I am a big fan of the “process” used in the Story of Stuff Project. The Story of Stuff Project was founded in 2008 by Annie Leonard as response to a need for more information and ways to get involved.
The Story of Stuff Project , is a series of online movies that are, brief and easily shareable. These online videos explore some of the key features of our relationship with “Stuff” and how we can make things better. Other movies include The Story of Broke, Story of Citizens United vs FEC, Story of Electronics, Story of Bottled Water and Story of Cap and Trade. Annie Leonard is not only founder but also is the talent in these brief videos. You will find her likable and will appreciate her simple common sense approach.
Annie Leonard’s new movie The Story of Change , for me is conflicting. Mostly because of Leonard’s message minimizing the importance of the conscientious consumer.
While Leonard puts a brief disclaimer in the movie, suggesting that of course when we shop we should buy the least toxic and most fair products we can-but it’s not bad shoppers who are the source of the problem, it’s bad policies and bad business practices.
Leonard minimizes the power of the consumer suggesting, “if we actually want to change the world, we can’t talk only about consumers voting with our dollars. Real change happens when citizens come together to demand rules that work.” She then goes on to suggest that living our values in small ways shows ourselves and others we care. So it is a great place to start?
A great to place start ? Really?
Policy, business practices and consumers all have important roles in the shift towards change when it comes to human health and the environment all paths toward change need to be traveled .
I spoke to some of these issues in the blog post Walking the Walk . In the post I discuss that shifting to prevention requires us to reorder how our culture prioritizes money, human health and the environment. As a culture, we have looked the other way as profit rose above human health and the environment.
There is a very real reason countless billions are invested in marketing to consumers from ages 8-80, and thats because consumers as a force are intensely powerful. Consumers can do more than just demonstrate they care.
When it comes to food for example, this is why we need to vote with our dollars the Department of Health and Human Services reports that food and beverage advertisers collectively spend $10 to $12 billion annually to reach children and youth. More than $1 billion is spent on media advertising to children, and another $4.5 billion is spent on youth-targeted public relations. Wait, there’s more: $3 billion is spent on packaging designed for children.
Consumers in the United States can and have changed the direction of the wind when it comes to market shifts, and do so against the force of stealth and massive marketing budgets.
From a more positive perspective, look what consumers did for Organic sales -U.S. sales of organic products reached $23.0 billion in 2009. (Nutrition Business Journal.)
U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2010 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009 sales. (Organic Trade Association)
Certified organic acreage in the United States reached more than 4.8 million acres in 2008, according to latest data posted by USDA. U.S. total organic cropland reached 2,655,382 acres in 2008, while land devoted to organic pasture totaled 2,160,577 acres. California leads with the most certified organic cropland, with over 430,000 acres, largely used for fruit and vegetable production. (Organic Trade Association)
According to the Organic Monitor, global organic sales reached $54.9 billion in 2009, up from, $50.9 billion in 2008. The countries with the largest markets are the United States, Germany, and France. The highest per capita consumption is in Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria.
Another example are Farmers Markets, in the United States they grown steadily from 1,755 markets in 1994, when the USDA began to track them, to over 7,175 in 2011. From 2010 to 2011 there was a 17% increase in the number of operating farmers markets. Participating farmers are responding to heightened demand for locally grown organic product. A USDA survey of market managers found that demand for organic products was strong or moderate in most of the farmers’ markets surveyed around the country, and that managers felt more organic farmers were needed to meet consumer demand in many States.
Today we have many more farms that produce agricultural products through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Certified Organic bans, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering . This process contributes towards not only protecting the environment but human health as well.
Consumers can and do make all the difference in not supporting practices or products that increase risk to either for human health or the environment.
Leonard suggests that conscientious consumers are swimming up stream, viewers should know that just isn’t true. It is critical that consumers support those corporations and products that do not increase risk to human health and the environment.
Contrary to the Leonard’s script healthy choices do make a difference in your health, your home, your community and the planet. You can see the Story of Change HERE .