Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Story of Stuff

I really encourage you to watch this online animation called The Story of Stuff. It's about the lifecycle of the things we buy and the inherent problem with the processes involved: that natural resources will run out, that people are exploited along the way, and that it's actually worsening our quality of life. It's really easy to watch.

Some of the things learned:
  • Only 1% of the things we buy are still in use in 6 months. 99% is trashed within 6 months.
  • In just the past 30 years, one third of the world's natural resources were used up.
  • There are 100,000 different chemicals used in commercial products, and only a handful of them have been tested for health effects.
  • For every 1 garbage can that we put out on the curb, 70 cans worth of garbage were produced in making the amount we used up.
Quips appreciated:
  • The little guy representing the government shining the shoes of the fat corporation guy.
  • "We'll start with extraction, which is a fancy word for 'natural resource exploitation', which is a fancy word for 'trashing the planet'."
  • "We take our pillows, we douse them in a neuro-toxin [a flame retardant chemical], then we bring them home and put our heads on them for 8 hours a night to sleep? I don't know, but it seems to me in this country with so much potential, we could think of a better way to keep our heads from catching on fire at night."
To be honest though, watching this made me angry. I know I'm a part of the consumer cycle so I'm partly angry at myself. But mostly I'm angry at those capitalists who make a dedicated effort to increase consumption and disposal at the expense of the planet and people. I'm angry at computer companies for purposely changing the pieces of new computers so they don't fit into old ones, in order for us to throw the whole thing away and buy a new one. I'm angry at the guy quoted in the video, who after WW2 stated that high levels of consumption and disposal is in our best interests to better the economy. I'm angry that companies purposely design things to break.

I suppose that the high stats per person of waste and consumption means that if we buy less and try not to support the 'buy disposable' system, then we're doing a lot of good. If one can of the garbage we put out each week actually represents 71 cans, then by cutting that down to a quarter of a can, we'd save about 50 cans per week. That's a lot.

It's easy to conform to the idea that new is better, given it's blasted into our heads with advertising everywhere we turn and it seems to be what others are doing. It's great that there are videos like this to renew my dedication to a sustainable lifestyle.


Stepstotheleft said...

We were shown this in a sustainability tutorial at uni last year. It was very confronting and really made you see how widespread and difficult to fix the problem is. But at the same time that if we don't start doing something about it, we'll be stuffed soon.

Anonymous said...

I love this story. I love the way it illustrates how someone else (usually someone who can least afford it) and the environment pays for all our stuff. Why should someone else pay for my stuff! It reinforced that i am doing the right thing when I pay a little extra for sustainable and fair trade. Like most people at the moment, paying more for things is harder to do - but we just need to buy less. Cheers, Tricia

Penny said...

But, good for you for trying very hard to be sustainable in your business! And for writing about it to be inspiring for other people! I actually just visited Neco after I read about it on your blog and got me some post-consumer recycled envelope goodness, hooray!

Heidi and Seek said...

Steps - It bugs me that people think some magical solution will appear that will fix the problem without them having to worry about it.

Tricia - I definitely agree. It's really important for us to buy less and choose ethically - it's not more expensive if we don't buy so much stuff!

Penny - Awesome, it's always lovely to hear that I've inspired someone! Even something as simple as changing the envelopes you use for the rest of your life can make a big difference.