Monday 15 August 2011

The Secret Life of Stuff by Julie Hill

Julie Hill is a long standing environmental campaigner. Her new book The Secret Life of Stuff explores the environmental issues around consumerism and our love of material stuff. Julie describes herself as an 'unashamed optimist' and 'someone who really likes shopping' but who buys most things in second hand shops so she doesn't feel guilty about it (she also admitted to being totally fascinated by what people give away to second hand shops). In her conversation today with environmental journalist, Rob Edwards, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, she ranged over some of the environmental and economical issues relating to consumerism and our love of stuff. The event was, like most book festival events, only an hour long, and aimed to start the audience thinking about the issues rather than to solve the problems! These issues include:

are there limits to growth and how are these defined?
how much stuff is too much?
at what point does attachment to material things become a problem?
how much can materials and energy be reused and recirculated to reduce consumption?
how can we take green consumerism out of being a niche lifestyle choice and make it the ordinary way that we look at our choices around stuff?
can capitalism ver be compatible with sustainability?

The discussion was engaging and wide ranging and left the audience with plenty to think about. To fit in with the arguments of the event, Julie suggested that the audience should borrow or share copies of the book, but it can also be purchased in most book stores or online here.

Julie Hill used to work for Green Alliance and you can read their review of the book here (this article also has some useful links).

The Secret Life of Stuff by Julie Hill, published by Vintage Books.

I attended this Book Festival event for free due to having a press pass. I then attended the Story Shop event which is FREE for everyone. Today, Sarah Stewart read a couple of very short stories. Story Shop is a series of ten minute readings from new and emerging Edinburgh writers, at 4pm every day during the Book Festival, you can see the full Story Shop programme here.


The Weaver of Grass said...

I am changing my mind about stuff as I get older, Juliet. I used to like collecting things and often bought stuff when I was out and about. Now I look towards getting rid of it - I have quite stopped buying anything except books - and those I just cannot resist.

dosankodebbie said...

I always prided myself in being clutter-free, owning only the barest of necessities. But it turns out that this was possible because I never stayed in one place long enough to accumulate "stuff." Once my life became settled, "stuff" began to accumulate. I've had to make a conscious decision to keep this from happening. Fortunately, Japan has very thorough recycling laws, and little goes to waste.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good book - good to see some optimism around the subject (no point being totally without hope, otherwise people will just give up and not give a toss).

Wild_Bill said...

My wife and I were just talking about all the useless stuff in the world that people think they need and how much energy it uses to make and buy it. This a huge part of the climate crisis without a doubt. I can understand the necessities but not all the junk. Humans sure are a strange breed.

Michelle May-The Raspberry Rabbits said...

This looks like a wonderful book. I can't tell you all the stuff I have sold and given to second hand shops over the years. Ridiculous. Now I'm very picky what I purchase preferring handmade and second hand most.
xx, shell

RG said...

Stuff - it'll be the ruin of us! Unless it "grows on trees," which some do seem to believe.

(Actually I quite like most of MY stuff, it is so useful and practical. It's those other uber consumers and packrats that are the problem ...)