There is something about toasters that inspires designers.
Friday 23 February is so exciting! We have already noted that it is National CSA Sign-Up Day and National Skip the Straw Day, but it is also the more obscure National Toast Day, a British import that apparently "began as a way of making people happier in an otherwise boring month." The organizer, Caroline Kenyon, noted in Metro that "the day was hugely popular last year with it immediately trending on social media in the UK as well as in America. Kenyon says that is because ‘Toast makes people happy’. Whatever age you are, everybody loves toast."
This was, of course, the year of Avocado Toast, which became a meme for millennial bashing, after an Australian property developer complained that "When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn't buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. We're at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high." I wrote on MNN that it wasn't the kids' fault in Don't bash millennials about avocados — blame their parents.
When it comes to articles on saving money, it's the small edible luxuries such as avocado toast and fancy lattes that are most viciously attacked. Many frugality bloggers would have you believe that, by eliminating these expensive treats from your life, you'll see the savings pile up. While this is partly true -- the little things do add up -- this approach can distract from bigger money magnets. More in TreeHugger See also: Why the battle over avocado toast misses the point
And for some reason, designers love toasters. Over the years we have covered a lot of these on TreeHugger. I was particularly impressed by the toaster built by British designer Thomas Thwaite and must have written half a dozen posts about it; he built it from scratch, noting, as we have on TreeHugger many times:
It seems the need to buy more stuff to save our economy and the need to buy less to save our environment are on a collision course. So, we either have to value what we've got a lot more, or spend as much time and effort taking things apart and disposing of them as we do putting them together.
The toaster is a great example of how we can take a simple concept, a device that can last a generation, and turn it into a cheap throwaway. Or, designers can add useless functions and adopt strange forms, making it complex, expensive and silly.
The toaster became a simalacrum for everything wrong in our modern world, where what we build is no longer reliable or repairable. "The Toastmaster was built to last, with simple mechanical components, for ease of service at a reasonable cost. The lessons from the toaster, which could also apply houses, were:
- Build to last, with low maintenance materials.
- Build less. Smaller homes use less material with lower embodied energy and use less energy to heat.
- Repair and renovate instead of demolishing and replacing.
- Reduce complexity; simple systems last longer.
- Design for repair and deconstruction; think about how it comes apart as well as how it goes together.
- Pick materials with low embodied energy.
- Design to maximize exergy; use passive solar and natural ventilation instead of electricity and fossil fuels. Save electricity for electronics and lighting (and toasters). Insulate and seal like mad.
Those are a lot of lessons from a toaster! More in TreeHugger.
What is the Definition of Good Green Design? Two Brave Little Toasters Demonstrate Two Different Approaches
Yes, I went there, noting how Kirk kills the Gorn by building a cannon out of bamboo, filling it with gunpowder made from local resources, firing diamonds at his target. It demonstrates a cardinal principle of resilient design, that you use materials at hand appropriately. It's ugly, but it works. More in TreeHugger
When we push the lever down on our toaster or turn the ignition of our car, we really have no idea of the power of what Bucky Fuller called "Energy slaves", when he calculated in 1944 that every American uses the energy equivalent of 39 people to do their bidding. According to author Andrew Nikiforuk, in his book "The Energy of Slaves: Oil and the New Servitude," we probably use ten times as much today.
When you see Olympic track cyclist Robert Förstemann trying to make toast by generating 700 watts of electricity with his legs, you realize how much power it takes to do things as basic as making toast, and how indebted we are to our energy slaves.
In the end we find that it takes 1 Robert to toast a slice of bread, 180 Roberts to power a car and 43,000 Roberts to power an airplane. It's a demonstration of how valuable our energy resources really are, and I think how extravagant our dependence on the automobile is, comparable to being towed by 180 Roberts. We usually convert our metric dimensions to American, but I think I am going to start converting our energy measurements to Roberts.
And finally, from when Kelly Rossiter cooked up almost vegetarian delights, Here are Beet Greens and Mushrooms on Toast and Braised Kale and Eggs on Toast.