The Story of Stuff

I’m kind of overwhelmed by green lately. The movement. I was better at recycling and volunteering and changing the world before there were signs and ads and celebrities telling me to do it. Like veganism, being green can turn into a whole neurotic set of shoulds and guilt. Like conspicuous consumption, being green can become an ego trip of competitive materialism. Which is horrible; being environmentally friendly is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your community, and the earth. But pop culture is in-your-face and annoying, so we can’t expect green culture to avoid those tactics and side effects entirely.

Anyways. Therefore. I really appreciated The Story of Stuff, a video by Annie Leonard that uses cute and simple illustrations to give a big-picture perspective on consumerism. It deconstructs our objects of desire, whether fashionable, technological, or lifestyle, instead of hammering us with another list of do’s and don’ts. The New York Times says it’s a hit in schools, supplementing science textbooks and seeding discussions on environmentalism. In just twenty minutes, the video shares a lot of information, but also a lot of heart. Our economic production cycle is broken into a five-stage diagram that’s filled out with people, skull-and-crossbones, fat cats, and trash. Common tenets about recycling and value are debunked, but Leonard doesn’t strand us in apathy. She suggests actions, and alternatives, to reshape the machine.

(And we could of course segue into a long discussion on the principle of santosha, or contentment…)

So feed your brain with the video above, or pop over to the site to see it in higher quality. It’s the next Inconvenient Truth.