Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Make Do And Mend

It was an accepted thing in our house that Dad mended things. To do so he had a fascinating array of tools and jars of this and that, little drawers with hooks and hinges, nuts and knobs, bolts and brackets. Somehow over the years it has become acceptable to throw things out. 380 billion plastic bags are used worldwide every year, and only 5.2% are recycled. The others remain in landfills for 1,000 years. Casual Clothes have become so cheap people have been known to throw them out as an alternative to washing them. The debate over terry nappies vs. disposable nappies rumbles on.  If you have been awake in recent years you cannot fail to have noted one or two examples yourself.

Economic conditions have added weight to the recycling equations in very recent years. The Hippies are now in charge. Most have forgotten they ever had long hair all those years ago but some of the ethos has rubbed off and we now think Friends of the Earth are respectable. MI5 no longer follow anyone for reading anything about Greenpeace. Windmills on one’s roof are a leadership statement and wooden kitchen tools are quite normal.
Now we have an interesting set of values. Ignorance and stupidity allows people to drive to their local supermarket car park especially to recycle their coke bottles.  I have seen a recycling bin for Books, clearly labelled and with information that books would be sorted and resold through local Charity shops. It had 3 rain soaked phone directories stuffed in the drop in trap leaving it wide open to the wet. You have to wonder how some people manage to walk upright.

I saw 3 bins for glass recycling labelled ‘clear’, ‘brown’ and ‘green’ with someone’s  carrier bag left in front of them containing some Blue bottles.

Our values are improving if unbalanced in their approach. Standard sizes and fits are sensible. It is advantageous to have many things as standard as possible. Batteries come in a few sizes. But why do they come in quite so many sizes?  They also come in different strengths. Some should run a camera but don’t. Some should last for ages but others do better. So is it the battery makers that need to pause and think or is it the appliance manufacturers that need to allow a bigger battery space into their machine?
Light bulbs have standard fittings. But why so many? A good job was done many years ago standardising the bayonet fittings. Maybe there was a case for the screw fittings. But there are big and small of each, as well as all the different wattages and other variations including the different types of long life bulbs. These are, incidentally, hazardous waste and should be driven several miles to specialist disposal points, thereby negating years of carbon footprint efficiency.

To be fair the electrical industries have it sorted out better than most. I had a car once that broke down one night 100 miles from home with a load of stuff sticking out the tailgate. The RAC man diagnosed a failed alternator. He carried 9 different ones as a matter of course, but not mine. The book said it was only on some models of my car and a different make’s small van. That was it. I can understand a few different sizes for different conditions, but an alternator is mostly the same as an alternator. Mine had a screw hole in a different place to an otherwise identical one he did carry. So we drilled a new hole and made do.
Other common car parts should be standard. Take a look in Halfords or some other display to see how many oil filters you can find, how many spark plugs etc. etc. How many different sizes of tyres are there? Or brake pads ? Surely it is not all necessary?

I had a client who was a tyre and exhaust depot once who had tyres in every corner of space. I asked him how many and he had over 600. There was no real reason why he had to keep a couple of everything made when he could get them delivered in a few hours. His cash flow improved when I pointed this out.
We the consumers should demand less choice. That way when your Christmas tree lights don’t work and you try to buy some bulbs you will not need to discover there are dozens of variations which are essentially the same, but not interchangeable.

We can’t do it with everything but in times when we are all looking to our economic footprint as well as our carbon one, there would be a leaner and more efficient society. There would be no drawers with obsolete light bulbs. No stores of obscure sizes that only fit one item. Dad would have less things to store in his magic jars and Mum would be happier with less clutter.

Is your Business wasting money? Talk to Bob Shepherd Associates about streamlining your approach.

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