A Throw-away Society

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Just so you know, this is a post with a spiritual application but I’m going to take a while to get there… 🙂

throw-away-societyOn the way to the office this morning I stopped my truck in front of a stranger’s house and grabbed a chair and a set of weights from their curb.  The chair is perfectly functional, not a stain, rip or tear.  In fact it is made by SteelCase, a company that makes high quality and VERY expensive chairs.  This chair probably cost $400-500 new and was sitting on the curb by the trash because something better had come along.  I’ll sell the chair for $50.

A week ago I picked up 5 pallets of “outdated” items from a local school district.  I won the items in an online auction for a whopping $120.  I will admit, the amount I paid was abnormally low for an auction lot of this sort.  The waste  in the items was fairly disturbing.  There were brand new, unopened camera accessories and lenses worth hundreds of dollars that were simply sold at auction because….well I’m not sure why actually.  There was thousands of dollars in current value in the items I picked up.

This morning I am watching another auction from another school.  Currently there is an auction lot of items that contains a brand new piece of technology I am interested in for our church.  I spoke with the school rep and she said they are selling it all because they are phasing out that unit at their school.  The auction lot is currently sitting at 5% of the retail cost that was paid for the items.

The idea of a throw-away society dates back to at least 1945 according to a recent article in Wired magazine.  The article details a man who earns a six figure income by day as a network security analyst and makes thousands in the evening dumpster diving behind major retail locations.

Randall Sullivan, the author of the article, cites J. Gordon Lippincott as the man who thought up designed obsolescence.  Lippincott was a marketing genius who also came up with the Coca-Cola logo and the label for Campbell soup.  Lippincott said, “Our willingness to part with something before it is completely worn out is a phenomenon noticeable in no other society in history, it is soundly based in our economy of abundance.  It must be further nurtured even though it is contrary to one of the oldest inbred laws of humanity – the law of thrift.”

The article goes on to detail the manufacturing and technological innovations that started in the 1950s.  Consumers were trained to throw stuff away, and we do it an amazing rate now.  According to a Columbia University and BioCycle study, “the US has become a country that every day produces an estimated 7.1 pounds of trash for each man, woman, and child.”  But of course much of this trash actually has great value.

Why do I bring all this up?  Stuff isn’t the only thing that is thrown away today because perceived value has diminished or because something better comes along.  How many relationships can you think of that have been trashed because one or both people have forgotten the ‘value’ that they once saw in each other?  How many children are left to their own devices because parents have forgotten the treasure that they have in offspring?  And how many people have cast the Bible aside because it is simply old and outdated, thinking that something better has come along?

In my adventures of picking and flipping I have learned a lot about the value of a chair, file cabinet, or other physical items.  I do pass along a lot of things on Craigslist ‘Free Stuff’ because I know it isn’t worth my time to sell it.  But I have also gained a greater appreciation for the people and relationships in life that cannot have a monetary value attached to them.

I encourage myself, as well as you, to think about the value you give to what matters most in life.  It is good to pause and reflect at various times in life to make sure our priorities are still in check.  Even when our societal values may be lacking, we can thrive as individuals, families, and believers.

Written On My Heart – Week 6

I hope you and your family are benefiting from placing great value in God’s Word by giving your time and effort to memorizing and learning more.  This week you will be challenged to memorize the 12 sons of Jacob and another scripture – Written On My Heart – Week 6

3 thoughts on “A Throw-away Society

  1. Jon, How true society has become so disposable. So much of that is people just don’t want to take the time anymore, they are just too busy. The comparison that you made between stuff tossed out and relationships is a good one. I have know too many marriages where one of the excuses made by one or more of the parties involved is that they don’t have time, what a lame excuse. What they really mean is the other person has no value to them and they don’t care. Just like stuff tossed aside, it has no value to them and they don’t want to be bothered with it anymore.

  2. Same goes for people too often in our society, I think. Figuratively speaking, that is. Recently I was driving in back of a Tom Thumb and saw the person there trhowing 2 large grocery baskets of canned goods in their locked dumpster. You and I both know those items were still perfectly fine. Once before, same store, I was driving in back and saw a clear clamshell wrapped sandwich on the ground that had missed the dumpster. That was supper that night. (It was still cool.) BTW, read a few years ago that 75% of everything in landfills is construction materials. Seems speed is king there. Just let the client pay for the materials.

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