Question Every Purchase

As I was mulling over my article topic of choice on this crisp, sunny, beautiful fall Sunday in December in Michigan, something profound hit me: the high pitch whine from a chorus of dastardly leaf blowers. And it got me thinking…

“Why in the world would anyone buy a leaf blower?”

Yet, many people do. In fact, most people with leaves and a yard do. But why?

Before you question my criticism of this “life changing” device without having ever used one, you should know that one of the worst gifts I’ve ever received in my life was… you guessed it: a leaf blower.

I begrudgingly tried to give it a shot out of guilt, thinking “Perhaps I am missing something profound here. Perhaps this false wind machine could dramatically enhance my life. Perhaps it could fill the emptiness inside of me – allow me to transcend my yard work and finally become a completely whole spiritual being” – or something like that.

It didn’t. Nothing of the sort. In fact, I found the entire experience of using a leaf blower to be absolutely miserable in EVERY SINGLE WAY.

  • I had to pay for a toxic mix of fossil fuels to power the device.
  • I had to spew toxic fossil fuels in to the atmosphere during its use.
  • I don’t have noise-cancelling ear muffs, so I probably lost a little bit of my hearing.
  • I smelled like a gas station when done and had to immediately shower and wash my clothes.
  • I got less physical activity (some may see this as a good thing?).
  • I blew dirt, pollen, and other particulates in to the air.
  • I ruined the quiet peace on fine-weathered fall days for myself and for the neighbors around me.
  • I may have caused a bit of nerve damage in my hand from the ridiculous vibration levels created by the machine.
  • I was left with upkeep maintenance on the machine to keep it working.

question every purchaseBut here’s the kicker: that stupid thing didn’t even save me any time! And I still had to go over parts of the yard to remove stubborn leaves with a rake. YES, a “rake”. You know… that silly piece of wood with plastic teeth on the end of it. That simple peasant’s too that that burns zero fossil fuels, that is incredibly quiet, that results in a feel-good workout, that causes no nerve damage, that has no upkeep, and that actually picks up and moves all the leaves exactly where you want them to go. That costs just $10 or less. A rake.

The leaf blower is the object of my consumerism gone wrong scorn today, but we are all surrounded by similarly wasteful devices every single day. Devices that were never considered to be a “need” 100 years ago, and aren’t even imagined in present times in the large majority of countries, many without clean running water or electricity. Devices such as popcorn poppers, ice cream makers, egg cookers, gas mowers, wine fridges, robotic vacuums, the slightly newer/thinner mobile device, giant SUV’s to haul around groceries once a week… you get the idea.

Some of these devices may not be as glaringly ridiculous as the leaf blower, and if you’re not careful, you may justify their purchase. Or, worse, conformity may lead you to see the item as a rite of passage (“device of passage”, if you will) for any person with a kitchen, living room, bedroom, need to transport, deck, bathroom, or yard with leaves. Lifestyle inflation (aka lifestyle creep) is often a slow creep – not something that smacks you in the face with its obviousness. It’s a constant battle between contentment vs consumerism.

The message I’d like to leave you with is this: Question. Every. Purchase.

No purchase in your life should be a given. No purchase should be assumed to be beneficial just because other people buy it. Ask yourself if this purchase is really, and I mean REALLY going to improve your life. If not – don’t buy it.

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