My friends often don't believe me when I say I can spend an entire evening listening to stories about garbage and be completely mesmerized. That's because they haven't met Annie Leonard. She has been relentlessly explaining the absurdity of our throwaway culture to me and many others for decades. While her mastery of detail is impressive, it's her passionate style that transforms bleak facts into emotive stories that compel you to take action.
Leonard knew her story needed to reach as many people as possible to make a real difference. So, in 2007, she made it viral through an infectious online film called The Story of Stuff. Within six months, more than 3 million viewers from around the world watched the film. The Story of Stuff effectively and often humorously explains where all our stuff comes from, what resources are used to create it, whose lives are affected during its production, and where it goes when we discard it. While this all sounds familiar enough, it's Leonard's poignant questions and provocative truth-telling that help us see the profound stupidity of this system.
Leonard has spent the last 20 years raising awareness of environmental health and justice issues, working with organizations such as the Global Anti-Incinerator Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Greenpeace International and the Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, which brings together grant makers committed to building a more sustainable future. She has spent nearly half of her life traveling to more than 30 countries to witness the environmental impact of casual consumerism and the travails of those who make what we consume; and she has spent countless hours working to right these injustices. Which is why when Leonard talks trash, people cannot help but listen.
Bryony Schwan is executive director of the Biomimicry Institute in Montana
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