How do you continue to learn outside of the classroom? We’ve been getting back in the groove of watching documentaries to expand our understanding of the world. A lot of friends suggested The Story of Stuff (2007), a short 20-minute documentary created by Annie Leonard. To summarize, the documentary is about our consumerist society and the life cycle of our “stuff” –– something we think is relevant for this time of year.
Leonard says, “In the past three decades alone, 1/3 of the earth’s natural resource space have been consumed. Gone. We are cutting, mining, hauling, and trashing the place so fast that we are undermining the planet’s very ability for people to live here.”
In this documentary, Leonard talks about our (1) depleting resources and the environment (2) employees who work in toxic environments (3) how we’ve become a nation of consumers (4) and how advertisements, media, society, and the government play a role in consumerism. Although it was released more than a decade ago, the documentary is still very much relatable today.
There is a segment of the documentary where Leonard talks about “planned obsolescence” compared to “perceived obsolescence.” Planned obsolescence are materials that are designed for the dumps –– we use things fast, throw them away, and buy them again. She lists plastic bags, coffee cups, and even computers as examples. Perceived obsolescence are materials that convince us to throw away stuff that are perfectly useful by renewing the look (not features) of the product. Think about your phone or computer. Every few years, a brand will release a “sleek, innovative, and new design” to draw in consumers and make them think their current one is outdated, even though it works perfectly fine. And honestly, how much have the features changed? It’s not just technology, fashion also plays a large part in perceived obsolescence too. It’s very much like the way we shop today.
The point of this post is not to make one feel guilty about shopping and buying “stuff.” We’re a part of the consumerist society too. We buy computers, phones, and clothing. We like new things. Sometimes we’ll buy something because it makes us happy and not always because we need it. But we hope this documentary will allow you to be more mindful of things you buy, where you buy them, and why you buy them. Maybe even help us make positive choices too.
Have you seen The Story Of Stuff? If so, has it affected your buying habits? What are your thoughts?
Jennifer and Vivian