Planned Obsolescence! What's that?

Technology has come a long way since the days when the wheel was the biggest invention by mankind. You now walk around flaunting the latest i-phone and listening to i-pods , while taking an electric train to work. We are always surrounded by a horde of devices and machines that have been developed to make our life more convenient and more enjoyable. It is a two way deal, we buy the products from the companies as per our convenience and mood, and the companies make money by feeding of the consumerist culture that is so entrenched in society today. What a lot of us may not know however is that, the technology exists to make the product life far longer than it actually is right now. Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence in industrial design is the policy of deliberately designing and building a product with a shortened life, so that it will become obsolete after a certain period of time. There are various reasons for doing this, although all the reasons favor the company and not the consumer. By doing this, the customer is forced to buy a new product from the same company or from the competition, which might also employ planned obsolescence as a business strategy. It also helps the company to reduce product support costs. 

This might be achieved in various ways. Lets take the example of a printer. There may be a built-in chip inside the printer which lets the printer print up-to 20,000 copies, but displays an internal error the moment the 20,001st copy is sent to be print. The company then charges the operator for 'fixing' the printer. To take another example, the ever increasing life expectancy of light bulbs frightened bulb manufacturers. It would stem demand. Demand and growth are key aspects of our modern capitalist system. Demand and growth are dependent on our needs or perceived needs. The light bulb is a simple product with little need for newer models. Therefore the bulb companies formed a cartel and agreed to limit the life of bulb to 1000 hours. With this they secured the need that frove their business forward.

One of the main issues with this strategy as far as environmental issues are concerned is that, far more toxic electronic waste is generated than otherwise would have been.  Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing sources of waste according to the UNEP. And most of this electronic waste is generated in the developed world and dumped on developing countries like India to be recycled. Some of this waste is actually in working order and is sold cheaply to those in need and with meager resources. But most of it is pure rubbish. Most of the waste recycling facilities in developing countries do not observe the latest regulations norms on pollution control. Many a times, this waste is simply burned to extract metals from it, hence releasing poisonous greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Looking at the other end of the spectrum, in order to make increased productions of various good, rather than just repairing them, more natural resources have to be mined, which put a further burden on the feeble nature of our ecological systems besides contributing to pollution levels in a huge way.

This cycle needs to be broken, and to do so all the incentives for planned obsolescence need to be removed. For example, taxing carbon could be something worth looking into where the companies could be made more responsible for the amount of goods they produce. The cost will be passed on to the consumer but the customer will at least start paying more attention to the life duration of a purchased product. Setting standards is also an effective way to make quality products. Japan's laws on energy efficient standards can act as a model to the world in this regard. Another step to resist the effects of planned obsolescence is within our powers to put into effect. Responsible citizens could put up e-waste collection centers around their locality where residents may drop off old and dysfunctional electronic items which would then be disassembled for finding reusable components which could be then be sold to willing customers for a bargain who would then use these parts to repair their own gadgets. The revenue thus generated could be used to support such a system. And waste production can drastically fall if such a step is taken up seriously.

Some might argue that planned obsolescence fuels the economy and drives innovation, but to them I'd say that planned obsolescence is only a good idea in a planet with unlimited resources, which the Earth is definitely not. We can't support this policy purely for reasons of growth as a huge damage is dealt to the consumer and especially to the planet.

What we leave behind....

We often complain of everyone's attitude towards energy saving(and for that reason everything that involves self-vigilance) and try to imagine that some (idealist) superhero would come to save us during dire times!!  We say things like "nobody ever cares" ...... but how much does each one of us care to save for the future and for the mutual benefit of everyone? 

There's enough hypocrisy in every statement made where everyone's attitude is blamed, for we discount our own, whenever we make such statements.This process of snubbing one's own conscience manifests itself at large in all entities of collective interest including the government that we 'consciously' elect ( and corruption just happens thereafter)! The plain truth is that the hypocrit in each one of us is to be blamed.

Ignorance isn't bliss when issues get too knotty and the responsiblity to untie them rests collectively with us! The first thing we need to be aware of is the carbon footprint which is pretty much an indicator of what we'd leave behind if we don't act on the situation anytime soon. Here's what one needs to know about carbon footprint:

What needs to be understood is that each one of us is reponsible directly for environmental pollution and no one really reserves any right to firsk away this responsibility. If this may seem to interefere with the so-called 'freedom' (that we so desperately fight for), then we should remind ourselves of the fact that our lackadaisical attitude would only steal others' freedom to live a normal healthy life.

The first and foremost thing that an individual can do to reduce one's carbon footprint is to reduce electricity consumption by turning off lights, fans, heaters and all electrical/electronic appliances when not necessary. Exercising an appropriate level of vigilance in deciding how many devices need to be turned on in a particular place is necessary. To get a better idea about how much household appliances contribute to the carbon footprint check this out:

All said (but not done yet), only sustained actions result in perceptible change and for the very same reason it is necessary for us to integrate these habits with our lifestyle.

Indeed, you need to save today to survive tomorrow!


URJA and EPAC present 'Sustain-a-Build' -a green building based event in Quark 2012.

Green building is a vast area as such and is of great interest to a wide spectrum of people starting from students interested in energy conservation to top notch industrialists.

So much do we say(but often don't do) about energy saving and the fact that judicious use of energy becomes possible only if it becomes part of our lifestyle, without giving these words as much as a moment's thought after muttering them! So, how does one go about integrating this concept with one's lifestyle? Lifestyle for one is defined by the place where you live and living in a building constructed on the lines of Green building codes helps one make a bold statement in this regard.

How much have we embraced them? So far, so bad! Let it be no more! It's time that we started considering Green building techniques more seriously. Sustain-a-Build gives you the opportunity to explore the power of green building techniques and the smart, new face of innovation!

Check out this link to know more about the event:

IIT Chennai-Shaastra's InterUniversity Sustainability Challenge

Here's a wonderful competition for all those who wish to see a much more energy efficient and clean campus loaded with sustainable technologies.
It's all about having IDEAS for technology-driven projects for making our campus/surrounding areas SUSTAINABLE....
Check out this website for more details:
The last date for preliminary entries is 18 Sept.

This is what the event organizers have to say about it.......have a look to get a brief idea about the event :
Know more about the IIT Madras - The Inter University Sustainability Challenge..... With the IUSC, we're aiming at one particular aspect of sustainability & technology innovation - re-modeling our respective campuses by converting them into highly self-sustainable & futuristic entities - by implementing innovative technologies - which are designed & developed in-house by the students themselves & are co-implemented with industry and international organization collaboration!
And so, we're inviting teams from colleges across India to pit themselves against each other in a race to see who can make the biggest difference for our planet. Also..............
Apart from a hefty prize for the winning teams - cash prize of INR 50,000, there's also a huge bonus....
Teams that participate will get funding and mentoring for a large-scale green project of their choice in their home campus!.... That too, it may be supported by awesome organizations, such as the United Nations Environment Program, Centre for Environment Education, various Industries & mentored by various International organizations such as Harvard Sustainability Initiative and AASHE, USA to name a few......
And it doesn't stop there! Finalist teams will also receive a Fellowship for an on-site 3 days training program with field trip to Auroville & also conducting an audit of IIT Madras campus. Post this training program, the students will get recognized as 'Certified in Environmental Auditing & Sustainable Technologies.' This certification has got international recognition. Additionally, all participating teams get a 'Pioneer College' entry to the India Campus Sustainability Network - affiliated to the global counterparts - which have various International Universities as members!

Anyone interested in participating in this event and in need of help can contact me(
Help your friends who are participating by giving them your valuable ideas!!


The Earthquake, Japan, Nuclear energy and Renewable energy

One (not so) fine day, earthquake hit Japan and therein was born a Tsunami ... and then there was chaos.....well everyone's aware of the recent Tsunami which blew up large parts of Japan and wrecked it badly.
I don't really know what it is that Japan has with Nuclear stuff but this one's more than a coincidence - after the nuclear bombs back then, it's another nuclear explosion (which has less to do with America though!) this time due to the critical location of the Nuclear plant. The Fukushima nuclear plant complex located north of Tokyo and abominably close to the epicenter of 8.9 magnitude quake suffered two colossal explosions-one on the D-Day and the other on Monday- both of which have either turned ears deaf or have fallen on deaf ears, or so I thought till this article caught my attention :

The repercussions of this explosion (and the shut down of 11 major nuclear reactors) are not yet fully known as far as the effect on life is to be concerned (some emails about rumors of rain clouds contaminated with nuclear waste are doing the rounds!)
but it has certainly had an effect on major nuclear energy producers (and guzzlers)-the EU and Americas. Many European nations have suspended their plans to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations, expand their services and to approve of new nuclear power stations. It is also expected that the disaster might give renewables and greener fuels such as LNG sectors a boost in the quest for safer energy. Most of the nations are now eager to study the impact of this incident and some have already started proposing ways to harness green energy and to make better use of renewables. Organizations supporting green energy are more optimistic and are keen to extend the idea of switching to greener means of energy production.