Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Story of Stuff

"The Story of Stuff," a new short film released online this winter, takes viewers on a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture and exposes the real costs of this use-it and lose-it approach to stuff. Throughout the 20-minute film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal.

“We’re running out of resources. We are using too much stuff. Now I know this can be hard to hear, but it’s the truth and we’ve gotta deal with it. In the past three decades alone, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed. Gone.”

Leonard’s illustration of a culture driven by stuff allows her to isolate the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. “The Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism—and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.

According to the film, consumer mania may have been born from the post World War II era, but economic manipulation has driven consumerism to where it is today. From the limited life cycle of personal computers to changes in footwear fashion, Leonard demonstrates that products are either designed to be regularly replaced or to convince consumers that their stuff needs to be upgraded. This notion of planned and perceived obsolescence drives the machine of American consumerism year round.

The film features Leonard delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Written by Leonard, the film was produced by Free Range Studios, the makers of other socially-minded, web-based films such as “The Meatrix” and “Grocery Store Wars.” Funding for the project came from The Sustainability Funders and Tides Foundation.
The story of stuff—Facts & Figures

* The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but we’re consuming 30 percent of the world’s resources and creating 30 percent of the world’s waste.
* Eighty percent of the planet’s original forests are gone. In the Amazon alone, we’re losing 2,000 trees a minute.
* There are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today.
* Thirty percent of the kids in parts of the Congo now have had to drop out of school to mine coltan, a metal we need for our cheap and disposable electronics.
* Each of us in the U.S. makes 4.5 pounds of garbage a day. That is twice what we each made 30 years ago.

The film’s website,, serves as an interactive launch pad for information and activism. The site features hundreds of organizations working to change the cycle of the materials economy and offers viewers “another way.” The site includes resources and information, a footnoted script, a suggested reading list and ideas for educational activities and discussion topics for local screenings of the film.

Click Here for The Story of Stuff.

(Reprinted from's Web site.)