Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sustainability Means: Maintaining What You Have

Tools, like cars, can wear out if not maintained properly. Recently, while pruning fruit trees, I turned to my husband and said, “We need a new pair of loppers. These are dull and so loose that it is hard to use.” That’s when I received a lesson in lopper maintenance. My husband showed me how to use an angle grinder to sharpen the blade, apply a little used oil to clean and lubricate the moving parts, and turn a screwdriver to tighten the bolt, making the cut “tight” again.

That may not seem like a big deal, but to me, that was an invaluable lesson. I started wondering… how many times have I thrown away perfectly good tools because I didn’t know how to maintain them? How much money have I wasted? What unnecessary contributions to the landfill have I made because of my ignorance? 

I am sure there are other things I have thrown away without thinking as well. We live in a consumer society, and if there is a dollar in the account, then we should buy something, right? Buy it, use it, throw it away… rinse and repeat. Whew, how exhausting! What I realize is we classify this concept into a sterile political theme called “consumer-driven economy” - that sounds a lot better than "ignorant, inefficient, wasteful lifestyle".  What I am saying here is that when we accept the warped version of capitalism we call “consumer-driven lifestyle” into our minds and attitudes, it causes us to spend time and money on trivial shopping. It impedes our ability to provide our families what they really need, like really good food, and it detracts us from giving our family our attention and patience. Believe it or not, there are still civilized parts of the world where people value time over things.

I would like to think that there was a time when tools were precious, making work easier, and were treated with respect. How long ago was that? …Maybe when agriculture was necessary for family survival rather than the big business of processed and packaged food? Maybe back when “let’s get a snack” meant grabbing some clippers and heading out to the orchard rather than grabbing the car keys and driving through the fast food lane?

If maintaining my tools saves money, keeps tools out of the landfill, prevents me from driving back to the store and time away from my family, and it allows me to prune faster and easier, then it is a sustainable concept, and I am all for maintaining the loppers.