the things I do to avoid waste.

Three phases of product ownership overlaid with post-waste mentalities

Where I like to think I am when I’m getting a blow-out.
Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

Part 1: On the waxing phase of product ownership 🌒, or considering what to buy

I don’t buy much on impulse.

So when I first saw it, I was immediately a skeptic.

There was something about the design of this new product that put me off strangely.

I mean, look at it:

The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer

It’s supposed to be a hair dryer. Not a weapon in a sci-fi world. Not a looking glass. A hair dryer.

How does this thing even work?

The head is so small, and there’s a gaping HOLE in the part where air is supposed to come out 🤷🏻‍♀️ it’s so ridiculous.

…of course, I am being dramatic.

People who know me are aware that I’m a huge Dyson fan-girl.

I’ve been a happy user of several of their products. I’ve sent them as gifts to family. Their devices are workhorses that I rely on daily.

So it’s surprising that I did not take interest in this product at all… until I noticed one day my hair stylist had replaced every hair dryer in his salon (10 dryers) to these.

I’ve been going to him for 8+ years, so I asked him about the change. For the sparse talker he usually was, he gave the product unusually high praise.

Clearly, this was a no-nonsense investment for his business.

I would be remiss not to mention that this hair dryer costs 1.5x more than an average high-end hair dryer in the market. It retails for about $500 Canadian Dollars, which is nothing to sneeze at 💸

OK, I told him, I will look into it.

Five odd years + a pandemic later, I bit the bullet.

I bought the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer.

Some may think that ruminating on a thing, on and off, for over 5 years is a waste of brain space. “Just buy it, and get on with your life.”

Little do they know: this is my homegrown method of making conscious, conscientious purchase decisions.

I’m at that point in life where I’m tired of cheap, crappy products. I want to “Buy It For Life”, if I can. Or at least buy and use for a very, very long time.

To continually consider a big purchase over a long period of time ensures that I really thought about it.

It gives me time to do the research. It gives the market time to come up with better stuff. It gives me time to find a good deal. And, it gives me the certainty that it is not just a short-lived infatuation – it’s a long-lasting, life-improving purchase.

So again, I don’t buy much on impulse.

But when I do buy something, and every time I use it, I feel a deep sense of joy and appreciation for that thing.

And I’m confident I’ll feel this way about it for a long while.


Part 2: On the honeymoon of product ownership 🌕, or the unboxing highs and lows

With premium products, you come to expect exceptional unboxing experiences 🎁.

Unboxing a Dyson has historically been an average experience, with their product clearly the star of the show.

All their products have a strong material and visual language, making Dyson products instantly recognizable on the showroom floor. The base material is an oxymoronic “rich, grey” plastic or metal, designed to produce a high gloss shimmer. Select components come in punchy colour accents to give it the futuristic look. A basic red for vital levers and buttons. Most importantly, they are designed for great user experiences.

Packaging had clearly not been their focus… until now.

As I slowly opened the box to reveal the product, I noticed they had really stepped up their game with packaging. Not only was it a delightful unboxing experience (almost on par with Apple products), I was also super duper pleased to learn that 100% of the packaging was made out of recyclable cardboard!

Look Ma, no plastic! Even the main box (not pictured) was paper.

As a reluctant consumer (remember that it took me 5 years to make this purchase decision), 100% cardboard packaging made me so irrationally happy.

I cannot count how many times I’ve lamented the wasteful, often unnecessary packaging that is forced on us. A little piece of me dies every time I see how hard we make it to just have the thing/item/food/drink, without the waste.

I’ve already received more positive vibes from this unboxing experience versus a comparable Apple experience, just because it had easily-recyclable parts. Because if there’s something I really hate, it’s packaging that is of the unrecyclable type. And the December holiday season (which is right around the corner from when this was written) is just notorious for this unethical waste.

Speaking of unrecyclable… what about my old hair dryer?


Part 3: On the waning phase of a product 🌘, or facing the truth on obsolescence and end-of-life

My old hair dryer was stashed in the back of a closet, busy being ignored by me, its negligent user.

Even though the high heat/fan setting (my go-to setting) had stopped working years ago, I hadn’t replaced my old semi-pro hair dryer for two reasons:

1/ a realization after it broke that maybe I should stop looking at my hair as something to “tame”, and instead love and accept my hair for what it was: a wild, coarse, and naturally beautiful yet temperamental appendage of me. The broken hair dryer initiated a period of letting my hair dry naturally.

2/ my super-strong aversion to throwing away electronics.

Electronics are the worst. They are highly complex in material composition, often containing many rare earth metals and other toxic composites that will never “naturally” break down in a landfill.

Also, my old hair dryer still partially worked.

So then, I looked up the City of Toronto’s website on what they recommended I do with my old hair dryer. 

The City of Toronto’s Waste Wizard, which you need to consult every time you want to throw something away because waste has become this super complicated thing and it’s not intuitive anymore what goes where.

They listed two options for donation and reuse, before suggesting the Garbage Bin.

Sigh. But who would want a hair dryer on its last legs? No one.

Guilt was welling up in me as I imagined a dystopian future where my old hair dryer — not fully broken but not fully functional either — was dumped among diapers and dirty take-out containers, forever denied its unrealized potential.

(Just thinking about all the almost-fine things that end up in the landfill makes my heart so sad 💔)

In a different, more solarpunk future, I would have a go-to “fixer”. Not for drugs, but for fixing out-of-warranty things like this. Maybe even finding new homes for them. I imagine them working out of their apartment for some reason, like a side gig. Anyone who is decent at troubleshooting and loves tinkering would be really good at this practical job. But best of all, this repair business would divert a lot of waste that otherwise would end up in landfills, and would be doing society a huge service.

Alas, I have no such wonder-fixer.

But! Since it was going to the garbage anyways…

I thought: Why don’t I try opening it to see what’s under the hood?

DISCLAIMER

Tinkering with electronics can be dangerous.
Please do not try this unless you have basic knowledge of electrical wiring and are confident about your ability to troubleshoot and problem-solve safely.

So, I open it: 

First step in disassembling the hair dryer.

I won’t drag you through the details.

The short of it is: I disassembled and inspected everything from back to front.

Then, I searched online for wiring diagrams of hair dryers to try to understand how they were put together. Based on that, I found a wire that looked disconnected from where it was supposed to connect. I found a way to connect it which didn’t involve needing a soldering machine.

Finally, I reassembled it.

And now, the real moment of truth: It was ready to be tested.

I plugged it into the safety plug in the washroom.

To psych myself up, I thought: “If I fry it – fine. It was going to the trash heap anyways. I got nothing to lose.”

First, I flipped it to the LOW setting that always worked.

And… It worked — good. This was a good sign. It meant that I had not completely messed up during the reassembly and turned it into a so-called “brick”.

Then, I flipped it to the HIGH setting.

OMG. it worked. 

The darn thing worked!!!

I couldn’t believe it. After years of disuse my hair dryer was finally fully functional again! 

Since its restoration, it now enjoys a second lease on life. I can choose to keep it, or give it away. Most of all, I am relieved that I no longer have to feel guilty about needing to throw it in the garbage (to the chagrin of my dear partner, bless him ❤️, who is always looking for ways to clear clutter within our compact condo).

… Really, the things I do to avoid waste.


PS. Thought I’d let you know that, similar to the unboxing experience, the actual experience of using the new Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer also exceeded my expectations 👌👌🔎💨

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