When 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 the book was a perfect tie-in. A whole book about stuff had huge appeal. The Story of Stuff Movie, a 20-minute animated Internet film was actually a precursor to the book.
The book follows the progression of our stuff from extraction of ingredients 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. The author 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 world-wide 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. The author is knowledgeable and very passionate about the subject of stuff. I don’t necessarily agree with the author’s viewpoint on everything but that’s okay. I would 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.
Resources: The Story of Stuff Project
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