Hand-Me-Downs Are Good For The Environment – Really

by Samantha on November 30, 2011

Hand-me-downs are a way of life in my family. No, I didn’t have twins before; I didn’t even have boys, but I did have some very kind and considerate friends who realized that two active little men require lots of clothes. It still fills me with wonder to realize that they’ve gone through three or four pairs of pants in a given day. But I digress.Like my previous post on leftovers, there seems to be two camps here, too. Some folks are put off by the idea of less-than-new clothing for their kids. Others, like me, get excited when I’m given some new/old jeans or another sweater or two for my kids. Hey – as far as I’m concerned, it’s a bonus – not having to buy another item, and saving a bit of cash.

Image courtesy of http://yesloveit.blogspot.com

Unlike my other post which compared two camps of folks, this one on hand-me-downs is really a touch point for discussion on why we have a culture that has become one that is based on planned obsolescence. Think about it. Things don’t last anymore. Consumer goods, for the most part, are made to break. The idea of an “extended warranty” for electronic goods, cars and more proves my point. Why are they required? 

“They just don’t make things the way they used to,” some old-timers may say. Grandpa’s got it right. The concept of “early adopters” when it comes to the latest tech gadgets includes the subtext that the later model – the one that the masses will purchase when they’re comfortable – will be more advanced and therefore better, throwing the former into obscurity – and often the trash can. The rationale of planned obsolescence, in the minds of the manufacturers, makes it okay to produce a product with a limited shelf life. Accordingly, if an item lasts a few years, consider yourself lucky.

Case in point:

  • Many of us don’t think twice about “software upgrades.” After all – they’re supposed to change after a brief period of time, aren’t they?
  • Consumer electronics, such as cell phones, laptops and similar items have been manufactured so that it’s more expensive to fix them or modify them than it is to upgrade…hmmm…
  • Don’t get me started on the topic of children’s toys

In recent years, children’s items in particular have been increasingly manufactured to fail.There was a time where kids’ playthings were made of wood or a similarly sturdy compound. No so these days, although plastic can be quite strong. No, buy a toy from your local department store and I can almost guarantee you that it will fall apart soon after purchase, and if not then, it will within the year.What’s a parent to do? Buy another one, I guess.

We have become a society that doesn’t think twice about throwing out the old and heralding in the new. This philosophy has extended beyond physical items to the intangibles as well (think high divorce rates, May-December romances and more). What are we teaching our children?It has become the norm these days to expect things to fall apart, whether they are physical objects or otherwise. We expect mediocrity, and so, our children do as well. To this end, it’s not a stretch to assume that this philosophy of “good enough” extends into our kids’ daily lives, including schooling, relationships and more. This can’t be a good thing.

Furthermore, the “throw-away culture” in which we live does not encourage our children to be conscious of our environment. As our planet becomes more and more clogged with the remnants of our now-obsolete purchases (including many toys), the idea of living a more sustainable and “green” lifestyle becomes lost.

Image courtesy of http://www.acrd.bc.ca
Recycling, respecting the environment and using less “stuff” are goals that we should all embrace for many reasons beyond the ones stated above. Being a throw-away society is not doing us or our children any good. More pressingly, the planet on which we live is getting crowded awfully fast and at the end of the day, there’s only a finite amount of landfill space to go around. Food for thought. Perhaps those that scoff at pre-owned clothing may want to reconsider for more reasons than are obviously apparent. Hand-me-downs are not that bad after all.


Do you “recycle” clothes and accept hand-me-downs for your children? Why or why not?
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