Video Review: The Story of Stuff

The Story Of Stuff: Online Film Details Costs
and Consequences of Consumer Culture

As the holiday shopping season passes us by, a lot of families were discussing their concerns about giving their kids more “stuff,” especially “toxic stuff.” The Story of Stuff, a new short film released online, takes viewers on a provocative tour of our consumer-driven culture, exposing the real costs of this use-it and lose-it approach to stuff.

Last year Americans spent $456.2 billion during the holiday season, and this year sales are predicted to rise 4 percent to $474.5 billion**. “The Story of Stuff” reveals that holiday consumption is not a seasonal phenomenon, rather an American maxim that has devastating consequences for our environment, third-world nations, working class Americans, personal health and even the general state of happiness in America.

Here is a sneak peak at the first chapter of this short film. The entire film can be viewed for free at Parents should view it first and decide how to share this video with their kids. Click here for a fact sheet (pdf).

Throughout the 20-minute film, activist Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and an expert on the materials economy, examines the social, environmental and global costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. Her illustration of a culture driven by stuff allows her to isolate the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The “Story of Stuff” examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of consumerism — and how those notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.

According to the film, consumer mania may have been born from the post World War II era, but economic manipulation has driven consumerism to where it is today. From the limited life cycle of personal computers to changes in footwear fashion, Leonard demonstrates that products are either designed to be regularly replaced or to convince consumers that their stuff needs to be upgraded. This notion of planned and perceived obsolescence drives the machine of American consumerism year round.

The film features Leonard delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff — where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Written by Leonard, the film was produced by Free Range Studios, the makers of other socially-minded, web-based films such as “The Meatrix” and “Grocery Store Wars.” Funding for the project came from The Sustainability Funders and Tides Foundation. The film’s Web site,, serves as an interactive launch pad for information and activism. The site features hundreds of organizations working to change the cycle of the materials economy and offers viewers “another way.” The site includes resources and information, a footnoted script, a suggested reading list and ideas for educational activities and discussion topics for local screenings.

2 Comments on “Video Review: The Story of Stuff

  1. CCFC Honors Story of Stuff Creator Annie Leonard with Fred Rogers Integrity Award

    BOSTON – April 2 – The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is proud to announce that Annie Leonard — creator and host of the Internet film sensation The Story of Stuff — has been selected to receive the fourth Fred Rogers Integrity Award. The award, named in honor of the beloved host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, is given by CCFC to the public figure whose efforts to protect children from harmful marketing best embody Fred Rogers’ long-standing commitment to nurturing the health and well-being of America’s children. The award will be presented to Leonard on Thursday, April Eighth at 7:30 PM at the Wheelock College’s Brookline Campus. The event is free and open to the public.

    CCFC is honoring Leonard for encouraging millions of young people to explore the links between consumerism and environmental degradation and inspiring activism. The New York Times called The Story of Stuff “a sleeper hit in classrooms across the country.” Teachers all over the world are using the film to spark debate, encourage critical thinking, and spur students to consider their own consumer habits.

    “With humor and charm, The Story of Stuff challenges the primary messages of marketing — that the things we buy will make us happy, and that who we are is what we own,” said CCFC’s director Dr. Susan Linn. “By exploring the creation and disposal of consumer goods, Annie Leonard invites young people to examine and change their own relationship with what-and how much-they buy.”

    Since the release of The Story of Stuff — which has been viewed more than 10 million times in more than 70 countries — Leonard has continued to expose the hidden environmental and social costs of our current systems of production and consumption. She recently released the film The Story of Bottled Water, and her just-published book The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change (Free Press) is already garnering rave reviews.

    “As a mother and activist, I am so very honored to receive the Fred Rogers Integrity Award from the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood, ” said Leonard. “Given the incredible legacy of Mister Rogers and the great work of CCFC, I could not be in better company in the work to create a healthy, safe, commercial-free future for all children.”

    Fred Rogers once said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

    “We honor Annie Leonard for helping children understand that that it is their world, and for motivating them to take action to preserve it,” said Dr. Linn.

    The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood ( is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration. CCFC is privileged to have permission from Joanne Rogers and Family Communications, Inc. to give the Fred Rogers Integrity Award. The award was given to Senator Tom Harkin in 2005; Raffi Cavoukian, the beloved children’s troubadour, in 2006; and Morgan Spurlock, director and star of Super Size Me in 2008.

  2. This film exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues and calls for all of us coming together to create a more sustainable and just world. This film should be required in the school curriculum to raise awareness about the often hidden impacts of production and consumption.

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