Smart Purchasing

While I certainly do not consider myself a minimalist, I am also not a fan of having “stuff”. Stuff costs money. Stuff clutters up your space. Stuff, however, is what I am designing.

I am one of those people who will throw away things if I don’t see an immediate use for them – even if they’re sentimental. For Christmas and my birthday, I will sometimes ask for a piece of furniture because I know my favorite designs are pricier and I want to avoid the step of having low quality furniture pieces I will eventually throw out. Of course, there are a few exceptions where I do have things in excess. However, after analyzing all the products I have in excess, I realize that everything I have in large quantities are items that increase my creativity (clothes, makeup, and art supplies). Even then, I will clear out products I no longer use at least twice a year. I will never be motivated to go to events to receive free things.

So many things we use are temporary. My goal is to work on eliminating the temporary and buy/create things that are a better use of material and money – things I can see myself using well into the future due to their functionality and design. As an industrial designer, I feel as if it is my responsibility to design smarter products for the betterment of not only potential clients but society as a whole. A major factor of this responsibility is to be aware of where materials come from and the resources used to create the materials.

One product that I believe is poorly designed in terms of longevity is a smartphone. Of course new phones are frequently and consistently released with new features and design alterations. As of my 17th birthday (almost three years ago), I have had a Apple IPhone 6s. While I love the phone, it’s longevity as a product is a lot lower than I wish it would be. When people throw their phones away after about two or three years, very little of it can be recycled (mostly just the gold, silver, copper and palladium pieces) while much of it cannot. The rest of the materials (especially fiberglass and resins) often end up in landfills where they leak dangerous chemicals into the ground and air.

I can see three potential solutions for the problem: change materials to more biodegradable friendly materials (more and more of these are being developed every day), increase the average lifespan of phones (sell easy to change cell phone parts or provide cheaper hardware updating services). However, the more immediate problem is encouraging the public to turn in their old phones to be recycled instead of thrown out. A team is currently looking into how to extract parts from un-recyclable parts of phone to be reused in new phones along with other technique into creating a “zero waste” phone. Unfortunately, the technology for creating these phones is still long coming in the future. While many makeup and clothing brands have turned toward being more conscious of use of materials and testing, branding themselves as more “ethical”, and as far as I know, phone companies have not followed suit. This leaves it up to us as consumers to be aware of what impact our purchases have and how to be smart with our money.


What are some smart purchases you’ve made? How do you think cell phones should be made?

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