The Story of Stuff Project – pioneered by Annie Leonard – aims to educate people about where our stuff comes from, where it goes when we toss it out, and how to live as citizens rather than mere consumers. They make videos and podcasts, as well as providing a world-wide networking opportunity for those wanting to contribute to a more positive future.
Their latest video was released on Tuesday the 1st October. It’s called The Story of Solutions and you can watch the 9 minute delight for free on their website. The basic premise is that the economy is set up like a game, where the goal is MORE. We can’t change the outcome of the game without changing the fundamental rules, so what would be a better goal? Something more fitting for the 21st century. What about BETTER?
The short video mentions lots of inspiring projects that are already going on around the world. The idea is that although there is no one magic solution to our contemporary challenges, a huge array of little solutions are necessary, possible, and already beginning. The video differentiates between ‘old-game solutions’ and ‘game-changing solutions’ which is quite interesting.
Screenshot from the video.
This criticism of economic growth and suggestion of a more human-centred, qualitative type of progress sounds a lot like advocacy for a steady-state economy. So much so, that I’m surprised they didn’t mention this concept outright. Perhaps they didn’t want to off-put people with something as crazy as that? That would be pretty lame, and not at all in the spirit of The Story of Stuff Project. I guess it’s possible they just don’t know about steady-state economics, but that seems even less likely, given as they’re pretty on the pulse.
Anyway, the video is definitely worth a watch, especially if you’re new to these sorts of ideas.
As I said in my last post I’ve discovered my cafe at university, where I work, has recycling bins for plastic bottles and drinks cans. Since then I’ve been using them (nobody else seems to) but nobody’s been emptying them. Since I started using them I’ve literally seen every bottle and can I’ve put in there piling up, and today I noticed they’re completely full.
But fear not because I spoke to my boss (Mr Paper Cup and Apathy Man… Sorry, I really should stop calling him that) and to my surprise he said he was organizing getting them collected weekly. He says he’s in the process of talking to the caretakers about it. I hope he’s as on the case as he says he is. The other piece of good news is he said he ”wants to do all sorts of things – like get food waste collection”. YES! Thank god he’s coming round to this. If his walk is as good as his talk we might just be getting somewhere after all. First impressions can be misleading it seems… Let’s hope this eco streak runs more than fluffy-comment-deep!
Hope you’re all doing wonderfully..
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my boss insisting on using paper cups in the student cafe, rather than china cups. I had a problem with this because Starbucks coffee is probably our biggest seller and all the cups are thrown out after just one fleeting use – resulting in heaps of trash that I have to lug out to the dustbins after every shift.
My boss wasn’t too receptive to my suggestion of real cups (“Too much washing up, Tegan!”) but I recently discovered that there are actually recycling bins at the back of the cafe for plastic bottles and cans, which are barely used. I didn’t know about them at first because my boss and all the other staff don’t use them, but I’m not surprised they’re there as the university as a whole has a fairly thorough recycling program. Anyway now while I’m clearing tables I get excited when I see discarded juice bottles and cola cans and swoop down on them before the other waitresses can throw them in the bin.
Despite this rather over-zealous approach, I have a slight suspicion these recycling bins aren’t actually emptied. Ever since I started using them I’ve seen all the bottles and cans I’ve put in there piling up, without others being added or the lot being taken away…
I guess if I fill them up before anything happens I can always ask the caretaker. They’re probably just not aware they’re being used. I have told my co-workers about them and urged them to use them but I can’t say I’ve seen any evidence of this so far.
The best bit is the label on top that reads “We ARE recycling! so should you!”. Mmm, of course you are, Mr Paper Cup and Apathy Man. I assume the sign was sellotaped there before he took over management.
There is also a large mixed recycling bin out the back near the smoking area, and I now run out there with armfuls of cardboard and glass bottles, although I’m sure my boss would scold me for ”wasting time” when we’re busy. Sigh. Anyway, even if it’s a small victory it does make me smile every time I get to do some of this guerrilla recycling!
Image from thegreencan.org
Hello again, I just want to quickly post this really cool message I received on Earth Baby’s Facebook page.
Hello, my name is Dennis Gallagher and I would like to tell you about what i am trying to accomplish in Tampa Florida.
I have a new program to try and fix the irrational problem of recycling not being mandatory.
Since Apartment/ Condos and businesses have a hard time justifying the optional expense of a recycling program, we bring it to them free, and we donate all of the proceeds to charity.
The only thing we could find to finance this endeavor is advertising on the outside of the recycling containers, so we try to help local small businesses get their message out to the local residents.
We designed a container to specifically to facilitate this program, it is made of recycled plastic and uses a reusable liner so no waste is created in its use.
We started our program in march and we have recycled over 200,000 aluminum cans and numerous tons of plastic.
We are hoping that we can expand our program to any and all areas that recycling isn’t currently mandatory.
Getting the word out is of the utmost importance to us, we really are trying to do the right thing for society by providing free recycling, helping small businesses and giving to charity.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.
I was so happy to hear about this amazing proactive project, and I promised Dennis I would post on my blog about The Green Can – as you can see they really need some extra publicity. I’ve had a look at the website and it’s brilliant, you should check it out too. I had no idea Florida had such poor recycling rates, but it’s refreshing to see something is being done about it. I particularly like the fact the project brings in local businesses and charity work as well as recycling- all in all very impressive work!
Check out www.thegreencan.org for the full scoop, like them on Facebook and see what you can do!
PS. If you have a project, event, group, product, idea or whatever that you’d like me to blog about – don’t hesitate to let me know in a comment!
Annie Leonard of ‘The Story of Stuff’ and related videos, likes to tell people to act as a citizen rather than a simple consumer. Today I’ve done just that! Despite a sore throat/headache, I somehow got round to doing something I’ve been meaning to do for months. I wrote to my local (Green!) MP asking her if we’ll be getting curbside composting any time soon. I used this site to get her email details and it was so easy. I even got to indulge my rather unusual liking for telling some one to get a bloody move on in a so-civil-it’s-verging-on-pompous way. So any way, here’s what I said:
Dear Caroline Lucas,
First of all I would like to express how happy I am to be living in a Green constituency and how much I admire you as a political figure. I have watched some of your speeches on Youtube and I consider your policies to be greatly inspiring. The fact that Brighton is a Green city was one of the deciding factors that made me choose to come to university here. I started a degree on Environment and Media Studies this term.
Considering how forward thinking the city generally is, with it’s fantastic bus service and recycling bins throughout the city centre, I was some what surprised to find that I do not have a food waste collection service for my home. My former home of Glastonbury in Somerset had weekly collections for food waste and it was a very successful scheme.
I was just wondering if any such scheme is in the pipeline for Brighton? Or perhaps it is already being implemented in other parts of the city that I am unaware of? I appreciate your job must be very challenging and you have many issues to attend to – but I do feel quite strongly about this as I am aware that in the UK, 31.7% of household waste is food waste. (Resource Futures, 2009). I’m sure you are more than aware of the critical links surrounding landfill waste, methane gas and climate change… As an environmentally conscious citizen I feel awful throwing waste-food into the dustbin, but as I live in a flat with no garden there are limited opportunities to do much else with it.
As I mentioned already, I understand you must be incredibly busy, but I would greatly appreciate it if you would take the time to respond and let me know if there is any progress being made on curbside food waste recycling in Brighton.
Thank you very much for your time.
Tegan Sonvico Christov
What do you think? I mean, hopefully she’ll answer and if she does I’ll let you know what she says. I can’t believe how little effort that involved… Somehow I was expecting some huge sacrifice of time and energy. I’d recommend using that site if you have any niggling issues you want to raise!
Photo credit: D. Hurst / Alamy/Alamy
What’s up with all this erratic recycling?
I don’t mean on an individual level, I mean in terms of what is provided. My mum’s street takes almost everything weekly and so does mine, which is great. But my boyfriend’s house (which is in the same town) doesn’t take paper, and my friend’s (also in this town) takes paper and etc but not food waste. My dad’s flat in Cheltenham recently didn’t have a collection at all and they had to take stuff to the local dump (which did recycle). What is this? I mean if it’s up to local councils to sort out then I can see how it would differ between districts – and towns at a push – but why would my own town have different schemes depending on the street?
Recycling may not make the entire materials economy sustainable, but it takes more steps down that path than most things, that’s for sure. It reduces the amount of waste going to landfill at one end (reducing methane emissions and land-use and saving money) and reduces the pressure for virgin resources at the other end of the production cycle. (reducing habitat destruction plus pollution and waste from extraction and again, saving money). And what’s more, it’s relatively easy to get the average Joe to jump on-board. Once the council gives you a couple of boxes and sets the mixed rubbish collection to every fortnight, it doesn’t take a spark of brilliance, a commitment of the purse or even a care for the world to put your paper and bottles and stuff in the recycling box. It’s easy. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s just throwing a piece of trash into a different container. Even people who don’t care about the ‘environment’ (as if that’s some faraway place made of compassion and bunny rabbits) will recycle if that’s the most effective way to get rid of their rubbish each week. And that’s just the kind of solution we need, isn’t it? Things that are hugely effective and easy to implement on a wide scale. I’m afraid waiting until we can convert the entire world’s population to a ‘green’ way of thinking will just be too slow… In order to avoid environmental collapse we need to make the green way the easy way.
So, local councils, what are you thinking?! You have this power to control the recycling rate of your district and you squander it on a patchy service that is great in parts and shoddy in others? This just isn’t good enough. And don’t tell me it’s ”better than nothing” because I know that. But we haven’t got time for ”better than nothing” – we need ”as good as humanely possible”.
I want to be able to send a scrap of paper or apple core of whatever on it’s way to reincarnation whosoever house I’m in. It’s 2012 now, let’s up the game a little.