The Story of Stuff

By Lorrin Windahl.

A few years ago I did a short course at RMIT in sustainable design and life cycle assessment. It was during this course that I was first introduced to ‘The Story of Stuff’ by Annie Leonard. It’s a short movie/cartoon that illustrates the impact of consumerism on the environment, the economy and the people. It’s delivered in a simple yet informative manner.


I found the video really good at reminding me of the impact I may be having on the environment and on people as an industrial designer developing new products. I find it a constant battle between designing the type of product a client wants whilst also having as little impact on the environment as possible. And getting that balance right is an art form in itself. I guess it’s not so different from life in general, where you need to find the balance between living a self sufficient life off the grid in a forest somewhere and living an overly materialistic lifestyle in the city. There are always compromises but how much do you compromise?

Not surprisingly the movie was so popular that Leonard started The Story of Stuff Project in 2008, a non-profit organisation to create awareness about ‘stuff’. She has since made a series of short films about everything from water bottles to cosmetics to electronics.

I think the success of these movies and the amount of interest that they have received illustrates that we are starting to progress, hopefully, to a point where we consciously consider the impact of our consumer purchases. We still have a long way to go though.

Watch the movie ‘The Story of Stuff’ here or click the image above.

To learn more about the organisation head to

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