Consumer Sustainability Thinking: Making Stuff Last - By Andrea Learned

Andrea is a Writer and Consultant on gender, human behavior & sustainability. & Huffington Post contributor.
Mar 3, 2011 8:23 AM ET
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Consumer Sustainability Thinking: Making Stuff Last


In the category of sustainability “hidden in plain sight,” I spy another example.  According to a New York Times article by Matt Richtel, consumers are found to be holding onto – get this – even their cellphones and TVs(!) a little longer these days.

Do pigs now fly?

Not the last time I checked, but the numbers mentioned in Richtel’s piece are intriguing:

But in some important categories there are indications of slowed upgrades. Consumers are holding onto new cars for a record 63.9 months, up 4.5 months from a year ago and 14 percent since the end of 2008, according to Polk, a research firm. In fact, the firm said, when used cars are included, the average length of car ownership stands at 52.2 months, also a record.

Industry analysts also report that people on average upgrade their cellphones every 18 months, up from every 16 months just a few years ago. They hold onto their laptops an average of 4 years and 4 months, a month longer than they did a year ago, though that figure has been creeping up since 2000.

Could it be that the enduring economic downturn has been helpful in changing consumer attitudes – and possibly behavior – with regard to longer product use, including repairs, before things gets tossed? 

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