Monday, January 12, 2009

Eco-friendly

I've often wondered which is better for the environment--buying new, energy- and water-efficient products, or using old ones. While the newer products may have higher energy star or water star ratings, those values don't account for the amount of energy, raw materials, and transport that goes into making new products.

Thankfully, I haven't had to agonise over this too much, as finances have made the decision for us. So it was two years ago, when the techie in my department sold her washing machine for $120. It was about ten years old, she told us, but worked beautifully--she was only getting rid of it because she traded it in for a front-loader. We snapped it up (anything beats handwashing and laundromats) and it's been with us since then.

But in the end of September it just... stopped working. Out of the blue. Like, I washed a load of clothes and hung them out on the line and it worked fine. When I came back in to load up some sheets and towels, it made all kinds of funny noises and wasn't filling with water. Andy and his dad figured out what was wrong with it, but we just decided we would keep using it as is. Afterall, it worked fine so long as you filled the wash basin directly from the hose (rather than letting it come through the machine).

That started to get old in December. Plus, we learned that the Queensland government's waterwise rebates were ending at the end of the month. We'd kept an eye on bulletin boards and classifieds and found no used machines that were affordable... so we took the plunge and bought a front-loader.

It was on sale, and it had a $200 rebate courtesy of the state, so in the end it wasn't much more expensive than buying a used machine. I'm not sure it was the most ecologically sound decision, but it is much quieter. Andy's not sold on it--I think he's still cranky that it was so much heavier than our old washer. It takes a lot longer than the top-loaders, but it really uses very little water. I think we made the right choice.

edit: Oh! I should mention that we're not throwing out the old one. We've offered it up on freecycle and it's being taken away and repaired by a school-leaver who is getting ready to move into her own house. So it will live on!

P.S. Hi from Canberra! I got in yesterday and it's been lovely and sunny--and so dry. My hair is so much straighter here than it is up in the tropics. I'm not doing much in the way of excitement here--just working in some libraries and archives, and getting some writing done away from my research site--but I'll keep you informed if any fun does come my way.

11 comments:

Amira said...

Mu mum uses that Earth brand, she loves it!
You got the new washer for such a good price, that's great looks pretty too
Glad your enjoying Canberra, have fun!

Vegan On Stage said...

horray for being eco-friendly!!! im glad that you also gave your old one to someone who truly needs is!

im glad your enjoying canberra! have so so so so smuch fun!

ŀĀŘ¡ŝ∫Á said...

great new machine! and have fun in canberra:)

a vegan about town said...

I find that the decision of new (and efficient) vs old (and not efficient) can be so complicated, particularly given how energy intensive production of new items can be. I don't think any decision in this area is completely unproblematic, there are so many things to consider. But yay you for actually giving it thought! So many people don't.

DJ said...

Ah yes! The old ethical dilemma! Our washing machine died a few years ago when I was heavily pregnant and busy giving Rory's terry nappies their first couple of washes. We upgraded to a more energy-efficient version as a matter of urgency!!
It's our cooker with its completely useless oven that is my next cause for concern...

Alice (in Veganland) said...

I learned to appreciate a washing machine the two years I spent sharing 8 washing machines with 1000+ people. Not kidding!So if yours stopped working and the new one is energy efficient... I would say it's fine!

dessertobsessed said...

what a good deal!

Bianca said...

I face the same dilemna with most things. Should I keep the old one? Or buy the new energy efficient thing? I usually vote to keep the old so long as it works. But in this situation, I think I would have done what you did.

Vaala said...

We have a front-loader here too but it has a good eco cycle on it that seems to work pretty well. But I have often wondered over the 'new but environmentally friendly' vs 'old and not so environmentally friendly'. Lucky we haven't had to buy anything big like that so it hasn't been an issue.

Vegan_Noodle said...

Nice new front loader! I agree it's a tough choice between keeping what you already have vs. trading it in for a more eco friendly version. How cool that you offered up your old one on freecycle!

Hope you're having some fun in Canberra!

the little one said...

I've missed you! Glad to be finally back reading blogs. I often worry about the same question - is it better to upgrade to a more eco-friendly product or use what you have until it dies? Difficult issue over all.