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Behind The Story of Stuff

Blue & Green Tomorrow is passionate about reducing the impact that we consumers have on our finite blue and green planet. We are, therefore, delighted to share a two part interview with Annie Leonard on her motivations, and the origins and future of The Story of Stuff Project.

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Blue & Green Tomorrow is passionate about reducing the impact that we consumers have on our finite blue and green planet. We are, therefore, delighted to share a two part interview with Annie Leonard on her motivations, and the origins and future of The Story of Stuff Project.

How did the Story of Stuff Project begin?

My interest in how materials flow through the economy started in grade school and crystallised on a spring afternoon on Staten Island.

I grew up in Seattle, at that time a green and luscious city. My family would go camping every summer. This was in the days before DVDs in the back seats of family cars numbed young passengers, so I’d look out the window, studying the landscape, for the whole drive. Each year, I noticed that the stores and strip malls reached a bit further and the forests started a bit later than the previous year. I wondered where all those forests were going. I wondered how I could stop them from going away entirely.

It turned out to be fortuitous that I went to college in New York City, even though at the time it seemed an odd place to go for environmental studies. My college campus was on 116th street and my dorm room was on 110th street. Every morning I would groggily walk those six blocks, staring at the piles of garbage that line NYC’s street’s every dawn. Ten hours later, I’d walk back to my dorm, staring at the empty sidewalks.

I became increasingly intrigued with this microcosm of materials flow. My curiosity got the best of me; I started looking into the trash each morning to see what was in those never-ending piles. It was mostly paper. Paper! That is where my beloved forests were ending up. In the US, 42 percent of industrial wood harvest is used to make paper. And about 40 percent of the stuff in municipal garbage is paper, all of which is recyclable or compostable if it hasn’t been treated with too many toxic chemicals. By simply recycling rather than trashing this paper, we could reduce our garbage by 40 percent, which would also drastically reduce pressure to cut forests and help with climate change.

Once I realised that those morning trash piles were nearly half paper – were once forests – I was determined to find out where they were going. So I took a trip to the infamous Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island. Coving 4.6 square miles (12 square km), Fresh kills, is one of the largest dumps in the world. When it was officially closed in 2001, some say its volume was greater than that of the Great Wall of China; its peaks 25 meters taller than the Stature of Liberty. I had never seen anything like it. I stood at its edge in absolute awe. As far as I could see in every direction were couches, refrigerators, boxes, apple cores, used clothes… stuff. You know how a gory car crash scene makes us want to turn away and stare at the same time? That is what it was like. I just couldn’t comprehend this massive mountain of materials, reduced to muck, by some system obviously out of control. I knew this was terribly wrong. I didn’t understand it back then, 20 years ago, but I vowed to figure it out.

After college, I went to work for environmental organisations in Washington, D.C. For my first 10 years, I worked on an international campaign to stop rich countries from exporting waste to the world’s poorer countries. I spent a decade traveling around the world, visiting the factories where our stuff is made and the dumps where our stuff is dumped. I met communities that had lost their water supplies, their health, and their livelihood because of polluting industries. I realised that our consumption habits in the US are fueling widespread environmental, health and social problems all over the world. I wanted to find a way to share this information; to expose the hidden costs of our consumption addiction – here and abroad. But I didn’t want to produce yet another scolding guilt-inducing rant. I wanted to say, “Hey, we’ve got a problem here. We’re trashing the planet. We’re trashing each other. And we’re not even having that much fun. Come on, let’s work together and build a different kind of world for us and our children.

We launched The Story of Stuff free on line in December 2007 and have found that the message resonates with a lot of people. The site has had over 12 million views and the film is being shown in schools, churches, community groups and conferences around the world to raise awareness and inspire discussion on these topics. Simply put, we have got to find another way.

How has the Story of Stuff project developed over the years?

After the first film proved so successful, we received tens of thousands of emails asking for more information about Stuff―for more facts and diagrams and details than we could ever possibly fit into a movie. So I wrote a book. The Story of Stuff book takes readers more deeply into the issues covered in the film, from extraction through consumption and disposal. The book also shares some stories and insights I’ve gathering during over a decade of traveling around the world. I want to bring the hidden impacts of all our production and consumption patterns out into the open. And, like the film, I strive to show the connections between a range of environmental and social issues. Most importantly, I provide plenty of signs of hope and examples of how we could do things differently. The book has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.

In 2010, we (along with our partners at Free Range Studios) began producing more animated films. Now there are six: The Story of Bottled Water, The Story of Cosmetics, The Story of Electronics, The Story of Cap & Trade, The Story of Citizens United and The Story of Broke. Each of them highlights a different issue, but we’re now digging deeper, beyond the problems of waste and consumerism and into the fundamental principles of a just and sustainable society. The overall theme is to show people how they can move from being consumers to being citizens.

We also developed a high-school curriculum and a faith curriculum for teens (Christian and Jewish versions are currently available and an Islamic and non-denominational version are in the works). This year we launched a monthly audio podcast, The Good Stuff, which focuses on people who are finding solutions to the problems addressed in the films. It’s pretty amazing that we’re able to do all of this with a full-time staff of just five people. We couldn’t do it without our community.

Return to Blue & Green Tomorrow for Part II of this interview tomorrow.

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What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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