The Story of Stuff – What it means to be a consumer


This may not be something you want to hear right now in the midst of your Christmas shopping and spreading of holiday cheer, but it’s a well-worth story everyone should hear about. This 20-minute video reveals the downward spiral of over-consumption and rampant consumerism that many of us don’t want to know about (kind of like not wanting to know how that juicy steak got on your plate). From extraction, production, distribution, consumption, to disposal, Annie Leonard tracks how our stuff gets made to where it eventually ends up buried in landfills – where 99% of all products manufactured end after only six months of use.

It’s a very harsh look at how we buy, use and discard, usually without much thought to the impact of our actions. Many will agree and some may question her facts. Either way, it’s a compelling story and something we all need to think about and perhaps take steps to stop perpetuating this “linear system in a finite planet”.

So, how does Ponoko fit into this system of pushing goods through as quickly as possible to end up in a landfill? Well, sure we do make “stuff”, but how our stuff is produced and distributed is quite different than those that are mass produced. The chapter on “Production” is a dismal look at reality – that cool toy you bought for your kid most likely contributed to toxic pollution and was made by third world low-paid workers in dire conditions. The chapter on “Distribution” is just as dismal – because she points out all the externalized costs that the final happy customer never sees. To get something so cheap from a super mart, you’ve got to wonder how it’s possible that it comes so cheaply.

These sorts of environmental costs have always been one of the issues Dave and Derek (our co-founders) have been concerned with and an underlying motivator for coming up with the concept of Ponoko. Things like just-in-time manufacturing and distributed creativity (dispersing design and localizing manufacturing) are points of intervention they’ve taken as an alternative to what’s happening now in the materials economy.

See for yourself and watch the Story of Stuff. After you’ve watched the intro, you can click on the chapters underneath to continue watching.

To get the full scoop, go to Get on there, get informed, and decide for yourself what you’ll do the next time to go to the mall.

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