Unboxing, global warming, and environmental damage

This may seem like a weird collection, but it’s what’s on my mind at the moment.

Several posts ago, I wrote about my new toy, a Toshiba SD-1900 DVD player (it plays a bunch of other things, too, but who cares). Here’s what came out of the box when I opened it:


In addition to the player itself, I found a lithium battery pack (top right), an assortment of manuals in English and French (including the necessary legal statements for both the U.S. and Canada),ย  a sexy little remote control (pale gray) with its battery packed separately (just below it), A/V cables, and both AC and DC power adapters. The one disappointment so far: a note in the the documentation saying that I shouldn’t recharge the battery pack using the DC adapater (I had planned to recharge it when I drove to town, etc., etc.).

Here’s what the packaging looked like:


Everything on the right side of the picture was packed around the battery pack–a static shield, a box, and a spacer box to make the pack fit tightly in the big box. The little brown box just below the outside container had a bunch of stuff–the adapters and A/C cables, the remote. Each had its own little plastic envelope.

The big puffy piece (more about that in a minute) held the DVD player itself. The envelopes below it had the manuals and, in its separate little piece of plastic, the battery for the remote.

This is obscene.

The most interesting piece of packaging I hadn’t seen before. I’m sure I just don’t buy enough stuff. But here’s a closeup of the puffy piece:


I see I forgot to mention the special little styrofoamish sort of wrapper that was around the DVD player before it was inserted into the puffy thing. When you have to protect what you’re shipping from what you’re shipping it in, red flags should be going up somewhere.

This piece of bubble packing was so stiff it was hard to get the player out of it. I’m sure it was effective, and I have to admit that my player was intact with all parts working. But what is the cost?

For the moment, I’ve saved all of the packaging in the original box. The four pages of warnings scared me, and if it sets fire to my house (or my lap), I want to ship it back to Toshiba with everything intact. But some day I will send them all to recycling (the cardboard) or to a landfill somewhere. (Aside: The most interesting warning was one that appeared at least twice, and if I’m not mistaken, three times–don’t set a container with liquid “such as a vase” on the player/battery pack. Clearly this product has been purchased by some real ditzes who don’t want vase marks on their furniture.)

But this is where our landfill problem originates. For the most part (although there are, thank God, some exceptions if I’m willing to drive three hours), you can’t go into a hardware store and buy three bolts and the nuts that go with them. You have to go to a Freddie’s or a WalMart (not this gal) and buy four or five that are nicely packed in indestructible plastic and held by an unopenable cardboard label. This phenomenon is why there are pairs of industrial strength shears in darned near every room of my house.

Then you use the three you need, put the remainder in one of those “everything spare” drawers or a nut and bolt storage unit. The next time you need three, you have only one or two left, so you go buy another package and the requisite wrappings. Craziness. And garbage galore.

I may have written elsewhere about being concerned that I had permanently offended someone whom I really care about. My former brother-in-law is one of the smartest guys I know, and he is currently on an education campaign about global warming. But it seems to me that the problem is this: Most of our discussion around global warming focuses on how to do things the way we have become used to doing them but with less environmental cost to the generation of power.

To me this is like the garbage problem. The solution lies, at least in part, by not creating it in the first place.

Look around your house. Do you really need an electric can opener? An electric knife sharpener? An instant-on TV that consumes power 24 hours a day whether you’re watching it or not? I don’t.

We live most of the day here without power, and I get along just fine. The only thing I miss (and I really do miss it) is my cordless phone, the really good one with the headset jack (I’ve got a conference call scheduled in a couple of weeks and I’m going to have to sit and hold the phone to my shoulder–bummer).

But all power has an environmental cost. Just as the trick to reducing landfill requirements is not generating materials for a landfill in the first place, part of the trick to solving the global warming dilemma is looking at how we use power. I love Josh B. dearly, but the photo he posted on his blog of his office at night with the dozens of little lights charging his gadgets gave me nightmares for a week. ;^}

8 Responses to “Unboxing, global warming, and environmental damage”

  1. Barbara Says:

    You make me think. I’ve often thought that the key to getting people to be more environmentally aware is to let them find the ways that work for them. I hardly drive anywhere at all anymore. The last job I had with a long commute I quit because of the commute, and the one before that I rode with a vanpool for five years. Some people travel more, but use less power when they’re at home. I think it’s all sort of a balancing act, finding the ways we can still live our lives and conserve energy or leave a lighter footprint at the same time.

    But I think if we’re too purist about it we drive people away from the whole idea of environmental concern. It’s important to celebrate the positives at the same time we take a hard look at the negatives. Where it gets dangerous is when we let ourselves be in denial about what impact we have, or don’t pay any attention at all. I wish the entire world had risen up and fought GM crops as soon as anyone suggested them. But that’s another danger, that too often we think we know what we’re doing, when we don’t.

    Like I said, a balancing act.

  2. Lisa Hostick Says:

    Can’t wait to get home and comment on this one. I honestly don’t have the time to do it justice, this morning. This blog should keep you busy for a while….reading all the comments!
    Talk to you soon.

  3. ombudsben Says:

    Good post, Marianne. My wife works in the recycling, re-use industry, so we’re dealing with this stuff all the time.

    And you’ve addded pictures! Do we get to see the garden, flowers, hummingbirds, etc., too? Or just packaging? *smile*

  4. mklekacz Says:

    Barbara, I understand your point, and I’m not trying to be preachy about it. But residents of the U.S. (5% of the global population) use about 25% of the natural resources consumed on earth each year, and the rest of the world is just dying to catch up to us in consumption. So I’m afraid I have trouble finding those “positives” most days.

    Genetically modified crops (alfalfa made RoundUp-ready) were in the news this morning (NPR), and I’m definitely with you on this one. The most frightening thing to me is humans presuming to play God when they haven’t been able in all of these ceturies to even agree on what God is.

    Lisa, quit fooling round on your computer and go so something productive. . .(said with a smile).

    Ben, I may actually get some pictures of plants together today. The weather continues to be gorgeous, so I’ll shortly be out slogging in the dirt again.

  5. Josh Bancroft Says:

    Heh. At least I’ve gone to compact florescent bulbs, and I really do only run the necessary stuff all the time – our phone is VoIP, so the router and internet connection stay on all the time. And one PC. And the external hard drive. And some USB hubs. And the Wii.

    Hmm. Maybe I can make some reductions. See what good you’ve done with this post? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Josh Bancroft Says:

    Oh, and awesome Unboxing Ceremony photos! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Barbara Says:

    I didn’t think you were being preachy at all, Marianne. I’m sorry if I gave that impression. In fact I think I was, more than anything, trying to get myself to see the positives. I sometimes lose heart over the whole issue. People just don’t seem to see any urgency, even though they’ve heard loud warnings since the 70s or earlier. I have trouble keeping myself sensitized to the issue, day to day. Though I’m not a purist, myself, I don’t see how anyone can ignore what we’re doing to the planet.

    We went to compact fluorescents for the most part about nine years ago, though we find that in the evenings we need some time with incandescent lighting to help us wind down for sleep (both insomniacs), so we still keep them in the bedroom, as well as fluorescents that we use there in the mornings and daytime. I like to read or do needlework in the evening, so I’m afraid candlelight or no light just wouldn’t do. We looked into adding solar panels on our roof a few years ago, but the cost was prohibitive, just not possible for us. (At the same time people got tax breaks for driving SUVs — grrr.)

    I’m most disheartened by the fact that to be a purist about the environment, one must have lots of time and money. I’d love to buy a new hybrid car, but don’t have the money. So, why isn’t every new car a hybrid? Why is anyone still driving anything else? My dream is much greener than my reality, I’m afraid.

    The entire infrastructure needs to change in order to make green living more feasible for the average busy or less priveleged person. And big money (corporatist America) seems to have a stranglehold on our government, keeping it from moving in the right direction. Still, we try.

  8. mklekacz Says:

    You guys are so good at giving me more stuff to write about. I really appreciate it.

    Josh, keep your toys. They’re part of what makes you “you” and so endearing to the rest of us. Instead of disconnecting them, turn the air conditioning temperature up a couple of degrees on the hottest days and use cold towels/cold showers to reduce your body temperature.

    And I thought this particular unboxing example said more than I could ever hope to rant on about the garbage problem. I checked out your old site that you sold, and frankly, it looks to me like someone is using the “unboxing” theme to generate an e-mail list for marketing purposes, so I chose not to participate.

    Barbara, I’m not sure it takes money so much as thought, and it sounds as if you’re giving that plenty of attention. I like needlework, too. We used to exist with candles and what not, still do on quiet evenings at home, but with these aging eyes, it’s just not enough light for everything.

    Even solar and wind power have environmental costs. At least in their current incarnations, they require storage batteries and other assorted paraphenalia. So there’s really no free lunch in this arean.

    Something I read recently talks about the impact of cities on heat. I’ll try to find it and blog about it.

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