Sunday, January 4, 2009
built to last
Going home for the holidays reminded me of how I grew up and how my family was eco-friendly long before we knew we were being ecofriendly. We heated a large portion of our house with a wood burning stove fueled by fallen trees from the woods in our backyard. We put vegetable peels in a backyard compost pile. It was nice to return home again to take part in these rituals.
In fact, the way most everyone lived 20 - 30 years ago, before plastic bags became popular and 100 calorie single serving snacks appeared on store shelves, would be considered eco-friendly by today's standards. Back then it wasn't considered special. Now, more effort is required to tell a cashier that you don't need a plastic bag, rather than taking one. And it's more convenient to buy a plastic bottle of water than to drink from a drinking fountain. What changed?
My dad pulled out his toy train from when he was a kid and set it up to see if it still worked. Sure enough, the train still went forward, in reverse and even whistled as it went (along with some entertaining sparks when we added toy cow obstacles). It was over 50 years old and still worked just fine. My dad recalls that it probably cost his family around $100 at that time, which by today's standards would be a lot of money. And the plastic toy train that my 2 year old nephew received this year probably cost less than 40 bucks. That's a pretty amazing feat that, even with inflation, manufacturing costs were lowered after 50 years. But I bet you a herd of toy cows that long after my nephew's train is broken, my dad's train will still be running. Which one would you rather have - the fancy new plastic one, or the old, black vintage train with tin toy tunnels and curious looking conductors? Call me crunchy, but I think I'm more of the vintage-type.