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Stuff: Take a Look at It!

Posted: 3:10PM November 13th, 2012 | Comments

Stuff.  I hate stuff.  Once you start noticing it, it will drive you crazy;

-     the clothes in my closet that I wear only once or twice a season but because they are still in good condition I won’t donate despite the fact that my closet is overflowing,

-     the fancy glass dish that I don’t really like and don’t use for anything but, because it was a gift from my boyfriend, I won’t get rid of,

-     and the disposable plastic cup from the co-op that was used for a juice that is now empty but because of the residue on the inside I’m unsure as to whether or not I can recycle it and that I don’t have the time to rinse out so I just put in the garbage can and feel guilty...

Uuuugh!  It’s everywhere. 

I have been noticing “stuff” since I became interested in environmental issues and was an Environmental Studies major at Knox College about 5 years ago.  I have a distinct memory from my senior year of reading an article in an environmental magazine and having an “Aha!” moment.  That moment built up over time through many “10 Ways to be Environmentally Friendly” articles as well as my college studies.  My “Aha!” moment told me, “The key to leading a sustainable life style as well as to solving many environmental problems in our world is to consume less stuff!” 

This realization formed the foundation to my attitude, beliefs, and actions concerning sustainability that I have today.  Further studies have only instilled my beliefs.  In her pointed, truthful, and educational film Annie Leonard tells The Story of Stuff in a way that I am unable to do.  So I recommend that you take 20 minutes to watch it.  (By the way, Annie was a Bioneers speaker a few years ago—she rocks!)


If you don’t have time to watch it now, I will attempt to summarize in a way that this can still be considered a blog post and not a work of non-fiction.

Since the 1950s our culture has purposely been structured around and defined by consumerism.  With the focus of keeping prices down, keeping people buying, and inventory always moving a high cost has been paid in three main ways.

First, the production of these goods ravages our natural resources at an unsustainable rate that simultaneously pollutes the air and water.  Second, high numbers of the people who live in the countries where these products are produced have been driven into urban living due to the loss of the natural resources that once provided their livelihoods.  These people then work in the factories that produce these goods and are poisoned by the numerous toxic chemicals used in the production process.  Finally, at the end of the line, are the consumers—us.  We have been paying through a steady decrease in happiness levels.  Studies have shown that as our consumerism rates have risen, our happiness levels have simultaneously decreased.  Inescapable advertisements urge us to buy the newest styles, latest I-phone upgrades and tell us that if we do, we will be happy as well as be a valuable part of our society.

Are you beginning to understand why I hate “stuff” so much?  I’m hoping that this week, you will take some time to look around yourself.  Look through your living space, your work place, and your school for the “stuff” that I am talking about.  But also take note of the things that are given away free (t-shirts, samples, magnets) and the disposable items that we take for granted (coffee cups, carry-out containers).  Finally, notice when you have that urge that says you need this thing or that thing.  What sparked that urge?  What will you do about it?  Do you really need whatever the thing is?

Next week I will post with some helpful and fun ideas to get what you need without buying new as well as some more thoughts on this topic.  Thanks for reading!

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