Producing only what is needed

A great book from the past predicts the future.

Food retail creates excess waste such as plastic bags.

Food retail creates excess waste such as this anonymous customers plastic bag.

Being sustainable is about only buying what you need, thus you waste nothing on pointless junk, but what about production of consumer products? A book by Edward Bellamy in 1887 called Looking Backward, which predicted a utopian future in the year 2000 influenced me on the subject of waste.  The book caused a sensation in its day, and correctly predicted inventions such as the credit card.  You can read the PDF of Looking Backward here.

Looking Backward presented me with two ideas that I liked about reducing waste. The packaging of food is a serious problem to the environment, and so is the wastage of up to 50% of food in the retail and the home.  Looking Back presented the idea of kitchens where people could from a menu at home order a meal in advance, which would be cooked and presented at the highest possible standard, that the family would eat at the kitchens, a type of community restaurant.  Nobody in the future eats at home, all the meals eaten at the kitchens.

These kitchens are an excellent idea on cutting down waste.  If a farm can move freshly picked apples to ozone-storage, the food in the storage stage is without waste.  The release of ozone-stored food matches need, thus an order for the day of 50 apples from a kitchen means that supply can meet an exact demand with no wastage, the kitchen cooks the food the same day it came out of storage.  Since everyone is eating at the kitchens, there is hardly any packaging involved, it is unlikely anyone will waste the food they ordered. No longer is there a need for food retail stores or cooking at home  People could order via internet their food, the meals are then ready at an agreed time for the family or individual to eat at the highest possible standard in the kitchens, the food is fresh, local and organic.

Looking Backward describes beautiful architectural buildings where a customer can visit and make orders for items such as clothing.  The customer is patient, ordering any item they need, which the factory will manufacture on order to the highest standard meeting the individual needs of the customer.  The factory wastes nothing, since they carry no excess stock and only manufactures durable high standard products on receipt of orders.  The manufacturer has no need for salespeople as there are no excess unwanted stock to sell.

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16 responses to “Producing only what is needed

  1. The thought that comes to mind after reading your post is a reflection on a rather disturbing post recently published on Mike Stasse’s blog Damn The Matrix, link is http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/nothing-we-do-is-sustainable-been-saying-it-for-years-now/

    Here’s how that post opens:

    Don’t talk to me about sustainability. You want to question my lifestyle, my impact, my ecological footprint? There is a monster standing over us, with a footprint so large it can trample a whole planet underfoot, without noticing or caring. This monster is Industrial Civilization. I refuse to sustain the monster. If the Earth is to live, the monster must die. This is a declaration of war.

    What is it we are trying to sustain? A living planet, or industrial civilization? Because we can’t have both.

    Somewhere along the way the environmental movement – based on a desire to protect the Earth, was largely eaten by the sustainability movement – based on a desire to maintain our comfortable lifestyles. When did this happen, and why? And how is it possible that no-one noticed? This is a fundamental shift in values, to go from compassion for all living beings and the land, to a selfish wish to feel good about our inherently destructive way of life.

    The sustainability movement says that our capacity to endure is the responsibility of individuals, who must make lifestyle choices within the existing structures of civilization. To achieve a truly sustainable culture by this means is impossible. Industrial infrastructure is incompatible with a living planet. If life on Earth is to survive, the global political and economic structures need to be dismantled.

    oooo

    Continued here http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/nothing-we-do-is-sustainable-been-saying-it-for-years-now/

    Still not certain about my final conclusion to that post, but it certainly challenges some of the new orthodoxies being increasingly promulgated about living a more sustainable life.

    • I read the article. It is mostly a rant without substance. Someone who lives in fantasyland who wants everyone to abandon civilisation and be hippies.

      I consider the system will be changed within by individual action doing what the sustainability movement has been doing. Small changes do make a difference, collectively becoming a tsunami of change.

      People need to live in the real world and understand there is no waving the magic wand to make civilisation vanish. Electricity is good, internet is good, and so is trade. All that needs to happen is a few changes to the system, it has no need to be destroyed. My business adding sustainability to itself will make a greater difference than any ranting delusional blogger.

  2. the danger of living small is that it stifles innovation and dreams. Some waste is required, it strikes a careful balance.

  3. I agree with the need to stop so much Waste, food packaging in particular as well as small items covered in clear plastic all so not needed.. I could go on and on Alex as you know, We need to learn to get back to some basics And until we all choose to alter our ways of living in our throw away world, unfortunately there will continue to be waste..

    Good post.. I have yet though to see a factory that doesn’t produce waste.. that is unless factories have drastically changed since I worked among them in the last…

    I agree though with you that we one by one we do change as we add those ripples to spread across the pond…
    Love and Blessings Sue

  4. Sounds like an interesting idea. However, I’m not sure how you would convince people about it.

  5. Reminds me of a saying I have memorized over the years. “A good thing sells itself, a bad thing is advertised” When I first read that I took another look at what is advertised in flyers, I don’t need that. Even the grocery stores, what they advertise are mostly the prepackaged stuff we don’t need in the first place. I love the idea of purchasing an item before it is manufactured and the manufacturing process being waste free. If only I could find a business like that. And to have good quality stuff being produced, wouldn’t that be nice?

    • It would be great to live in a society that only produces what you order, rather than have score of salespeople harassing you to buy unwanted junk.

      You are right, a good thing sells itself.

      • I hate sales people. My children used to find entertainment in how I handled pushy salespeople. The first one to approach me was informed that if I made a purchase it would be with him/her but only if they let me browse without interruption and not to follow me around, if I had a question I would find them. If I spotted them following me I would take my business elsewhere. Didn’t matter if it was for a car or a coat. Worked every time, my boys would quietly laugh at how the salesperson I gave my little speech to would shoo off any co-workers. It was nice browsing without interruption and my boys were entertained enough not to get bored. I can be a real pain some times when I want to be left alone.

      • Well done! More people should assert their liberty for privacy like you 🙂

      • Many people find me rude, and I’ve been called a few names, but it works fine for me as I don’t really care what they think.

      • When people are busting your boundaries, you have every right to be rude in telling them to leave you alone.

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