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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

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  1,594 ratings  ·  274 reviews
We have a problem with Stuff. With just 5 percent of the world's population, we're consuming 30 percent of the world's resources and creating 30 percent of the world's waste. If everyone consumed at U.S. rates, we would need three to five planets! This alarming fact drove Annie Leonard to create the Internet film sensation The Story of Stuff, which has been viewed over 10 ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2010)
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The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool by P.J. LaRueThe Urban Homestead (Expanded & Revised Edition) by Kelly CoyneCradle to Cradle by William McDonoughThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanSilent Spring by Rachel Carson
Being "Green"
13th out of 247 books — 156 voters
Pest Control for Organic Gardening by Amber RichardsThe Orphan Conspiracies by James MorcanCollapse by Jared DiamondThe Story of Stuff by Annie LeonardPetrochemical America by Richard Misrach
Best Sustainability Books (non-fiction)
4th out of 20 books — 19 voters

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Community Reviews

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Feb 17, 2012 Jim rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Jim by: High ratings by several reviewers
I think this is a really important book. There is a lot of bad news, and it is not what we want to hear, but we certainly need to. There is also good news - a long list of positive suggestions, with links, that point the way out of the trash and into a sustainable future.

I read dystopian novels, in part, to get a sense of what horrors the future may hold, and how people can or cannot adapt to them. The fact that many of those books are ripping good reads is also a big attraction. There is also (
I haven’t seen this film – I will probably need to track it down now. This brings together a lot of things I have been thinking about lately in ways I have also been coming to slowly. However, it was just about the last place I expected to find some of these ideas. What I was expecting was a kind of sermon on the death of the planet (which it almost was in part) – in the modern world it is environmentalists who are cast as the ‘hell-fire and brimstone’ preachers (“I’ve seen the light – I will do ...more
Ah, yes--THIS is the book I've been waiting to read forever--I wish this had been around when I had taken Juliet Schor's "Shop Til You Drop: Gender and Class in Consumer Culture" course back in college. A smart, clear activist breakdown of our toxic materials economy and the massive and devastating environmental impact of consumption on the health of workers, the planet, consumers, communities, animals, etc... and what we can do about it.

Instead of the obnoxious and ineffective "personal green
Americans live in a consumer society. We are constantly bombarded by advertising and encouraged to buy more and more. Purchasing something new is supposed to make us happy. We are even told it’s patriotic to shop, spend money, get the economy moving. But how many of us ever think about what it takes to produce all this stuff and ship it to stores or our homes and then haul it off to the dump to dispose of it when we are done with it. After reading The Story of Stuff, it’s difficult to look at ‘s ...more
I assigned The Story of Stuff to my college level writing class because they were focusing on environmental policy in their freshmen cluster classes. This book prompted a lot of good discussions about buying practices and our consumerist society and it did make some of my students question their habits but it also resulted in some of them feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with the wealth of problems out there. By the end, I had a few of them facetiously say, “I’m tired of the environment!”

The t
"The Story Of Stuff" is a thought provoking book, but also a bit depressing if you really think about it. Before picking up this book I thought I was doing my part to keep the planet green, I use freecycle regularly to get rid of my unwanted stuff, I also donate to Goodwill, and try to recycle as much as I can, but heck I learned that many of the things that I recycle have toxic material in them, so instead of recycling more I need to try and waste less.

The author does a great job of showing us
This book goes way beyond exhorting readers to recycle (in fact, author Annie Leonard actually speaks the heresy that recycling carries some negative implications). This book follows our Stuff from extraction to production to distribution to consumption to disposal.

The result is a horror story. It is a story in which I’m completely implicated – to my great discomfort, because I like my Stuff.

I found reading the book uncomfortable – like watching a documentary about things that are horrible and b
Keith Akers
This is an excellent book. Parts of it are a bit hard to get through; it drags, and the five section headings are perhaps deliberately chosen to be not-exciting: "Extraction," "Production," "Distribution," "Consumption," and "Disposal." I read probably 80%-90% of the whole thing. However, I noticed that it picked up in the last section ("Disposal"), which is evidently Leonard's special expertise and passion. The story about how toxic stuff winds up in Haiti and Bangladesh, and various people's r ...more
This book has made me rethink my choices daily. I am one of those people that plays consumer regularly, doesn't think about what I am throwing away and what effects my actions have on the environment. This book has opened my eyes to the fact that I need to understand the choices and how they are impacting the future of the earth. This book goes through how stuff is created and used from the very beginning of when forests are cut down or water is used all the way through to when you throw it out ...more
So, I've just read the opening pages of the book, and I thought she was doing really well at setting up how our pursuit of stuff will ruin us. However, even after making an excellent point that all human systems are subsystems of the earth's systems, she still makes the error that I think sabotages environmentalists everywhere. She claims that we are killing the planet. I don't think we have the capacity to kill the planet. I think the earth will easily outlast us, whatever we do. The thing we A ...more
Jonathan Lu
at first i couldn't wait to pick this up... finally a book on the environmental impact of consumerism written by an environmental scientist! very quickly you realize that there is zero science beneath these pages.

I give this book 1 star solely because of the introductory chapter which does offer an appropriate representation of the current state of affairs in the US with just a slightly alarmist hint... which then gradually (and substantially) evolves to use of statistics and numbers for fear-mo
I wish the Goodreads rating system had a way to mark "I just couldn't finish it," because I didn't get past the middle of the first chapter with this one.

I had heard an interview with the author on NPR and it was great, so I was very excited and waited for ages to rise to the top of this list and get this from the library. But (a) it turns out to be topics and information that I personally have read, heard, lived and worked for years. It might be a great book for people who don't already link co
Overall, this is a pretty useful and interesting read, but her dismissive tone (why would anyone want to watch TV when they could instead have a nice conversation with friends!?!) and failure to acknowledge her privilege really turned me off. I found some of her critiques really unpersuasive, especially with regard to online services/retailers and why and how people engage in fashion.

Also, Annie Leonard/her editors do not know the difference between rein vs. reign and positive vs. negative feedb
John Padilla
"The Story of Stuff", by Annie Leonard was a great book because of the great information provided. In this book, Leonard lays out the problems in our consumption of certain “stuff” and shows how everything is tied in with environmental and social issues with happiness declining. For example, she explains that since the 1950's our happiness has declined because we are now more anti-social and focused on all the new technologies. Leonard also shows that corporations are bringing down the governmen ...more
If you’re thinking that you might need to read this, that’s probably a good indication that you don’t. Are you for the environment? For human rights protections? Concerned with consumerist culture and overconsumption? Concerned about the steady increase in garbage and where it all goes? Are you for progress and against war? For time spent with other humans rather than with stuff? If so, you don’t need to read this. The point is to explain to people why they should think about these things. If yo ...more
Brenda Youngerman
This book is fascinating - to say the least. Let me begin by giving you a bit of background on the author - Annie Leonard. Ms. Leonard is an expert in international sustainability and environmental health issues. She has testified in front of Congress, publicly debated a US Stated Department representative, and done hundreds of public presentations. (all of that came from her press release). Just knowing that about her made me want to read this book - she must have a great deal of knowledge abou ...more
Jenny O.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."

--John Muir, wilderness advocate

This book may garner intense reactions. You may find yourself vowing to make drastic changes to your life. You may throw the book aside in disgust and chalk it up to environmentalists’ hysteria. You might become paralyzed by the staggering scope of problems our industrial complex has created, and simply do nothing and hope a miracle gets us out of this quagmire.

I li
This book is one of my favorites of the year. Anything that makes me think deeply automatically gets an extra star from me. I am very glad I read this book because I learned so much from it.

This book is very well written, thought provoking, and depressing, with research done to support the points that the author is trying to make throughout the book. Also, it is a pretty easy read and not at all confusing so that anyone can understand the points brought up. A book like Development and Social Ch
I am a consumer. As I look around my living room, I see our extra ginormous TV, our DVDs, CDs, stereo equipment, dolls and other toys, and furniture, I wonder when I became such a collector of stuff.
I decided to read this book (a free book from Free Press Blog Tours) from Simon and Schuster because I wanted to know what effect my consumption had on the world, I was not truly prepared for what I found out.
This book (like the original video above) comes in five parts or chapters: Extraction, Pr
Crystal Riley
The Story of Stuff is one of the most depressing books I’ve ever read. Annie Leonard has an important message, and I think it comes across loud and clear. However, when talking about the pitiful state of the environment, there’s a fine line that authors must walk. If they go too far, they just leave people feeling sad and unempowered. If they don’t go far enough, they may fail to communicate the gravity of the situation. I think Leonard may have swung a little too far in one direction, because I ...more
Annie Leonard does an excellent job of presenting the big picture of the environmental problems of our planet without laying a guilt trip and without being patronizing. She describes the manufacturing process from the extraction of the minerals, through the production phase, the distribution process, our consumption and disposal. This book is well-documented, easy-to-read and practical.

Ms Leonard, I believe, correctly lays the majority of the blame for the consumeristic approach to stuff at the
Overall this was a good book. I definitely learned new things about how things are made, how materials are extracted, etc and all the toxic waste that is made from those processes. It's a little overwhelming in that the problems seem so huge and what am I, one person, supposed to do about it. I also thought that she could have given more suggestions and ideas for people living in different circumstances than she does. She owns a house in Berkeley and has the means (which you have to have if you ...more
Essential reading for anyone in the first world who buys anything besides food. Sure, the beginning is a bit of a downer, but Leonard is very good about interspersing what countries and states are doing to be more conscientious among the woeful details of aborigine displacement, unfair work hours and payment and how ridiculous is it that it's cheaper for people to import goods (and FOOD!) from other countries rather than produce it locally. Lots of great resources to get you involved in helping ...more
Loved this book, all consumers uh I mean individuals should read it. As with food, the journey of our stuff is almost always hidden and complex, the only thing we see is the shiny things on the store shelves and rarely give thought to the people and places that were exploited to get it there. I especially enjoyed the introduction which combats some of the misconceptions that a reader might have. This book is not anti- stuff, it helps you see the incredible value of our stuff. This book is not an ...more
We live in a disposable society, which might not matter if we didn't live in a finite world. Annie Leonard, writer and producer of the now renowned The Story of Stuff video has addressed a deeply polarizing topic. Her informative and non-shaming approach to the global issues of mass consumerism challenges us to think about the way we live our lives. Written in a conversational tone, Leonard manages to incorporate economics, politics, and environmental science in a format which everyone can under ...more
Boost Didier
The Story of Stuff is highly recommended for everyone who’s interested in the environment, sustainability and consumerism. The book and the accompanying film offer a great introduction to these subjects and leave you with a lot to reflect upon. More than once I had to painfully confess that some of my very own habits are far from ecologically responsible. On a more global and societal level Annie Leonard makes you question our dominant economic structure and the everlasting focus on growth. Grea ...more
Jul 06, 2010 Marjanne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all american's should read this book
I think this may be the most important book I've read all year. I'm not sure if I'll be buying it, but it has made a huge impact on how I want to live my life. There is so much that is horrifying about how we get the things we have. Ms. Leonard shares information from the very beginnings of a product, through it's assembly, it's use (usually short) and disposal.
I think she is right on about how essential it is that Americans stop using so many resources, stop buying so much stuff (and in the cas
Annie Leonard: poor, delusional author sounds like me when I was 13, (ill informed, outraged, and idealistic). She unfortunately does not really know any science at all (a real poser), has no business writing about this "stuff", and should just stick to writing lefty propaganda for the free throw away rags found in metro subway "FREE" bins.
She makes stuff up, misinterprets published data to support her ideas, and probably just does not have the capacity to understand the complexities of the re
Sep 19, 2012 Cara marked it as to-read
For anyone that's seen the short "film" The Story of Stuff ( you have to admit - the woman's got a point! I picked this book up to learn more about our unsustainable economic model and how consumerism is basically fueling the fire and making us less happy in the process. I'm REALLY interested in this topic and will admit that even I had a hard time getting through all the detail and tragicness of the first few chapters. However, from Chapter 4 (Consumption) on I was ...more
Sep 07, 2010 Alisha rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alisha by: Holly
Shelves: 2010
things i loved:

overconsumption is not a birthright.

sometimes we're in a rut so deep we think its a groove.

"consumerism effectively keeps adults in a childlike mental state where it's always OK to demand 'Gimme that!' Consumerism privileges impulse over deliberation; instant gratification over long-term satisfaction; narcissism over sociability; entitlement over responsibility; and the now over the past and the future."

basically, this book made me rethink my own purchase choices, and educated me
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Green Group - January 2013 Read 1 7 Jan 04, 2013 01:32PM  
  • Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything
  • Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff
  • Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet
  • Plastic: A Toxic Love Story
  • The Weather of the Future
  • Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream
  • Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines
  • Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson
  • Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
  • The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint
  • Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
  • Green Gone Wrong: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution
  • Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment
  • Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization
  • The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World
  • Now or Never: Why We Must Act Now to End Climate Change and Create a Sustainable Future
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • What Matters?: Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth
Annie Leonard is the author and host of our very own The Story of Stuff. She is author of The Story of Stuff, the book, published by Free Press of Simon and Schuster on March 9, 2010.

Annie has spent nearly two decades investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues. She has traveled to 40 countries, visiting literally hundreds of factories where our stuff is made and dumps
More about Annie Leonard...

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“I remember when my daughter was just learning her letters. She was playing in her room and came downstairs to ask me, “Momma, what does C-H-I-N-A spell?” “China,” I told her (she knew what the word meant—she had friends from there). “So,” she asked next, “why is it written on everything?” 4 likes
“Why sit and stare at a box beaming messages indoctrinating us into consumer culture for hours a day when there are so many more enjoyable alternatives available?” 3 likes
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