I along with many others here lament about the lifespan of most products we interact with. The concept of the toaster that has lasted 35 years and still going strong seems to be a good strong symbol of sustainable design on these forums.
I believe it was LMO that put a photo of cell phones being dumped by the thousands out of a bucket onto a conveyor belt. Implying that they’re headed for the dump or some other pile of obsolescence. If the typical lifespan of an electronic device is about 18 months, we’re consuming at a pretty incredible rate.
How do we stop this? Many of the most beloved products of designers (I’m looking at you iPhone) has a limited lifespan. Don’t agree with me? How long do you think a fully enclosed Lithium Ion battery will last before it can’t hold a charge and is useless.
How does this change? Can it change? The skeptic in me doesn’t think so. There’s an inherent lifespan in electronics. Whether it is with Moore’s Law, or the simple fact that most electronic devices are used daily. That’s a LOT of wear and tear for a device that fits in your hand. Rubbing in your pocket or purse all day. Getting dropped onto everything from tile to concrete and into toilet bowls.
It is also a question for all of those barking words like “sustainable” but wearing their iPhone’s as a badge of honor. Theirs a hypocrisy going on here. This is a bit of a calling out of that. But its also a question in the form of…How can this change?
I was at a conference once and one of the presenters made a claim along the lines of:
You can design the best product or interface in the world. But if you expect people to change their behavior to adopt it…you need to be prepared for complete and utter failure.
This thought really resonated with me. Sustainability, or whatever the latest buzz word is, is a crap concept if we expect the general public to change their behavior. We have billions of people who live in poverty that are slowly clawing themselves into the modern world. Coming online with automobiles costing $2500 USD (http://www.tata.com/), owning cellphones when less than a decade ago they didn’t even own a landline telephone.
Again, the skeptic in me doesn’t believe this “problem” is going to go away with recycling programs or Cradle to Cradle design processes. Until the iPhone (and the billions of other electonics being made a year) are conjoured up (and disposed of?) by Harry Potter i don’t see this rate of consumption going away.
Electronics are inherently nasty bits of engineering. The chemicals and materials that are in there, let alone that are required to create the bits and pieces contain some evil shit. We can make ourselves feel better by buying a product that is dismantled easier than another product or whatever. But the truth is, purely consuming an electronic device is nasty business.
What’s the question? Dunno. I’m looking for thoughts on this. Counters to my skeptical view. Maybe a link to an article that shows a group of people who are onto real solutions to this issues of consumption.