New year, old “stuff”

New Year is often thought of as a time to be “out with the old and in with the new”. Those of us wanting to do our best for the environment might think twice about buying brand new things, especially when they don’t desperately need replacing, but we don’t have to be excluded from turning over a new leaf.

Getting new things without getting new things

I’ve found that already this year I’m enjoying a few “new” things just by rejuvenating/repurposing the old.  I find more excitement in getting new things this way than buying brand new. Maybe it’s mostly due to my personal priorities (I care about sustainability and have always got attached to old things to the extent that my response approaches emotional distress whenever I have to get rid of holey socks..), but most of the following reasons I’m fairly sure have widespread appeal…

  1. Saving money
  2. Less wastage of old items
  3. Decreased need to manufacture and transport new items

Here are a few examples that my simple little self has been getting excited about already this year (yes, I probably need to get out more, but I embrace the fact that I don’t feel the need to.)

Laptop rejuvenation

If something I own works, it’s almost impossible to convince me to replace it. Despite years of “peer pressure” from my friends and family, I only entered the world of the smart phone about a year ago when my trusty little (almost decade-old) Nokia finally gave up. It had started scrambling long text messages, and the screen had filled with water twice following a couple of downpours I was working in (even though it was “safely” in my pocket both times!)

It dried out, but soon after the second time, randomly started going blank and then stopped working altogether. It was with a heavy heart that I finally accepted it was time for a replacement.

I thought I was getting to the same point with my (currently nine-year old) laptop. It needed a Windows update that I thought I couldn’t get, it’s on its second or third battery and genuine replacements are getting harder to find and more pricey. It also runs quite slow, the fan’s noisy and I can’t use it at the moment more than 5 minutes unplugged.

I thought it would make sense to think about getting a new one. I’m extremely pleased I didn’t!

All I did was spend a little money and very little effort to “rejuvenate” it. Below are the things I’ve done, in case you’re in a similar frame of mind and looking for inspiration… (if you’re not, feel free to skip ahead to the next exciting section.)

  • Updated to Windows 10 – obvious and recommended anyway due to security updates no longer being provided for Windows 7. I thought it wasn’t possible for me as I didn’t take the original opportunity, but it seems the download here works for most people. As soon as I did this simple step, it started to feel like a new laptop.
  • Cleaned the outside – amazing the difference cleaning the screen and keyboard surface makes. I used a microfibre cloth dampened with a little water whilst the laptop was switched off. Again, made it feel like new.
  • Found a new replacement battery – this is the thing that makes the biggest difference to me and one of the main reasons I was considering a new laptop – it’s just too much faff plugging it in constantly. If you’re in a similar situation and the genuine battery for your laptop has become harder to find, you might find some on eBay (that’s where I found mine). It seems some people anticipate the problem and buy up some stock as an opportunity to make a bit of money.
  • Bought some new RAM – as recommended by my wonderful partner. Since installing it and going from 4GB to 8GB, my laptop starts up faster and is much more responsive once it’s on. If you’re interested in this but (like me) wouldn’t know where to start, here’s a simple way which should help you find an option which will work: go to the Crucial UK website’s memory section, select the relevant make and model, and you’ll be shown compatible replacements. If what you need is out of stock, you might find it on Amazon. It’s really easy to install just by taking a screw or few out of the back of the laptop (when it’s off and unplugged) to remove a cover and swap them out. There are plenty of videos on YouTube to demonstrate how on different makes and models.
  • Planning to clean the inside – I’ve not yet looked inside, but suspect that 9+ years of dust and dirt are clogging up my fan. I’m hoping that cleaning it off will allow it to work more efficiently, and potentially improve the performance of my laptop even more (I’ve read that if it’s overheating then the laptop itself can reduce its performance in order to stay cool). It should also stop the fan ineffectually running at full pelt as soon as it’s turned on, in turn stopping it draining the battery.

I’ve not yet finished all of these steps and already it feels like a new laptop.

  • Money spent:  <£90
  • Money saved:  ~£300-£400
  • 1 fewer discarded laptop
  • 1 fewer brand new laptop purchased

Worth it? (in my opinion) Yes!

Repurposing coffee pot

A much simpler, and totally free “new” thing – my new popcorn pot for packed lunches.

We’ve inexplicably had an empty instant coffee container sitting in the cupboard for months. It’s finally become my new popcorn pot.

I LOVE popcorn and taking it to work brightens up my day (again, simple things…) but don’t like to buy individual portioned packets because they’re more expensive and I think wasteful. However, I wasn’t saving much waste by putting my packed lunch portions in food bags (though I was already reusing the bags whenever I could).

Now I can protect my precious popcorn without additional packaging, AND without buying a new reusable pot.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a pot if that’s what you prefer to do, of course. Whichever reusable option works for you personally is obviously going to be more sustainable than throwing away a one-use packet every time.  I’m just particularly drawn to things that are free and allow me to throw away one less thing.

I also feel like I’m at the cinema when I’m eating it out of this shaped pot instead of a little bag… win, win.

  • Money spent:  NONE
  • Money saved:  the price of individually portioned popcorn (/insert other snack name here), repeated food bag use, and/or a new reusable pot
  • Satisfaction level:  spotting a Bearded Tit in a place you didn’t know they lived/frequented (high)

One I’m looking forward to…

I got my first (and hopefully only) Christmas tree last year. We went for a container-grown one so we could keep it in a pot, alive, to keep for as long as it survives.

He patiently tolerated being draped with decorations and is now back to his usual self.

It is lovely to think of having our own living tree to care for rather than buying an artificial one to take up storage space, or a buying newly felled one every year.

 Maybe reusing things is as much about getting attached to things and valuing them more, as well as caring about the waste we create.

Is reusing and keeping old things as long as possible anyone else’s “natural” state, or is it a bit of a wrench born of making more environmentally friendly decisions?

I feel like I’m winning rather than giving anything up.

6 thoughts on “New year, old “stuff”

Add yours

  1. The RAM upgrade will be the biggest improver of the life of your laptop. Another reasonably priced upgrade, when you get to that stage, will be to replace the Hard Drive with a Solid State one (SSD) – the same technology behind USB memory sticks and memory cards. Actually, this is an upgrade I’m considering for both my computers at home.
    You can get in touch at any point if that sort of thing makes you nervous, but you seem to have it all pretty much in hand!


    1. Hi David, thank you! Yes, I have had discussions about switching to a SSD (so it’s quicker for things to be retrieved from the memory? Not something I had any clue about before) and might consider doing that too. I’m satisfied for the time being though which is a great change from thinking about replacing it altogether!


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