The Story of Stuff — Book Review

The Story of Stuff Book CoverWhen I spotted The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard in the “green” section of a local bookstore, I thought, “How cool, a book about stuff, I have to get it.”

Several months ago, during our spring cleaning (in the fall), our family had divested itself of a lot of excess stuff. I was now on my own “less is more” personal stuff reduction quest so a whole book about stuff had huge appeal.

Book Review

The book follows the progression of our stuff from the extraction of materials to disposal.

  • Extraction – harvesting, and extraction of natural resources (ingredients) like trees, water, minerals, and petroleum
  • Production – taking the ingredients from the extraction phase and adding energy and other ingredients to make stuff
  • Distribution – transportation of ingredients and completed stuff
  • Consumption – shopping, planned obsolescence, advertising, consumerism
  • Disposal – waste from extraction and production to what happens to stuff after we are done with it

The book is written in “real people” language with humor sprinkled in. There are facts and figures but you don’t need a science degree to understand them. Mixed in are stories and commentary. Leonard offers views into what’s wrong but also provides good examples and hopeful suggestions for the future.

The story of a simple t-shirt is not that simple and is an eye-opener about how our desire to have inexpensive t-shirts can have a worldwide impact.

A computer is an essential item for most people. But how many people know what really goes into making one, including a lot of toxic materials? Now I do.

I know the book itself is stuff and went through the same processes that are described in the book. Fortunately, it was produced in a way to minimize the carbon footprint. I like to share the information I learned with others, so at least my copy will get a lot of use and not end up in a landfill.

The Bottom Line

The Story of Stuff is an informative book and delivers information in an easy to understand manner. Annie Leonard is knowledgeable and very passionate about the subject of stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with Leonard’s viewpoint on everything but that’s okay.

I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about how our stuff is made and what they can do to reduce the environmental impact of stuff. I bought it on impulse and I would do so again.

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

2 thoughts on “The Story of Stuff — Book Review”

  1. Well… at least this media doesn’t produce an “incremental increase” of “Stuff” above and beyond the original infrastructure required along the way.

    Wonder if there is another story that may have not been fully addressed in the book? The utility, value, functionality of some stuff Vs. other stuff… creating useful objects, tools and devices is not inherently evil. A lot of things are totally worth the price to create/own/use/dispose of them. It is important to really consider and maximize that value proposition for things we buy, design and manufacture, and there is much room for improvement in so many things out there that people buy.

    So it seems a worthy mission for this book to point out the true impact of producing anything. To motivate one to question and balance the value, usefulness Vs. cost of any given purchase. However…

    Polly Anna that I am… I’d love to hear about the top 10 most useful and “worth it” products, and the design consideration and other elements that go into making them such. LOL
    ~_^

  2. I plan to spend the next week focusing on getting rid of my stuff. Every summer when I am not working I try to go through my house and dispose of all unnecessary and stuff my daughter and I don’t like or don’t use anymore. Last summer was a major overall and it felt great. I’m a bit behind this summer but with my 12 year old away for a week I hope to make up for lost time.

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