Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Story of Stuff

I wonder about the TRUE COST of a $6.84 camping chair.
I went to a shopping centre today. One of those huge ones that sprawl across a suburb and contain hundreds of little shops, each with hundreds - thousands - of products, all loudly proclaiming their justified place in our lives.

I used to love shopping. It was therapy, entertainment and ritual. I could (and did!) spend whole days trawling massive centres, dragging my kids in and out of every little shop, budgeting and re-budgeting in my head as every absolutely necessary purchase drained my finances further. I would return home with aching feet, a busy mind, an empty purse and two very tired, very overstimulated toddlers who had seriously compromised the 'relaxing' aspect of my beloved shopping trip.

Then I watched 'The Story Of Stuff' online. This twenty minute film absolutely revolutionised the way I see shopping centres and challenged me to my core about my shopping habits. It was a huge factor in us deciding to spend a year buying only secondhand.

Obviously now, because of this pledge, I don't spend a lot of time inside shopping centres. Today we needed puncture repair kits so we could repair our bicycle and pram tyres. We felt this was a far better compromise than buying new tubes, and we scoured the shelves to find the kit with the least 'bits' in it. As soon as we walked into the centre, we were bombarded with subliminal messages telling us how we absolutely must buy Product X, and my, my, weren't we terrible parents if we didn't rush to the checkout with Product Y, and look how much easier life would be with plastic-fantastic Product Z. I am no longer sucked into these messages, I have completed my detox, and Nath and I walked through the shop with wide eyes and pounding heads, wryly laughing at the sheer obviousness of some of the marketing tactics employed by the major centres who spend billions of dollars finding better ways of fooling us.

I implore you to click on the link below and watch 'The Story Of Stuff'. It's twenty minutes long, and narrated by an American woman (if you are like me, and find the accent somewhat... overwhelming, persevere, it is definitely worth it.) If you are inspired, their website also contains short films about the manufacture of cosmetics, electronics and bottled water. (And for the record, we left the shop with only a tyre repair kit. And avoided being mistaken for terrorists taking photographs of busy shopping centres.)


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