Trash talking is the new green: Annie Leonard

Annie Leonard, the Berkeley resident who has made a living talking trash (getting rid of it, not the foul-mouthed kind) has become a media darling in recent weeks.

With the release of her book, The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health — and a Vision for Change, Leonard has been profiled on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as in the Oakland Tribune, USA Today, Washington Post, and the Toronto Globe and Mail. She has also appeared on CNN and The Colbert Report and is scheduled to talk on Good Morning America in a few weeks.

All this for a book about trash?

Well, it’s no ordinary book. It is based, in part, on a short video called The Story of Stuff that Leonard narrated in 2007. It went viral. Friends sent it to friends. Church groups aired it, as did schools. Environmentalists praised it for questioning whether Americans really need so much stuff in their lives. The video ended up being seen more than 10 million times.


And that means it touched a nerve. Three years later, as the concept of green living has become more mainstream, Leonard is starting to personify that movement. And that is reflected in the media attention. She is honored by most major media outlets and vilified by conservative ones. Glenn Beck has called her an anti-capitalist.

Leonard, 45, lives in Berkeley in a two bedroom bungalow (less place to store stuff) with her 10-year old daughter and mother and runs the Story of Stuff project near the Gourmet Ghetto section of town.

She visited 30 countries for her book – local dumps were a favorite attraction – and she is trying to raise awareness that everything we buy has an afterlife, and not necessarily a pretty one at that. She advocates buying less and reusing more, and according to the Chronicle profile, has put that into practice at her house. It is filled with cast-off furniture and repurposed objects.

Her book is selling well on Amazon. But I think a small part of Annie Leonard wants you to check it out of the library.