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Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things (New Report) Paperback – January 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Series: New Report (Book 4)
  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Northwest Environment Watch (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1886093040
  • ISBN-13: 978-1886093041
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"...A lively and mind-boggling investigation of what goes into the 120 pounds of resources we each consume every day. You can read it and be horrified by the impact of our consumption or read it and marvel at the complexity of modern commerce, depending on your outlook." -- Susan McGrath, The Household Environmentalist, Seattle Times,, 5/11/97

"Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things is a book I always wanted to write. It is a call to explore the possibility that 'less stuff can mean more happiness.'" -- Asta Bowen, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/17/97

"Documenting a day in the life of the average North American consumer, Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things deconstructs the American Dream by unraveling the hidden costs behind the objects around us. From our morning cup of Columbian coffee to our South Korean-made sneakers, the book traces the environmental impact of the consumer decisions most of us make without thinking. Authors John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning of Seattle's Northwest Environment Watch tell us greenhouse gases produced in making one burger are equivalent to those emitted in a six-mile drive to the burger joint. Only occasionally verging on preachiness, this readable 88-page book is definitely worth the paper it's printed on." -- Mother Jones, September/October 1997

"Wow! Great Stuff!" -- Bill McKibben, author of Hope, Human and Wild

From the Publisher

Number 4 in Northwest Environment Watch's series of short, hard-hitting books on creating a sustainable society

Customer Reviews

Perhaps you should read that last sentence again.
J.W.K
If I were a high school teacher or college instructor, this book would be mandatory reading for my classes.
Aaron Contorer
This is one fun and informative book and one I am buying for young as well as older friends.
Elizabeth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Contorer VINE VOICE on March 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
I've never found another book like this one. It makes it extremely easy to understand, breathtakingly clear, how our choices to consume various products cause a chain of events which harm the environment. Do you know what was done to a river in Canada to produce the six-pack of aluminum cans you just bought? What part of the earth did your coffee come from, and what scary things were done to produce it? The authors never hector or nag, they just describe the origin of things you probably use every day, and let you contemplate them for yourself. The book is a quick and easy read, suitable for adults and teens alike. If I were a high school teacher or college instructor, this book would be mandatory reading for my classes.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By J.W.K on August 8, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me start by going backwards. In the appendix, the authors testify that this book is about the "greenest" on the market. With soy-based inks and nearly 100 percent of the paper content comprised of post- and pre-consumer waste, the book is a monument to sustainable production. Although they bemoan the "well traveled pulp" cover, no dioxins were co-produced alongside the book. To prove the book really is this cool, they painstaking tracked the web of connections involved in its production as far back as possible. After discussing every facet of the book, from guts and cover to printing, the only thing they were unable to determine was where half the cover's paper was produced. In all, this post-production analysis was stunning. The delicate web of causes and effects that entered into the books production should serve as a model to all those who would conceive the production of any product. Ideally, we should strive for this kind holistic understanding of production, consumption, and disposal before products every leave the design table.The actual content of the book is just as salient. What happens when millions of ordinary people like you and me go about our ordinary business, using lots of stuff? What ecological "wakes" do they leave behind, rippling outward across the world? This is the premise of the book, which is rather unassuming and commonsensical. The answers, however, are anything but mundane and commonsensical. The true stories of how things are made might leave you feeling overwhelmed or depressed. You might think twice about throwing that lump of sugar into your coffee -- and not only because it could add a few extra pounds and put you at greater risk of heart disease. You do so also in efforts to help restore the habitat of the Florida Everglades.Read more ›
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Alan Koslowski on September 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
In "Stuff", Ryan provides a comprehensive description of the materials and processes used to produce, use, and dispose of a variety of everyday consumer products (automobile, hamburger, coffee, newspaper, etc.). He presents precise statistics on the quantity of raw and recycled materials, energy, and pollution caused by this production and consumption of each product. "Stuff" is concise and thoroughly researched.

While it's truly astonishing to learn the massive amount of resources used in production of these goods, the usefullness of "Stuff" is somewhat questionable. Ryan focuses almost entirely on the production process itself, only offering small "bubbles" (squares actually) at the conclusion of each chapter which present moderately helpful, but meager advice for reducing environmental impact.

"Stuff" is certainly interesting and informative; understanding all the minute details associated with the production of automobiles is interesting trivia. However there are other similar books which are more useful. After this book, Ryan subsequently wrote, "Seven Wonders" (among others), in which he presents seven common products that could profoundly improve the environment if used en mass. "Seven Wonders", is the mirror image of "Stuff" because he focuses on how to improve the situation, rather than the situation itself. I would also recommend (as another reviewer did) "The Consumer's Guide to Effective Environmental Choices", by The Union of Concerned Scientists; a comprehensive guidebook that is both informative and practical. That said, while "Stuff", could be more advisory, it's still a highly informative resource.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Runkle on October 20, 1999
Format: Paperback
Buy this book and distribute it widely. It's a bible for those interested in a more just consumption in society. People must know what underlies their purchasing decisions before they can be expected to choose more rationally. Stuff provides the information to end this disconnect. It is both well-written and well-researched.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ang Ying Thye on May 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
I didn't know this book would be such a nice read...
After receiving it, I read it all in one sitting. The book chronicles a day in the life of a typical person (an American). Although it is about an American, I believe there is not much difference between any ordinary person in any developed country on earth. The impacts of this person's consumption of products, her actions are all examined from an environment viewpoint. Some people may think that the book is too amateur but that's precisely why it's such a good read. It's easy to understand but leaves a lasting impression on you. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about how our everyday actions affect the world we live in.
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Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things (New Report)
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