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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
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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]

Annie Leonard
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 9, 2010
A classic exposé in company with An Inconvenient Truth and Silent Spring, The Story of Stuff expands on the celebrated documentary exploring the threat of overconsumption on the environment, economy, and our health. Leonard examines the “stuff” we use everyday, offering a galvanizing critique and steps for a changed planet.

The Story of Stuff was received with widespread enthusiasm in hardcover, by everyone from Stephen Colbert to Tavis Smiley to George Stephanopolous on Good Morning America, as well as far-reaching print and blog coverage. Uncovering and communicating a critically important idea—that there is an intentional system behind our patterns of consumption and disposal—Annie Leonard transforms how we think about our lives and our relationship to the planet.

From sneaking into factories and dumps around the world to visiting textile workers in Haiti and children mining coltan for cell phones in the Congo, Leonard, named one of Time magazine’s 100 environmental heroes of 2009, highlights each step of the materials economy and its actual effect on the earth and the people who live near sites like these.

With curiosity, compassion, and humor, Leonard shares concrete steps for taking action at the individual and political level that will bring about sustainability, community health, and economic justice. Embraced by teachers, parents, churches, community centers, activists, and everyday readers, The Story of Stuff will be a long-lived classic.

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

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143912566X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439125663
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,570 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews
61 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are what we buy 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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39 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You need to know this story! March 17, 2010
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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32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Patient: Know thy self 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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Annie Leonard has spent her career chasing dangerous waste handling and it shows in this book. With a no-nonsense, straightforward prose she covers the impact of Stuff through all steps from extraction of resources to disposal. As a European reader, I find the perspective rather US-oriented but that is okay, considering we basically participate in the same cycle of Stuff as Americans do.
For an environmentally aware person, most of what Ms Leonard writes is no news. However the best about her book is not the factual contents but her writing style. She totally stays away from the tiresome drama and speculative horror narrative, which you find in so many environmental books. Hence the book is very well suited for anyone who is concerned about the impact that all our Stuff is having on Planet Earth and what to do about it. Ms Leonard is very practical and solution oriented, and provides plenty of links to find out more details. So I figure this book would be very well suited for classroom/college use, study/discussion/community action groups or, as mentioned, most anyone concerned.
By the way ask your local library to get a copy ;-)
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars He reports that he finds it interesting to read and has great...
Required reading for a youth summit my grandson is attending. He reports that he finds it interesting to read and has great information.
Published 1 month ago by Debbie
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but not that captivating
Interesting book, with cool facts and very VERY informative. However, after you read some chapters it gets a little repetitive. It becomes impossible to avoid everything. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Yukio
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great shape
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for those concerned about the environmental quality of...
Only a few years old, but quite the classic. If you want to know why our environment is going downhill and why our children and grandchildren will not enjoy the clean air,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Vic
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Awesome story about how much we are destroying the environment!
Published 4 months ago by Chennao
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Exactly what I expected, Thank You.
Published 5 months ago by Nicole
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be Required Reading.
I had to read this for a class. Surprisingly, as someone who isn't an environmentalist, this actually impacted me. Read more
Published 6 months ago by tAsTytEmPAi
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interested book, it's very eye opening
Published 7 months ago by dewiley alla
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
I already read it and gave it to a friend to read. Very simple to understand.
Published 8 months ago by KT
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably one of the best books I have ever read
Probably one of the best books I have ever read. Startling and cringe worthy, it's a book I think should be a standard read in every high school or college class. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Laurie Bennett
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