Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Story of Stuff

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Story of Stuff. It was referenced during a professional development event at work and peaked my interest - specifically, the speaker threw out one stat from the book that it took 34 gallons of water to make 1 cup of coffee. Impossible, I thought! Apparently not...

The book spawned from a 2007 short-film of the same title and tackles America's obsession with all sorts of material things (referred to as "stuff") and the cycle of life of this stuff. Each stage of the cycle has it's own chapter - extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. While it's extremely informative, the facts and figures can be overwhelming (there are probably between 80-100 citations per chapter) and the environmental, economic and social issues seem damn near impossible to reverse. There were many times I found myself wondering, "well where the hell do we start?"

There are many thoughts and ideas I came away with, but I'm not posting this to hop up on my soapbox and preach. But what I will do is pass along what I believe is an informative and useful site that I think will, if nothing else, make you a more informed consumer - GoodGuide. Referenced numerous times in The Story of Stuff, GoodGuide rates over 65,000 products based on health, environmental and social factors. Hell, they even have an iPhone app. Here's a bit more on the ratings from the site:

GoodGuide ratings range from 0 to 10 and indicate how a product performs on a comprehensive set of health, environmental and social metrics. The higher the score, the better the product. If you are looking to switch to a better product, GoodGuide’s summary rating can be used to easily identify the best products in a category.
Pretty nifty if you ask me. Plug in a few of the products you use on a regular basis and I bet you'll be surprise. Oh yeah, and if you decide to read The Story of Stuff, save a tree and get it from the library.

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