Story of Stuff

Review by Stephanie Piperno


The short video, Story of Stuff (2009), narrated by Annie Leonard (Executive Director of Greenpeace) offers viewers a simplified view of how consumerism is creating irreversible environmental damage and calls for widespread behavior change.

Leonard highlights how our current system, capitalism, does not take into account Earth’s finite resources and does not value products and services at their true cost. The Story of Stuff explains that our current system, which is fueled by consumerism, needs to consider environmental and social costs, rather than just economic costs.

The cartoon sketches used in the film are a fitting tool to demonstrate the underlying theme that everything is connected. The upbeat video is engaging and informative without being too negative. Of course, Leonard is broadcasting a message that people do not want to hear, but she does so in a way that does not guilt people or paralyze people from acting.

Leonard explains that it is possible to turn the linear system into a circular model that is based on sustainability, equity, and closed-loop production. Critiques, however, argue that the video’s main shortcoming is that it does not offer suggestions on how to move toward a non-linear system. To address this concern, Leonard created a follow-up video titled, The Story of Solutions (2013).

The Story of Solutions explains how we have to change the goal of the economy. The end goals has to become making the things we have better, rather than just producing more and more stuff. In this video, Leonard includes feasible ways to make these changes.

Both The Story of Stuff and The Story of Solutions call for systematic reform. The videos do not claim that we have to throw away all our belongings, but they ask us to be conscious consumers and think about how our purchases impact the environment and the people who manufacture our belongings.