Monday, January 19, 2009

The story of stuff

I was asked today what exactly was "green" about not buying anything new. And I know the reasons deep down, but I struggled to put them into words. Or at least to put the full impact into words. So I realized I needed to refresh myself on this, and I'd like to share it. "The Story of Stuff" is a wonderful explanation of where stuff comes from, what happens to it and ultimately the toll it all takes. I'll warn you that its 20 minutes long and there are some comments about the government that won't be everyone's cup of tea, but if you watch it I can guarantee you'll never look at "stuff" the same way again. Check it out at

I can summarize a couple of facts that impacted me the most. One fact was that the average person consumes twice what a person did 50 years ago. Most alarming is that of all the things bought, only ONE PERCENT is still in use 6 months later. Meaning 99% of stuff we buy ends up in the trash. Can we make it worse than that?? For every 1 can of trash we put by the curb, the equivelant of 70 cans of trash was discarded in making it. WOW.
Another interesting point, which mirrors my own observations these past couple of weeks, is that national happiness is declining. People work more hours and have less leisure time than 50 years ago. And according to studies, the top two things people do with their leisure time is watch TV and shop. We all know what happens when we shop--but what about when we watch TV? The average person sees more ads in one day than a person 50 years ago saw in a lifetime. And what are the ads designed to do?? Make you want to buy stuff. How do you pay for it?? Work more. And what do you do when you are exhausted from working so hard? Watch TV and shop. LOL.
I really didn't think I was in this trap because our family was frugal and we were good bargain hunters. I felt like we stayed ahead of the game, planning well and watching the deals so that we had lots of stuff for very little money. I never realized that we were in the trap. We didn't buy any less or discard any less or spend any less time on it than anyone else. I was just as stressed as anyone else. I'd never have believed it until our family made the pledge not to buy anything new, and I still can't believe the sense of relief and peace it has brought to our household. I may not be able to explain it well, but today I can understand a little better why that is.


Katie S said...

So I watched the Story of Stuff - fantastic recommendation! I had no idea how much stuff we waste, why we do it, and the impact it has on our world. You're extremely inspiring, good luck this year! :)

Jenyfer Matthews said...

It never occurred to me to question whether not buying retail was "green" or not. Everyone has to start somewhere and it seems to me you are off to a wonderful start.

2simplify said...

Thank you both! :)

Anonymous said...

I've watched the Story of Stuff everytime I need to remind myself of why I dont have to spend money on new items. Its a great reminder that we have everything (and then some) to make our lives comfortable. We definitly dont need more! Good luck on your challenge; it sounds like you're getting the hang of it!