Missoula School Board Bans Story of Stuff

The popular animated documentary The Story of Stuff provides a thorough and intriguing breakdown of our culture of consumption, from raw material extraction to disposal. It is packed with enough information that the filmmakers hoped it would become a teaching tool. In Montana, the Missoula County Public Schools' Board of Trustees begs to differ.

When a Big Sky High School biology teacher screened the film for her class, the parent of a senior protested, because he considered the film partisan and liberal, and thought that the teacher had failed to provide balance to the video.

Ultimately, the Missoula school board voted to ban the film from their schools.

:: Read more about this story: School board assailed for video decision


What is The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff graphic

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute film that takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the real costs of our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration.

Annie Leonard, an activist who has spent the past 10 years traveling the globe fighting environmental threats, narrates The Story of Stuff, delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The Story of Stuff examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of “planned obsolescence” and “perceived obsolescence” —and how these notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today.

Leonard's inspiration for the film began as a personal musing over the question, “Where does all the stuff we buy come from, and where does it go when we throw it out?” She traveled the world in pursuit of the answer to this seemingly innocent question, and what she found along the way were some very guilty participants and their unfortunate victims.

:: Watch the film: The Story of Stuff



Teaching Resources for The Story of Stuff

Many people who have seen The Story of Stuff have asked what they can do to address the problems identified in the film. Each of us can promote sustainability and justice at multiple levels: as an individual, as a teacher or parent, a community member, a national citizen, and as a global citizen.

As Annie says in the film, “the good thing about such an all pervasive problem is that there are so many points of intervention.” That means that there are lots and lots of places to plug in, to get involved, and to make a difference. There is no single simple thing to do, because the set of problems we’re addressing just isn’t simple. But everyone can make a difference, and the bigger your action the bigger the difference you’ll make.

:: Teaching resources for The Story of Stuff:

:: 10 Little and Big Things You Can Do

:: The Bigger Picture—Background Reading


Tell Us What You Think

As a professional, what do you think about the Missoula County Public Schools' Board banning the Story of Stuff?

Have you used The Story of Stuff in your class room? How has the film stimulated discussion and understanding about the environment?

Send your comments to [email protected]


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