Where does the stuff we buy come from? This is the type of question that keeps me up at night. Luckily, The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, recently did a great job of succintly putting this in perspective for me. The Story of Stuff is an easy-to-follow but impactful breakdown of the materials economy and the true cost of production and consumption. In other words, Annie Leonard follows the stuff we buy from its extraction (the resources we pull from the earth to make it) to production (what it takes to make it) to distribution (how does it get onto the shelves so we can buy it) to consumption (in the US we consume 2x more than we did 50 years ago) to the disposal of these products (where does stuff go when we're done with it).
One take away that really resonated with me is that although we're consuming more than ever before our level of happiness as a society peaked in the 1950s and has been on a downward cycle ever since. But just as The Story of Stuff started becoming fodder for many more sleepless nights, Annie Leonard also offers up Another Way or 10 Little or Big Things You Can Do to help solve the problem with stuff. To hear what else Annie Leonard has to say (it's worth listening to) check out her eco-friendly blog.