Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff
For all those parents at home with kids on holiday here is a great video that they can watch about how our products are made and the process of distribution and disposal as well as the impact on the environment the product has from start to finish. Although from an Amercian view point it is still an eye-opener and makes you stop and think about where every single item you buy comes from, where it goes and how we can be less wasteful and more resource efficient.
Annie Leonard spent 10 years travelling the world asking the questions about where does our stuff come from and this culminated in the wonderfully animated video called The Story of Stuff which you can watch here. It is funny, compelling and makes you want to start changing your ways for a better environment.
When you buy an item whether its food, electronics, clothing or books in its finished state a multitude of processes and people handling has occured (and it has normally travelled around the globe to get to you). When you are thinking of purchasing a product here are some questions to ask first: Where was it made? How was it made? What environmental impacts does the production have on the country it was made in? What were the working conditions like? Were there multiple ingredients from multiple suppliers each with their own environmental impact? How was it packaged to get the shop? What happened to that packaging (did the store recycle it or did it go to landfill)? What is the packaging around the item? How far has it come? Where does all the packaging go once you have unwrapped it? How long will it last before you need to get another one? What happens to the product once you have finished with it? Can it be recycled? If not, why not? What happens to it when it sits in landfill? How long does it take to break down – if at all? What are the environmental effects of your local landfill?….
All these questions (and there are probably more) highlight the complex nature of purchasing a product. And it can become quite overwhelming – it happens to the best of us. Many a time I have stood in the supermarket aisle questioning and comparing products to end up not buying it all or I do buy it and feel guilty because I won’t be able to recycle it or it has a large ecological footprint (you still have to eat).
Here are some ways to get started:
1. Start with one product. Find a good source with reputable social and environmental creditentials who is local and uses recyclable or little packaging and stick with them. Then move on to the next product.
2.Or grow/make/mend your own – much more satisfying than trawling the mall. Scout around the house first for a supplementary item or buy second hand before buying new again.
3. Look for ways to reduce your waste at work or school too.
4. Have a clean out of all your stuff and reduce to what you love, what you use and what you need. Give the rest away or sell on Trademe.
5. Move from valuing stuff to valuing people, your community, your friends and family, your health and the health of the environment. When you are 80 you will remember experiences more than your toaster.
6. Purchase local, organic, sustainable made food and goods.
7. Consume less. Try spending one day a week not buying anything.
By reducing your consumption (and becoming a smarter consumer) you can reduce your waste, reduce your impact on the environment and help to reduce the impact the production of the product has in other countries. Be conscious of what happens to the product to get to the shelves and where it goes when you are finished with it. Start asking questions of your stores and manufacturers. Become informed, question your needs and slowly change your habits for the better. See yesterday’s post for some other great resources.
Let us know what you think of Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff.