products are made with tantalum. This link details this sad saga of what goes into our technology products.
The demand for cell phones and computer chips is helping fuel a bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [skip] Columbite-tantalite - coltan for short - one of the world's most sought-after materials. Refine coltan and you get a highly heat-resistant metal powder called tantalum. It sells for $100 a pound, and it's becoming increasingly vital to modern life. For the high-tech industry, tantalum is magic dust, a key component in everything from mobile phones made by Nokia (NOK) and Ericsson and computer chips from Intel (INTC) to Sony (SNE) stereos and VCRs.
  • My alternatives? This week I am looking at using Skype or some other free service and giving my neighbor my cell phone. I have about a month before she moves, which is when she needs a mobile phone. This research seems like it might benefit a lot of us who use a computer regularly. Stay tuned.

Contemporary life in America means the ubiquitous telephone, television and transportation vehicle for every adult. I am going to put that concept to the test, or at minimum I will not accept the telecom corporations holding me in ransom for services. Millions of us have been doing around the world. I've just grabbed the next number.

Speaking of next . . . What is next? Teh Toobz – I will not be giving up the use of teh toobz (see video below for a modified reminder of Sen. Ted Stevens displayed ignorance in fighting Net Neutrality a couple of years ago).

My own broadband internet account costs me around $600 a year, but last year it was paid entirely by several neighbors who each paid me about $15/month to utilize my wireless signal. They have had some problems, with one dropping out and the other two cranky about reception problems. I have had an IT guy check everything out at my computer and we can’t figure it out. To top it off, today I can barely get through and I only had intermittent connection yesterday. This is why I don't have pictures today. So this will not be a sustainable system.

Yet this weekend, some other neighbors were talking about utilizing wireless internet for all of the people in the park. One internet customer’s broadband is paid for by an employer. If we can place his signal where the other 20 or more of us can receive it with our wireless cards, we will be set.

This will be an ongoing project. But I am thrilled that I could save about $150 a month and $1,800/year with the elimination of my current truck, telephone and television expenses. The energy savings from no television is another calculation and something to shared. I am thrilled that I have begun this process and I'm convinced my fears of withdrawal were overrated. Baby steps back to a simpler life.

This may be my last posting or one of infrequent postings until I can figure out what is going on with my connections to the internet.

No comments: