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The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change Hardcover – March 9, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143912566X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439125663
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (112 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,558 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Leonard examines conspicuous consumption and its human and environmental costs in an expansion of her short documentary of the same name. The analysis is accessible, and Leonard is skilled at breaking down large and abstruse concepts for the listeners. She's less winning as a reader, however: her bubbly voice and predilection for overemphasis are grating—and occasionally, her explanations and prescriptions veer into condescension. These failings aside, here is a wealth of very important information. As a bonus, the MP3 CD includes the original video, but omits the charts and graphics in the book. A Free Press hardcover (Reviews, Jan. 25). (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Why is there so much garbage, and where does it go? A Time magazine Hero of the Environment, Leonard has traveled the world tracking trash and its wake of destruction. Her investigations convinced her that the impossible dream of perpetual economic growth and the rampant consumer culture it engenders are the root causes of today’s environmental crises. A rigorous thinker in command of a phenomenal amount of information, Leonard believes that we must calculate the full ecological and social cost of our “stuff.” So she takes us through the extraction of natural resources and the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of various products, documenting ecohazards and the exploitation of workers along the way. Drawing on her extensive research, gutsy fieldwork, and efforts to live “green,” Leonard condemns the endless barrage of advertisements, the plague of toxic synthetic chemicals, and such covertly deleterious inventions as the aluminum can. Not one to tout simple approaches to complex predicaments, Leonard instead offers hard facts, diligent analysis, and an ambitious vision in this comprehensive critique, calling for strict environmental laws, an end to overconsumption, zero waste, and a new social paradigm based on quality of life, not quantity of stuff. --Donna Seaman

More About the Author

Annie Leonard an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues, with more than 20 years of experience investigating factories and dumps around the world. She's taking time off from her other work to write the book, but until recently she was coordinator of the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, communicating worldwide about the impact of consumerism and materialism on global economies and international health. Annie's efforts over the past two decades to raise awareness about international sustainability and environmental health issues has included work with Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance (GAIA), Health Care without Harm, Essential Information and Greenpeace International. She serves on the boards of GAIA, the International Forum for Globalization and the Environmental Health Fund.

Annie has written about international environmental issues for a range of public interest audiences and will step this up and broaden her reach with op eds and features around publication time. She's appeared on radio and TV in the U.S. and other countries many times over the past 20 years. She had extensive media training and exposure during her tenure at Greenpeace. She's testified in front of Congress, been interviewed on CNN, publicly debated a US State Department representative, and done hundreds of public presentations. In 2008, Annie was named one of Time magazine's Heroes of the Environment.

Annie did her undergraduate studies at Barnard and graduate work in city and regional planning at Cornell. She has traveled to 40 countries, including Haiti, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Pakistan and South Africa, in her work investigating and promoting anti-pollution issues internationally. Annie currently resides in California with her daughter.

Customer Reviews

Although environmental impact is a major focus of the book, she also examines social and economic effects.
J. Finkel
Annie Leonard's book tells us so much about our world and about, as it says on the cover, the environmental and social impacts of "our obsession with stuff."
C. Lerza
Honestly, I think that this is an essential book -- buy it and read it, then make the changes that you'll know you should.
Robert J. Monn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 63 people found the following review helpful By C. Lerza on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Annie Leonard's book tells us so much about our world and about, as it says on the cover, the environmental and social impacts of "our obsession with stuff." But it also tells us about who we are and what we think is important. Not preachy or judgmental, Annie creates a new way to think about the choices we make in our own lives and how they connect to everyone and everything. It's really a book about community and how to create one, and how to make choices --both personal and political --that can lead to a healthier, safer and more sustainable world for all of us. Loved the mix of personal stories and analysis and the detailed footnotes and citations. You can read the whole book, or just dip into individual chapters. It's well written and tells a great story. A great read that will make you see the world differently -- and open up many opportunities to make change. My only criticism is that the pages are very dense --would have loved more graphics and white space -- and I don't like the feel of the paper (100% post consumer recycled of course) but I know the author wanted to walk her talk by insisting on the highest possible green standards for publishing. This book picks up where the video leaves off with lots of discussion of solutions and what we can each do to create a more sustainable life for ourselves and the planet. One more thing: this book is not anti-stuff or anti-profit. The message is that life is about more than stuff or profits --that we should honor and appreciate everything we have (Who made those shoes? Where? How did they end up in my closet? Who raised the beef in my hamburger and how? How did it end up on my grill?). And of course businesses need to make money, as do we all. It's just not the only thing that life is about.
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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Monn on March 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Annie Leonard and Ariane Conrad bring essential details to light about our stuff!

In this important book I finally caught on to the concept of "real cost." While it is nuts how much stuff people buy that they can't afford the really crazy thing is that we pay nowhere near the real cost of almost anything that we buy. We don't pay to treat the poisoned children in the developing world that have no clean water because of the techniques used in materials extraction, we don't pay for a living wage for the oppressed peoples that manufacture our goods and we certainly don't pay for our goods to be "disposed of" in any kind of a way that would keep more pain and suffering and damage being done.

This isn't a political screed (and don't believe anyone that tells you that it is) -- this is the story of how our very real stuff interacts with millions of people and the environments of nations all over the world. Point being that it is not a story about governments or ideologies. It is about people and materials and how we can make things better.

The book is very well written and has the 'flow' that Annie has when she speaks on her film (which is very good -- google it if you haven't seen it yet) and goes into all the details. It also has a lot of really good stories from Annie's travels all over the world gathering the information that she has put in this book.

Honestly, I think that this is an essential book -- buy it and read it, then make the changes that you'll know you should.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Eco-manblue on March 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I heard Al Gore on the evening news once describe the climate change trend as the "Earth has a fever." In her book, The Story of Stuff, I found that Annie Leonard explains -- with sobering, and yet hopeful clarity -- why our planet is overheating from, in part, massive over-consumption by a relatively small part of Earth's human population. Without diminishing the appropriate emphasis on "how are we going to get out of this mess and not just survive, but thrive," the author illuminates the materials cycle, from extraction all the way to the dump. Clive Cussler or Robert Ludlum, it's not, but it kept me interested enough with anecdotes and a sense of humor rarely present in most tomes about how we're screwing ourselves and the 3rd Rock. I was happily surprised, and even energized, by her inclusion of a basic roadmap of sorts for reversing the over-consumption cycle -- one of our species most damaging trends. Here in the U.S., we are at the vanguard of a trajectory that threatens to make us consumers of the world, instead of citizens of the world. WIth more and more power and rights being ascribed to irresponsibly bottom-line-only-focused corporations (witness the recent Supreme Court Citizens United decision), I found the Story of Stuff entirely refreshing with its practically presented idea that I can take charge of my behavior, and increase the quality of my life by shifting how I consume. This is a handbook for crafting a better way of living with ourselves, families, and the Earth. The Story of Stuff would make a great curriculum for K-College students. Beyond the classroom, I hope everyone gets this book and then we can begin to make this important transition together!
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By booksy on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm not sure who Annie Leonard thinks her audience is for this book, but if it was someone like me, she's missed her mark. It is a well-written, meticulously-researched dissection of the environmental impact that our "stuff" has on the world and its people. She follows the entire lifecycle of consumer products in order, from extraction of the raw materials used to make the stuff, through distribution, consumption and ending with disposal. Through each chapter she relentlessly points out the harm that America's consumer culture is doing to the environment, and offers things that we can do to try to minimize our impact.

All of this is very well-documented and I don't doubt any of it. Terrible atrocities have been committed to the land and to workers around the world, I agree. Something needs to be done, it's true. But I don't want to be the one to do it. And this is where I think Leonard stumbles. If she's writing this book for fellow environmentalists, people who are motivated and interested in getting together to fight this fight, then she's done a superb job. But if she's writing for the average, selfish, apathetic American who has grown up with the capitalist system entrenched in his/her bones, then she hasn't won.

I'm sorry to say that I am one of those selfish Americans. I try to care about the environment, but when I read over 250 pages of how I'm helping to destroy the world, I react by feeling guilty, then getting resentful and even more apathetic. Leonard gives lots of examples of what we can do to help, mostly by going to a website or looking up an organization, but if she really believes that everyone who reads her book is going to do that, I think she's wrong. Even if only a few people follow her lead, I don't think it's enough.
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