Stuff

The Secret Lives of Everyday Things

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By John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning

“Stuff deconstructs the American Dream by unraveling the hidden costs behind the objects around us.” – Mother Jones

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Stuff follows a day in the life of a fictional, typical North American middle-class resident of Seattle. Nothing terribly unusual or dramatic happens. Unless you count average consumption–which Stuff does. Tracing back the layers of distribution, commerce, and production involved in everyday consumer goods Stuff is an engaging and fact-packed look at the people and places that are affected every time you sip your coffee, tie your shoes, click your mouse, step on the gas, or read a book.

In the process, you’ll find that what happens around the world to support a day in the life of an average northwesterner is not only dramatic, but disturbing. If you don’t know your stuff–and their secret lives–you don’t know your world.

Years after it was originally published, Stuff has sold more than 40,000 copies, and is read and taught in schools around the world. Most recently Stuff has been translated into Chinese and Korean, and has been used by Wal-Mart to educate their buyers about product life cycles.

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John C. Ryan was research director for Northwest Environment Watch, the former name of Sightline, from 1993 to 2000.

Alan Durning is executive director of Sightline.

Published: April 11, 1997