The Story of Stuff

Question: Where does all the stuff we buy come from, and where does it go when we throw it out?

Following up on Carolynn’s great post yesterday about going paperless, I thought it’d be an opportune time to talk about Annie Leonard. I first met Annie in late 2005, when she spoke to The Overbrook Foundation’s Board of Directors during our fall retreat. During the retreat, Annie gave a presentation that examines the above question about stuff. Her presentation, which she’s done hundreds of times to standing ovations, became the video The Story of Stuff. If you haven’t already watched this 20-minute video, you must.

In this very engaging and humorous story about “all of our stuff”, Annie explores the global materials economy and its impact on economy, environment and health.

Those fans of the late George Carlin might recall his hilarious exploration of stuff (click here to watch it). But this is no laughing matter. For example, each person in the United States makes 4.5 pounds of garbage a day. That’s twice what we each made thirty years ago! In the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources bases have been consumed. And just as frightening – there are over 100,000 synthetic chemicals in commerce today.

All of this certainly gets me thinking – why are products designed to be regularly replaced – from computers to phones to clothing fashions? How is this driving consumerism year after year? And what will the impact be on the environment?

After watching the video, be sure to check out film’s website It serves as a great example of the Web 2.0 platform! It’s a great interactive site that features organizations working to change the cycle of the materials economy. It also includes resources and information, a suggested reading list, The Story of Stuff Blog and discussion topics for local screenings. Check it out!