The Story of Stuff Not a Pretty Tale

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Annie Leonard is on a mission to let everyone know that, sometimes, less really IS more. In the short film on her site, Leonard asks the question: Why is it that the United States has 5% of the world’s total population, but we use 30% of the world’s resources? Not only are we consuming a massive amount of the world’s resources, the products made from these supplies can be full of toxic chemicals. Our system of making stuff is not only harming the environment by extraction of reserves, but we are also putting ourselves in danger by being unconscious consumers of dangerous chemicals.

Leonard, author of the book The Story of Stuff, has spent nearly 20 years investigating environmental health and justice issues, witnessing first hand the impacts of both over- and under-consumption around the world. She is dedicated to changing the industrial and economic systems to attain ecological sustainability and social equity.

To continue the discussion of stuff, Leonard has created a website for the Story of Stuff Project. On the site you can find the short video of The Story of Stuff, as well as The Story of Cosmetics, The Story of Bottles Water, and The Story of Cap & Trade. Also on the website are more resources to learn about what is in our stuff and how we make it. Here are 10 things you can to do help reach Leonard’s goal of sustainability and equity.

10 Little and Big Things You Can Do

Power down! Look for opportunities to reduce energy use: drive less, turn off lights, buy local seasonal food, wear a sweater instead of turning up the heat, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, vacation closer to home, buy used or borrow things before buying new, recycle.

Waste less. 
Use both sides of the paper, carry your own mugs and shopping bags, get printer cartridges refilled instead of replaced, compost food scraps, avoid bottled water and other over packaged products, upgrade computers rather than buying new ones, repair and mend rather than replace.

Talk to about the issues. Talking about these issues raises awareness, builds community and can inspire others to action.

Make your voice heard. Write letters to the editor and submit articles to local press. Letters to the editor are a great way to help newspaper readers make connections they might not make without your help. Also local papers are often willing to print book and film reviews, interviews and articles by community members.

DeTox your body, DeTox your home, and DeTox the economy.
Research online before you buy to be sure you’re not inadvertently introducing toxics into your home and body. Then tell your friends about toxics in consumer products. Together, ask the businesses why they’re using toxic chemicals without any warning labels. And ask your elected officials why they are permitting this practice. Getting the toxics out of production at the source is the best way to ensure they don’t get into any home and body.

Unplug (the TV and internet) and Plug In (the community). 
On-line activism is a good start, but spending time in face-to-face civic or community activities strengthens the community and many studies show that a stronger community is a source of social and logistical support, greater security and happiness. A strong community is also critical to having a strong, active democracy.

Park your car and walk…and when necessary MARCH!
Driving less and walking more is good for the climate, the planet, your health, and your wallet. But sometimes we don’t have an option to leave the car home because of inadequate bike lanes or public transportation options. Then, we may need to march, to join with others to demand sustainable transportation options.

Change your lightbulbs. Energy efficient lightbulbs use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer than conventional ones.
Recycle your trash. 
Recycling saves energy and reduces both waste and the pressure to harvest and mine new stuff.

Buy Green, Buy Fair, Buy Local, Buy Used, and most importantly, Buy Less. Look beyond vague claims on packages like “all natural” to find hard facts. Is it organic? When you can, buy local products from local stores, which keeps more of our hard earned money in the community. Buying used items keeps them out of the trash and avoids the upstream waste created during extraction and production. But, buying less may be the best option of all. Less pollution. Less Waste. Less time working to pay for the stuff.

For more information, visit The Story of Stuff or watch the video

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