Jessica Hoffmann

Not Buying It: Alternatives to Hyperconsumption in 2008

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | January 04, 2008 2:47 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Media, Politics, Politics, Politics, Politics
Tags: capitalism, consumerism, economic justice, environmental justice, Is Selfish Capitalism Driving Us Mad?, organizing, redistributing wealth, resistance, social-change philanthropy, Story of Stuff, sustainability

I kept being "too busy" to watch The Story of Stuff (full video after the jump) when it came out in December, but I finally pushed the deadlines aside for 20 minutes this morning to check it out. This engaging 20-minute online video is one of the clearest explanations I've encountered of how global capitalism and consumerism harm people and the planet, from resource extraction through production to consumption and disposal.

Seeing the facts laid out one after another is disturbing (99% of consumer goods end up in the trash within six months of purchase; human breast milk has become one of the most contaminated foods), but The Story of Stuff is illuminating and essential viewing, especially for shoppers in the United States, who play a key role in keeping this machine running. And the best part is that creator Annie Leonard offers lots of ideas for living toward a different kind of economy -- a different kind of culture, a different kind of life.

Relatedly, a piece on Alternet this morning asks, "Is Selfish Capitalism Driving Us Mad?" The effects of global capitalism and consumerism are depressing and disturbing, no doubt. But, in Leonard's words, "The good thing is ... there are so many points of intervention."

Ideas and The Story of Stuff, after the jump.

What'll you do in 2008 toward creating an economic system that doesn't waste people, land, and all life? I'll keep

  • eating locally and sustainably by getting my produce through a co-op that purchases from sustainable local farms (find a co-op near you)
  • not buying new clothes, furniture, and the like -- instead trading cast-offs with friends and/or shopping in thrift stores
  • writing and publishing as much as I can about the impacts of global capitalism/consumerism -- and what people are doing to resist and create alternatives to it
  • giving loved ones things I made and/or donations to social-change projects rather than consumer goods for their birthdays and other special events
  • redistributing money beyond what I need to social-change work
  • agitating, organizing, and learning from other people new ways to live toward a just, beautiful, sustainable world.

Leave a comment to let us all know how you'll live toward another way in 2008.


Here's Chapter 1: Introduction:

Chapter 2: Extraction:

Chapter 3: Production:

Chapter 4: Distribution:

Chapter 5: Consumption:

Chapter 6: Disposal:

Chapter 7: Another Way:

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Great video. Thanks for sharing, Jessica!

As for what I'm doing to fight consumerism.... Not caring so much about "recycling" and instead focusing on "reducing" and "reusing" trash would be a big one.

Living in a shoe-box, walking and using public transportation all the time, and using clothes till they're done are also in there, but not really by choice (although the walks make me feel healthier!).

But I've never really been all that into things anyway, I guess it's just my personality. My mom said that I was the only one of her kids who'd never beg for toys at the store or throw things into the shopping cart, so there we go.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 4, 2008 6:35 PM

For the fifth time in as many years I'm paring down my possessions to what I can carry with me in luggage on an airliner. My goal is to keep new possessions to a minimum when I set up in a new home, and to purchase as much as I can from thrift stores or secondhand online. "Simplify" is to become my motto in 2008.

Also, while I don't feel capable of becoming vegan, I want to avoid as much as possible factory-farm produced foods and cut back or eliminate fish from my diet.

Like Alex, I too live in a shoe-box. Must be a European thing. ;-) (I've come to really like small spaces. Cozy.)

I'm a pack rat, but I prefer to shop at thrift stores and antique marts to find those odd hard-to-find truly unique items. :)

Well, it is a very hard cycle to break, but I have spent the last couple of years trying.

Avoid advertising so that I won’t be as tempted to buy.
-us an adblocker on my browser
-got rid of my TV
-cancelled catalogs (
-stopped buying magazines
-no commercial radio

Started eating the vegan way.

Learned to love craigslist. It’s an awesome way to get rid of and get stuff without feeding the big box stores. is great, too.

Finally, just generally try to be more mindful about what I consume. It is a constant struggle.

Good luck everyone!

got rid of my TV

That's a good one. I did that about 4 years ago, and while I've seen TV when I've lived with and visited others who have one (or 6), it's been one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

You really stop feeling so inadequate when you don't have someone yelling at you 8 minutes every half-hour about things you don't have but absolutely need.