The (Ugly) Truth About Stuff!

This week in my sustainability class, we watched Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Stuff.” If you haven’t seen it, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out here:

This twenty-minute cartoon video outlines the consumerist regime that governs our society. The story of stuff covers the corrupt path of the materials economy, the path traveled by everything that we buy: from extraction, to production, to distribution, to consumption, to disposal. This linear system chugs along indefinitely, reaping our mother Earth of her natural resources, pumping them full of toxins during production, forming them into products designed for limited use and quick, ugly disposal. Corporations have made it so that society evolves around this wasteful path. We are consumers, through and through, in and out. But we don’t need to be. It is plainly clear that our Earth is not capable of supporting business as usual for much longer.

So what are our alternatives?

One answer is to make the producers of goods internalize all of the costs associated with their products. We can do this if we make it so that a company is completely responsible for the products that they produce, from cradle to grave. In addition, they should have the responsibility of replacing their products once they fail.  If this is the case, they will have more incentive to create long-lasting quality products that can be recycled over and over.

Another quite fascinating answer is a relatively new discipline that links our natural world to inspiration for product development: biomimicry.

images.businessweek.com

Nature is perfect. Everything living on our planet today was selected for by evolution because it is not only good at what it does; it is the best in its field. Biomimicry is the concept of imitating nature’s designs in our products. In this way, we will be able to develop goods in the most efficient and long-lasting form possible. This will make our products safer, free of toxic chemicals,  enduring, proficient, and highly sustainable.  Check out this fascinating TED talk by Janin Benyus on Biomimicry. She has a really close and seemingly emotional connection to the field. Pretty Captivating!

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