Throw Away Culture


Slow Goods Episode 4 cover graphic, featuring Logan Rackliff


We live in a world where instant gratification and convenience dominate our choices. From takeout meals to disposable clothing, we've become accustomed to using and discarding products at an alarming rate.

Throw Away products are designed to be quickly consumed and are often unrepairable, promoting a culture of easy replacement. Though the nature of throw away goods makes them relatively inexpensive, the cost over time of getting stuck in a cycle of buy, consume, replace, adds up—not to mention, it piles up in the landfill.

However, over the years, an increasing number of people have been advocating for a move towards a more sustainable and conscious way of living. “Small batch”, “slow goods”, no matter what you call it, there is a growing return-to-form in consumer goods that focuses on intentional design, production, and the purchase of quality items.

In this week’s episode, Logan is digging into the ethos behind slow goods and how to start making intentional purchases that are better for you, honors the people who make them, and is better for the environment.

Check out the episode now!







Machine-generated Audio Transcript




Logan Rackliff (00:00):

Hello. Welcome to the Slow Goods podcast. We love to talk quality and design, but most of all, we love to hear the inspiring stories of the masters of these spaces. Join me, your host, Logan Rackliff. As we talk about Maine, adventure, business, and we explore with these creators the different aspects of quality and design and everything around them together. Today, thought I would just take some time and talk about a topic that was really important to us and that is combating throwaway culture and just my take on all of it. I remember my grandfather who was a pioneer, innovator, kind of genius type guy, and he sold his big large rope manufacturing company in 1995. And around that time I remember he would get machines, old manufacturing machines, small enough to fit into his garage and he would still go out and work every day, had no interest in retiring. So he would try to make these products and maybe get a grandchild or somebody to sell and create a business around them. And he'd always be making all kinds of things. If he wanted something for his dock or his boat or whatever it is, he would make him himself. He was a really neat guy.

So to do that, you need quality materials, you need quality tools. I can remember being in a shop multiple times, but especially one day I feel like he had a wrench, I'm pretty sure it was a wrench or something like that. He was trying to teach me something on the machine. He was going to work on this and he goes, turn the wrench and it breaks. And there was nothing that strenuous either. He is 70 years old and it just wasn't a huge thing. And not only did it break the ranch, but I think it might've kind of rounded the bolt maybe at the same time, I've also been there when he is rounded bolts and I've rounded bolts, but he had just gone as he had his company, he felt a ton of pressure coming from shore. He made rope here in the US so he was a little frustrated with it in general, especially the quality coming through.

But just using this, and this isn't the first time it happened to him using this in the shop, this wrench that is just supposed to work, it breaks. I mean there's not much to a wrench, just a piece of metal. And he looked at it and he looked out and he said, yep, made from China junk. And he would just go off talking about the poor quality coming from overseas and that it was just so frustrating to him. He was just used to using, they basically only made quality before things started coming overseas. And this is not a political podcast to riff on China or whatever it might be, but why did that start? Why is that so ingrained in our culture now? I think myself and all of us are to blame as much as others. People figured out, oh, I can go over to this place that has, it's hard, not forget the little political, but they're kind of oppressed. So the labor's really low. We can make stuff that sells here for $40, we can sell it for 20 and it only costs us two bucks to make whatever it is.

I've heard a lot of examples like that, those types of margins and those types of prices. And it would come back to the states looking like what we're used to getting and these quality items, but it wouldn't hold up, it wouldn't last. And you throw it away and then we get this thought, oh well it's so cheap, we throw it, well just go buy another one. Well, where does that end up? That's a never ending, landfill filling, chaotic world when you constantly have to buy a new thing. I dunno about everybody else, but it makes me feel chaotic. I hate the money. I hate going online and constantly buying things. I want to be on my phone and my computer as little as possible. I don't want to do the research. And there's so many things out on the internet now that the research, if you want to buy quality is really mind numbing and frustrating.

And I feel like I'm trying to be a good steward and wise with my money. And so I'll do a lot of research. Well then that's like that takes a ton of time. I'm grateful for all the abilities there, but also I truly feel that to know quality, you need to have something in your hands. And so I really feel like getting things back in person. I don't know if that'll ever get there with the information age, with tech and the internet. And I'm thankful for how the internet's helped us in our business and different things. But I think there's a ton to be said. I think it's everything to go and see a product in person yourself and feel it out. I mean, you can feel if something is poor quality, usually cheaper made, not always, but you can really tell a lot and try it on.

And going back to the wrench bolt thing, I don't know how much everybody knows about just using a wrench or a bolt, but I was a lobster man. So you have an engine in your lobster boat and there's no room, they're really hard to get at. I mean, you've got to crawl around to work on things. So if you round when you round a bolt, you can no longer get that bolt out the normal way with a wrench for the most part. There are things, vice grips and other things you can try, but when something's truly rounded and it's really stuck in there gut, you need to drill it out with a good drill and you probably need some talent to do it. And that's not very easy on a boat. And there's some places where you literally have to cut into your boat, take it apart, lift the engine out and change the boat.

So that's kind of a big deal. I mean maybe that's more of an extreme example, but that's kind of chaos when the tool could have just been quality from the start and never have rounded the bolt and the bolt made out of quality materials. And I know as making lobster Bos now, they used to use stainless or stainless and it wouldn't rust, there wouldn't be any rust. Now you have to buy really three 16 stainless or something else that is more expensive. So here's a good example. They're recycling the metals, which is good, but they're calling what we used to call stainless. They're still calling stainless, but it's a lesser product. So what we're getting at here is inauthentic things. So the stainless, it is like we used to just buy stainless steel and did not rust. Now you have to buy this advanced one and it rusts more than what the normal stainless used to. So why is that happening? It's just because the people putting it together don't really care about anything except for selling things and putting money in their pockets like Amazon, not to pick on Amazon, but they've created such a beast good on them for creating such a of ease and things for people.

But also this has enabled us to be incredibly lazy and not see people in person at the same time it was like, well Logan, it really helps me out with this thing. I'm a stay at home mom. I totally get all those things. And we still order some things from Amazon and it's kind of like how I guess Walmart feels in a way because, or it did before Amazon was here that they would just come in and put all the local businesses out of business. The only place to get something was Amazon. I mean Walmart.

And yeah, the internet is huge. It's bigger than Walmart taking over. But yeah, a lot of times like Amazon is about the only place to find it or it's represented so hard or it's so far down in the Google search, you can't find it. And what frustrates me about that too, just the boxes constantly coming to your house. This does not feel like, it feels like chaos to me in my life. Some is okay once in a while, but there's cardboard everywhere and you get this stuff and most of it's not what you expected. It's definitely less quality. Hey, or you call Amazon, oh Jesus, this thing's a little bit like this or whatever. And then they say, oh, can I send it back and get a replacement? Oh, just keep that at a lot of times it's not even like something's broken on, it's like, Hey, well this little thing happened and they're like, we'll just keep that and we'll send you another one or we'll give you credit or whatever it is.

And to me as a business owner, I just feel like what kind of margins and how much money are people making where they can say those things? I feel like the margins that people are trying to make on things that should not be, you shouldn't be able to ship things to people and for almost any complaint they have just say, yeah, keep 'em. You only have to send them back on your own dollar. Just keep 'em. Where is the integrity in the world? I mean, are we not supposed to hold people accountable for anything? They can come up and make up a story, they can make up a story and we just give them something for free and that just feel wrong. Maybe I'm the only one.

We make products and sell 'em online and other places and people call us out for whatever the reason might be. And we have to have systems in place and as the common questions come up, we need to have answers. But a lot of times we have to make a call and we want to be fair with a lean towards generous. And the customer is definitely not always right. I love all you customers. I'm thankful for you. Neither am I always right many times am I not right? But still, shouldn't we not enable people? I mean really what they're hoping for is keep that so you'll buy a bunch of other stuff from us even if you don't really need it. And I feel like Amazon, a lot of these places are really just like they're promoting impulse buys as hard as they can, manipulating people and becoming, I don't know, less human.

I mean we need to be held accountable. Some we should not be making stupid purchases or we're trying to get something free from people just because we can. And yeah, it's frustrating to me. So I mean what we really want to do at the Rope company is really just kind of start a, I think it's already started and some people have always held this line, but I dunno if you want to call it a revolution or what, but maybe that's probably extreme language. But we just want people to, and I don't mean buy our products, we want people to take time, see things in person and make wise decisions to to buy quality things for their lives.

Buy it once, buy it right, made well, it'll do its job and won't frustrate you and add more stress to your life. And usually quality is beautiful and which makes you feel good, gives you peace, quality. I feel like many times you just almost shouldn't even notice it or you might admire it sometimes specific, but it'll just keep working. It's just always there. I mean maybe a piece of art you'd notice a lot and other things, but it is just doing its job and you can rely on it. The other thing about quality, as I've been doing these podcasts, I always ask people, Hey, tell me about your favorite item and in your household or something you use. I think almost everybody has talked more about the story about the item rather than describing quality. Because my idea is just like, Hey, tell me your favorite item in your house or whatever it is.

And they tell me about, well, why is it your favorite? And they talk me through it basically to me that usually they've described quality. And to me a good story is authentic. Now let's say somebody goes overseas and they, Hey, we want to make whatever stoves, and they go and they go to a bunch of manufacturers and they find a place that'll make stoves for the price they want and they bring it over here and they brand it well and sell it. And they're an okay stove for our standards today. They're good for two or three years or something, I don't know. And then we chuck it. Now there's real people making those and I'm thankful for those people and the hard work they put in and everything in between the people making them and the people using them is nothing but just we want money. And for me, there isn't really a story there. There's no passion, there's no purpose, intentionality, something you feel good about. It's just money, greed, whatever it is.

Story is more like these people I've been interviewing, they're really passionate about what they're making. They just love it. They did start their businesses as entrepreneurs, Hey, I'm passionate about this, but also I need to figure out how to make money. So they figured out their kind of niche and where they couldn't make money, but their days go by really quickly, especially when they're doing their sweet spot and their job and then we go to shop their store or whatever and the end consumer and we go there because we just love their intentionality. When we buy one of these things that people made with passion and we've got the whole story and that's not only is this an amazing product that's doing its job well and it's beautiful, but we have the story too and that makes us feel good. And we know just down deep, it's more pure or more right.

I'm not sure else to say it now, these are not the be all end all. I'm a man of faith. This is not, these things are not God and they're not going to make our lives perfect or fill any need. Huge needs are missing, but they're definitely, I truly feel going to bring more peace into our lives, less chaos, more beauty, and we'll just overall feel better. I mean, when you buy cheap stuff, poor quality, you're throwing it away and rebuying, you're fighting it like this isn't working the way I want it to work. Now I know there's a place to buy not as expensive things and we're fortunate, be able to even talk about buying nicer things and Oh, I need a table. I can't afford this perfectly, this nicely made table at a real wood or I've got dogs that are going to chew it all up or whatever it is. I mean, we want to be practical too, but I think I'm saying buy it, but just do things with an intentionality. I mean, we go to trade shows. We can't deck out our booths with the most elaborate crazy furniture and other things. It's just way too, we wouldn't make any money, so we buy pretty nice things and ones that are packable and that we can reuse again or give to somebody else or whatever it is.

It's not always the thing that I would want to buy myself if it was bringing into my home, but it has its use for that time. Are we ever going to get out of lesser made or lesser quality items compared to best quality items? There's always going to be that. I'm sure there was poor quality made in the us there's always better and there's always the best quality and there's not the best quality even in America or wherever. There's always been better and less quality, but it seemed to have really taken off when things went overseas. And why is that? Also part of American culture I think is more just, Hey, let's give everybody everything they want all the time when they want it. We are not taught delayed gratification anymore, and it's extremely hard for me. I'm a time guy, pace guy and and the faster the information technology takes off, the faster things go.

But yeah, literally let's save some money and not buy this thing if we can live without it. Here we are. I mean, who doesn't have tons of stuff? Maybe some of you minimalists out there, but storage units just keep going up and people keep filling them. My basement is full of tubs of things, and so we think we need all these things and they're going to fill all our needs and take care of our problems. So we buy all these objects, they're going to help fill this need that we have to have right now and they fill our lives and they don't actually help all that much. Actually. They bring more chaos when we figure it out or we use it two or three times or our kids or whatever, then we never use it again. But we can't throw it away. We throw it in a tub.

So it just keeps stacking up. And as far as the world goes, America's extremely wealthy, so we just keep bringing it. And it's a tough thing. I don't know how to necessarily fix it, but I know we could all be more intentional about what we're buying, where it comes from and getting it in our hands more. I know with the internet now it's really hard. What's hardest maybe about the internet, which is also the best thing. It is the possibility like, wow, yeah, don't even want this type. I don't want these clothes anymore that I can even go get in person within an hour of my home. Want some other one. I want I this. I do want this really quality person who's out in California that only does these drops, which is great, but also you never tried those clothes on or it comes and it's just like, well, this doesn't kind of work how I want what I do with it now. Yeah, return it great and they take it, that's fine. I would just challenge everybody to be intentional about what you buy. Do you really need this thing in your life? I love Filson. Filson makes great stuff. And I was going over some things with my wife and she got me this really cool looking bag that they make. Okay, so this is quality to quality for Christmas. And I was excited about it and it looked great. It was really neat bag and practical in a few ways.

And I got this bag and I told Hannah, I was like, I love you. I'm so thankful for this bag, but I honestly don't see where I'm ever going to use it. And I felt awful and I love that. I like it when people, you don't just ask each other what you want and get it. I like when people go and take a shot and I hope she does that every time, but I was like, there is a bag I would really like to do and maybe we could use our budget and return this and team up and buy this bag. And the hat that came with it, I really wanted to fill some hat was just ridiculous. It was like putting a fire hat on for me. I love you Filson, but your hat was way too big for me. So we bought a go ruck bag.

I love to hike and I like to be a really capable hiker, but I don't get to do long hikes, so adding weight is huge and Go Rock makes really, I mean they have a solid warranty, they make really nice products. And so that's what we did. And I use that thing all the time and I plan on that being, unless I really start going for long rocks or tenting or camping trips or something, I might need a bigger kind of backpack type thing at some point. I got the smallest one. They are expensive, but it was very specific. I think the biggest thing is let's get quality. You don't want to fill landfills and you want to start doing better for the environment. Just go buy the best stuff. It'll last the longest time.

If you buy some item at whatever store and it costs you, let's say $15 and you use it a year and you throw it away and then you buy another one, you do that every year for five years. Make sure I nail my math here, $75 or I feel like what I've generally found, you never know, but I feel like the quality item doesn't have to be the highest quality item. Let's just say it's two and a half times more. Great. I picked a $15 item, so that's 37 50 I think. Wow, I picked some horrible numbers. So 37, 50, but that item lasted you all five years before you had to throw it away.

So it's cheaper. You've saved money. And I think the examples are more extreme than that. What was that 15? Yeah, 75 and 37 50. Yeah, so it's you paid double. And a lot of times I feel like they're even better than that. You buy something for 20 and the good thing was 50 and you got six months out of the $20 item, or more likely when you buy something you use, it's like used it three times and it falls apart and you're like, wow, this thing is dumb and it's ruined. Part of my day. I had all this stuff planned, now I'm frustrated. Or you buy the $50 item and it lasts, could last 20 years or your lifetime and every time you go to use it, it works. And you don't get frustrated. You can rely on it. You have peace, you like the story, you feel good where it came from.

I mean I feel like that is even more the example of what normally happens. It's more actually on the extreme than, I mean stuff is just really poor quality. It doesn't mean overseas is all. That's just general. If people intentionally go overseas and find and hold a hardcore QC system and keep people there and early intentional or find these special people, I know there's their stories out there and I'm thankful for those. But at large, at scale, at general, this is what I have found and wherever it comes from, I just say make sure it's quality.

If you want another way to have more peace and good feeling in your life, less chaos, do your best to buy in person. Be intentional. If you can't get that thing, just wait. Delayed gratification, all the best things are life are usually are typically things we work for and that we wait for and put that effort in. Be disciplined with your money and your spending. And I think I don't really pay huge dividends. This is really where we came up with the podcast slogan goods when I was talking with our marketing company and working with a brand person and just explaining what we do and talking back and forth. And Darcy, this lady's name, she's amazing, and she used to work in retail and she said, fast goods, and then there's slogan. I was like, slogan goods. I'm just from small town Maine, but I've never heard that term before, I don't think. And I was like, that's awesome. Very interesting. And it doesn't mean that obviously the goods are slow sellers. It means they're made with intention and they're not ridiculously mass produced where quality simply cannot be as good as something that isn't ridiculously mass produced and just all price-based just to make money from one step to the other. There's a lot of intentionality. Focus, quality control checks.

The items you get what it says and how they're represented is what they are. And even the unspoken, when I use this whatever plastic fork, it should not break the second I pick up like a scoop of mashed potato or whatever it is. I love you recycled goods, but sometimes some of those guys are sending those out there, not quite as good. But when I go to put a screw in or take it out and it's not that difficult, I should not start off. I should not start gouging out, stripping out the inside of the screw If it's a poor quality screw and I should not start rounding off the end of the screwdriver after two or three uses. This is silly.

And yeah, I guess you made it cheap. I'm not going to take the time to go return that screwdriver. I think a lot of these people really rely on that. People aren't going to take the time to return these. They're so cheap. Throw 'em away. These intentionally, we're taking our time to be intentional how we purpose about how we purchase. And these items are really focused on slogan items, things made with people that were passionate. They're intentional about making quality. They show that they're very transparent in what they do, and they've got a great warranty, good reviews, whatever it might be.

Focus on those little goods and that's what we're passionate about. And people doing that and adding more time to their lives, more peace. Not only that, I mean if you start buying some real quality goods, isn't it cool that if you could, we don't make, I'm not sure if any of our items might be this yet, but it would be cool to have something to pass down to your children or their children and heirloom quality. Hopefully we can make some things like that someday as a doormat. That's our staple product. We do have some baskets, but those things are meant to really be used and some things that are meant to really be used after a while, they're just not going to cut it anymore. And who wants to pass down an old dirty doormat? But there's a lot out there that you could buy. It'd be really neat to buy personal things of the story that you could pass down. So do the research on the products you'd want to buy best you can, but I would recommend don't spend a ton of time at the same time. Anytime you can do something in person, go do that. But don't take time away from your family or kids or while you're at home, be on your phone or family time or whatever it may be. Just take five minutes here or there and

Wait to get that item best. If you can go do something in person, even if it's going to cost a little more money, do it. Look for those items that are going to last and do their job.
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