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What is the Story of Stuff?

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We’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth saying again: The Story of Stuff is a film you’ve got to see.

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Ideas Good, Bad, and Even Ugly

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For the past handful of years, the New York Times Magazine has published an annual theme issue called the Year in Ideas. In the latest issue, 15 of the 70 ideas, or fully 20% had to do with sustainability.

As the issue’s introduction notes, New York Times “editors and writers trawl the oceans of ingenuity, hoping to snag in (their) nets the many curious, inspired, perplexing and sometimes outright illegal innovations of the past 12 months.”

Some of my favorites include:

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Snooze Desk

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Author: the Inkslinger

Been a sleepy news week here at the Enviro Desk. Not a lot going on. I suspect all eco-eyes have been on the climate crisis talks in Bali, where at last report a few hours ago, talks had extended past the deadline and hope remained for some kind of meaningful carbon reduction agreement. That and as we draw closer to Christmas things really start to quiet down. So the combination has created a perfect storm of nothingness on the wires

Still there are a couple of things worth noting as we close out the week….

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Overstuffed

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Author: the Inkslinger

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And I don’t just mean the arrival here in the Far Northern Hinterlands of the season’s first big snow. I mean the scene out at the mall and inside the SuperMegaMonsterMart, where our great nation is currently engaged in the fine art of spending an estimated $474 billion holiday bucks on, well… just stuff.

It’s a weird phenomenon, this shopping thing. I never did quite get it. Though I confess I can browse a good book store or record shop for days, I can’t see the appeal of general shopping as entertainment. I like to know what I need, make sure I really do need it, then go in, get it, and get out fast. I cringe every time I hear an economist talk about how consumer spending is the lynchpin of the American economy. We’re all depending on shopping?! That’s the gas in our collective economic engine? That’s a little weird. Because all the stuff people are buying has to come from somewhere, be made of something, and go some place when it dies.

There’s an excellent new film premiering online today that looks at all this. It’s a 20-minute documentary from activist Annie Leonard called the Story of Stuff that examines the real costs of consumption and the sort of big giant hamster wheel that we’ve become trapped on.

Check it out, pass it along, take it viral. (The website also has some good resources and other ideas to explore.) There’s a lot more people could be doing than shopping and they’d be a lot happier doing it. (What say we build our economy on environmental restoration, for example?) Sure we need some stuff. But we’re way overdoing it and paying for all the things we buy in a lot more ways than one.

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Find the Founder

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Author: the Inkslinger

We’re heading down into Thanksgiving here. Folks are departing for distant shores and points well known. There’s a quiet descending upon the scene and a calm that doesn’t come often enough if you ask me. It’s a good time to tie up loose ends, one of which is this round-up of Jeffrey’s recent media appearances…

Jeffrey got a double shot of love from Ad Age magazine recently. A video segment featured a clip of his speech at last week’s Idea Conference in New York City. And he made the mag’s Marketing 50, a look at “fifty sharp ideas and the visionaries who saw them through.” (We’re on page 5.)

An excerpt from the recent book Marketing That Matters featuring Jeffrey and Seventh Gen’s transparency efforts appeared on Article Dashboard last week.

Wrapping things up is this great Wall Street Journal podcast in which Jeffrey talks about daily life at Seventh Generation and all the things that make us a company that’s a bit different than most.

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Big Green Myth

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I was extremely disappointed to read Ben Elgin’s cover story in the October 29th issue of BusinessWeek magazine. The article, “Little Green Lies,” wrongly suggests that profits and environmental initiatives don’t mix and that companies cannot hope to be both successful and sustainable.

This myth has long been discredited, and my dismay at finding it still being given credence was so great that I fired off a letter to the editor, a portion of which has just been published on the Opinion page in the magazine’s November 12th issue. Here’s the complete version:

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Treasure Hunting

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Author: the Inkslinger

So it’s not just me. Seems like nearly everywhere I was looking I was seeing Seventh products. At first I thought maybe I just needed a vacation, but no… It turns out that our stuff really is appearing all over as part of that time-honored Hollywood tradition known as product placement. We’re getting so omnipresent you can even play a fun game when the Teevee ceases to adequately entertain: find the Seventh Product on the set. Double points for all non-kitchen appearances…

Elsewhere in Videoville, the Today Show put us front and center stage in a green kitchen segment with author Renee Loux, who nicely sums up all the right whys and wherefores and is apparently a big fan. (As an aside, can I just say that it was just a tad ironic to find my viewing of the video clip being sponsored by Dawn dish liquid!)

Out in Blogdom, sensors indicate that Jeffrey has popped up with a great piece on the Corporate Responsibility Officer blog about the future he sees from here.

And we got a nice shout out from the Tao of Change. Thanks for the kind words!

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Totally Corny

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Author: the Inkslinger

Given my bunker’s currently remote and undisclosed location, I’ll probably have to wait for Netflix to drop it in my mailbox, but the new documentary film King Corn looks like one to watch. It’s popped up on my radar several times in recent days, which means the buzz must be building for this look at corn and farming and food and how they’re all coming together to kick us in the cob. Corn, apparently, is everywhere, and that’s not a good thing for a lot of reasons.

The film looks pretty amusing (I think it always helps to leaven the ugly with some funny) and it looks like its playing now in selected cities (read: not the one where I am). I’m guessing it’s worth a viewing on the big screen or the small, whichever comes first where you be.

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I Want My E-TV

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Author: the Inkslinger

This is “Green is Universal” week on NBC. What that means is that almost all of the network's television programs will have some kind of green mention or subject or plot twist, etc.. Daytime, prime time, late night, you name it, NBC has declared that almost all of its programming will feature an environmental theme or connection or info. So we’re going to get the Goracle on 30 Rock and Leno is his garage being eco and Claire cooking up energy saving tips for her high school’s heroic green week, and so on.

It’s a good idea, I think, and an interesting and potentially effective way to get urgently needed environmental ideals and ideas out into the heartland. It’s one thing to preach to converted, which is largely what happen on the Inspired Protagonist and in other green venues, but it’s another entirely to take concepts like the climate crisis and industrial toxins to middle America, where most of the skeptics reside. By putting environmental issues everywhere it goes for an entire week, NBC is helping make sure they can’t be ignored, and such saturation-level attention to green issues may just go along away toward penetrating the minds of those to whom ignorance has been bliss. People won’t be able to avoid this, and even if all they take away from it is that there is a generic environmental problem that’s real and real serious, we’ll make some critical progress where it’s needed most: among the huge swath of average Americans that don’t believe or know there’s a situation that we all have to address right now

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USA Yesterday

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Author: the Inkslinger

We got some good ink in yesterday's edition of USA Today. More to the point, we got a nice photo and the issue of unhealthy chemicals in consumer products got some much needed mainstream media coverage, which I think we can all agree is even better.

Following the paper's sound-bite tradition of never printing more in any given article than can be digested between subway stops, the article doesn't t dive into the deep end of the subject by any means, but what really matters is that USA Today gave any ink to this issue at all . They did, and that's a good thing no matter what. Even more impressive, the piece generally falls on the precautionary side of things and rather than give manufacturers a soap box to spin the damning PR their way, it instead chooses to cite independent sources like the Environmental Working Group and Consumers Union. That's a positive development. Let's hope for the sake of public health that it's the beginning and not the end of paper's coverage of the subject.

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