Photographer and film maker Kate Schermerhorn seems obsessed with the notion of happiness: in addition to her previous documentary AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER (which, as you’ll probably guess, focused on marriage), she’s also the author of the photography book America’s Idea of a Good Time (which explores our “pursuit of happiness” broadly). If you’re going to dig into such a topic, and particularly its most American incarnations, you’re going to end up at the mall: we love acquiring stuff so much that we now refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” But how happy do the things we buy make us, and what are the larger costs associated with those moments of pleasure?
Of course, the next line of Edwin Starr’s iconic anti-war anthem is “Absolutely nothing.” If you take a look at the incoming press releases I’ve received for the past month or so, you might conclude that’s an appropriate judgment for the current manifestation of Earth Day: brands and companies have latched onto it as their opportunity to show their commitment to the environment. If that “commitment” doesn’t involve addressing a company’s main environmental impact, well, you know, look the other way, and take one of these reusable shopping bags with our logo on it.
Heard that the light bulb that won $10 million from the government will still cost you $50? Wonder if the UK’s watering ban will really make a difference in terms of water savings? Read on: we’ve got the facts on these questions and more in this week’s green tech finds.
Do you need to own a copy of every book you’ve ever read? Every film you’ve ever watched? Every tool you’ll ever want to use? No: in most cases, borrowing or renting these items from a traditional library, another lending or rental outlet, or someone who already owns them works just fine for everyone involved, and gives our natural resource base a bit of a break. We want the use of these items; we don’t have to own them to get that.
That mindset often doesn’t carry over for one of the biggest days of our lives: our weddings.
Traveling cross-continent by human power isn’t new: Peter Jenkins walked across the US in the seventies, and Terry Fox attempted a run across Canada in 1980. Producer Jeff Hyland, along with long-time friend Mike Tryon set out on January 1, 2008 to do something similar: cross the continent by bike along the Southern Tier of the United States. And just as Jenkins and Fox set out on their journeys to answer questions and support causes, Hyland and Tryon’s nearly four month bike ride was dedicated to exploring the question “In a world of environmental change, where are we at?”
Why Saturday? Because May 15 is now Give Away Your Stuff Day.
The brain child of New Yorker Mike Marone, the event is based on a simple premise:
Many of us own valuable stuff we just don’t want anymore. But instead of giving it away or selling it, we allow it to clutter our households and businesses. Billions of great items are just wasting away, taking up space.
Wouldn’t it be cool if we could magically shift ownership of this stuff, in one weekend, coast to coast, with zero effort, little time, and at no cost?
So, do you look for labels such as “recycled,” “organic,” or “biodegradable” when you shop? Many of us do… but debates still rage over the overall impact of promoting green shopping as a means to lighten our collective footprint. Some argue we should meet people where they are… and that means addressing our self-image as consumers. Others counter that such tactics only maintain a status quo based on unsustainable resource inputs, and that we should be pushing for less consumption… particularly in the developed world. Such approaches may not only improve environmental quality, but also make us happier, as we’re not consumed by the need to get and spend.
Design firm MSLK notes that we American consume 1500 plastic bottles of water every second. Great statistic… but does it create a particularly vivid image for you of the levels of bottled water consumption? If not, no worries: MSLK has that covered. Their new art installation Watershed integrates 1500 empty water bottles with “signs with facts about the dangers of this rate of consumption and what the public can do to make a change.”
Pondering the influence and impact of brands on her life, this blogger created a visual representation, a timeline portrait displaying only the brands she interacts with on a typical Friday. The fact that with minimal context aside from time stamps and logos, the viewer can still deduce and relate to the blogger’s day is an…
This provocative series by William Hundley appears to comment on our banal consumptive nature. I get that, but am I just a mindless product, the proverbial Pavlov’s dog, of that societal tendency because those photos just happen to evoke a craving for a cheeseburger?
In internet time, Annie Leonard’s The Story Of Stuff is relatively old. But the 2007 web video, produced by Free Range Studios and funded by the Tides Foundation and Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption (among others) has attained cult status in American classrooms. According to the New York Times, teachers around the country use the video to supplement environmental education textbooks that often lack information on recent scientific discoveries.
Creative teaching, right? Not in Missoula County, Montana, where the school board responded to a parent’s complaint about the video’s “anti-capitalist” message with a decision that use of The Story of Stuff “violated its standards on bias.”