Saturday, January 27, 2007

A different kind of compact, Plus: Disposing of your clothing just got easier!

It's called the Compact Sit-Down Shopping Cart, and it's an update on the old granny cart: a small cart on wheels, with a redesigned push bar resembling those you find on a stroller. But the biggest upgrade is in the seat, which folds down over the basket to give the shopper an instant place to rest.

Clearly, this cart could be a great tool for many people, including the elderly, the disabled, and anyone who walks to the grocery store. But marketers of the gadget seem to have something else in mind. The photo of the cart includes a rather attractive and nicely-dressed woman lounging on it. Sure, she could have an "invisible illness", or be an eco-conscious consumer eliminating the need for plastic bags while grabbing a few essentials at the grocery store on her way home from the office. My impression is more that the company would like to market this as a great mall shopping tool. Shop 'til you drop...right onto our cushy Compact Sit-Down Shopping Cart. Then, shop some more!

I mention the shopping cart here because I find it especially ironic that it showed up on my email alerts for The Compact.

And speaking of The Compact and shopping: Occasionally, on the Compact email list, someone asks what would happen if everyone suddenly started compacting. Wouldn't our used stuff supplies dry up if no one bought anything new? The short answer is, yes, and that would be great. The idea of the Compact is to live off of the overabundance of disposable consumerism (and, ideally, to reduce our consumption of all things both new and used). For example, a portion of our society chooses to repeatedly buy more clothing than they need and then discard the excess at Goodwill. The Compact encourages us to balance out such overconsumption by dressing ourselves in their disposals. If "disposable" clothing consumption did not exist there might be fewer good sources of used material, but also less need for it.

It turns out, though, that some manufacturers are "solving" the problem of disposable consumerism in another way: by making clothing truly disposable. Gizmodo recently noted two new clothing products. First, a "dissolvable" dress, that partially dissolves into a recyclable substance when wet. And second, disposable underwear. I'll set aside my differences with Gizmodo (see here, and here) for a moment to suggest that you check out their commentary on the underwear, which is right on (less so, alas, for their comments on the dress).

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