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The Story of Stuff

June 16, 2010

So most of you know I’m more or less anti-STUFF. It’s not that I don’t have stuff. I do. And like Annie Leonard, I like most of my stuff.

It’s just that I don’t feel compelled to buy stuff just because it’s new or someone else has it or I think it’s going to make me happy in some way. I buy things when I/we need them and/or if there is a fairly compelling reason for getting something new (like my new DVD player that streams movies from Netflix, thereby reducing my expenditure on DVDs and the amount of waste going into the landfills from said DVDs).

Anyway, I recently read an article about Annie in Elle magazine’s Green Issue and I was so impressed with the work she’s doing. Below is the movie she wrote and produced. The little cartoon characters are simplistic and cute, but they do the job of telling the story of all the stuff we buy and what happens to it when we’re finished with it.

The most astounding statistic (for me) in the film was that only 1% of all the stuff we buy is still in use after six months. 1%!!! How ridiculous is that?


And as with all my rants, I’m going to tell my teens not to turn away! Because this is for you, too! SO MUCH for you. Never has a generation been so “sold”. You guys are constantly told your clothes are out of fashion, your cell phone’s ancient, your iPod doesn’t hold enough songs. You get the message through social networking sites, TV, Youtube, music videos, movies, magazines. It’s not always overt. It’s not always saying, “Hey, you! Those shoes are so last year!” But you get the message when you see celebrities wearing the latest fashion or the Abercrombie (don’t get me started!) catalog depicts some hot model wearing a new kind of jean.

The message is this; you, too, will be beautiful and popular if you wear these clothes.


What happened to being beautiful and popular for WHO WE ARE? For what we can contribute to the world?

Still, for every celebrity who furthers this belief, there are those who are working to live lightly on the planet. Like Natalie Portman. And Leonardo DiCaprio who wrote and produced The Eleventh Hour and reduces his carbon footprint by having a certain number of trees planted each year based on how much he’s traveled and a host of other things that play into our imprint on the planet.

We can CHOOSE to say NO to the pressure to consume. It’s an educated choice, too, since it’s only a matter of time before we run out of room for our waste on this planet (it’s already happening). And you know what’s funny? It’s FREEING. It really is. When you stop worrying about what other people think about your clothes or your car or your house, you get to focus on the things that really matter.

That, my loves, is a blessing.

Anyway, Annie really walks the walk. While she does use an MP3 player to listen to music and a Blackberry to conduct her business, her home is free of dangerous chemicals and she drives an electric car to all but those locations her car won’t reach (for those, she has a “regular” car, but she only uses it when her electric won’t make the trip).

I hope you’ll take the time to watch and share this little film. It sheds light on how our stuff is sourced, made, distributed, and ultimately, trashed. And while we could all hide our head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t matter, deep down, I think we all know that it DOES.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2010 4:53 pm

    thank you for posting this video. it’s very eye opening.

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      June 19, 2010 4:55 pm

      You’re welcome! I was completely astounded by that 1% in six months statistic. I think as a culture we need to step back and re-evaluate our priorities…


  2. Sophie permalink
    June 17, 2010 2:13 pm

    I love this!!! Thank you so much for posting it!!!

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      June 17, 2010 7:45 pm

      Glad you got something out of it, Sophie!


  3. Ayla permalink
    June 17, 2010 10:18 am

    Omigosh! My mom made me watch that youtube video like a year ago! Two things I LOVE- Saving Money and Saving the Enviroment. I don’t have a lot of stuff (my mom is a flylady freak… ). I share a small room with my little sister (nine years old) and my little brother (five years old). I have seven books, a pencil box, and my glasses cleaner. That doesn’t include office supplies and clothes, but who includes those in there list of stuff? If I had to move, I would only have one suitcase!

    Another thing, I don’t buy myself a lot of stuff. My friends’ and family’s birthdays are spread out among the months, making it hard to buy anything for myself!

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      June 17, 2010 7:43 pm

      You are an inspiration, hon! I should have you guest blog for me here…


  4. June 17, 2010 4:34 am

    I think watching this just saved me a lot of money over my lifetime! It is sooooo true! Thanks for sharing it.

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      June 17, 2010 7:44 pm

      Thanks for watching, Jamie!


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