A Look at Our Materials Economy: One Stuffy System

Reader Contribution by Katherine Loeck

During a conversation about all the cool, exciting things going on in our country right now, a friend told me about this amazing video. It makes me want to cry, yell and dance all within 20 minutes. In The Story of Stuff, Annie Leonard provides a simple, well-researched explanation of why our materials economy is problematic: a linear system of producing and consuming stuff on a finite planet wastes resources and communities. What began as a post-World War II strategy of boosting the economy has haphazardly evolved into a destructive monster. For example, so many chemicals go in and out of our stuff that even human breast milk contains toxic contaminants. Because identity and value are now determined by how we contribute to the process of consumption, people are stuck either running on the exploitive work-watch-spend treadmill or powering it.

Yes, it’s depressing. But the fascinating part is that there is another way! Because this is a man-made system, we have the power to change it with a new school of thinking based on sustainability.

The production of the computer you’re using right now affected somebody somewhere. For a new view of your stuff, please watch The Story of Stuff.

If you can’t spare 20 minutes, you can get started with these convenient clips divided by chapter.

Chapter One: Introduction

Chapter Two: Extraction

Chapter Three: Production

Chapter Four: Distribution

Chapter Five: Consumption

Chapter Six: Disposal

Chapter Seven: Another Way