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.