One aspect of sustainability is assessing the real costs of consumption, be it of gasoline, computers, food, or any number of consumer products. With that in mind, the Chicago Architecture Foundation is currently running an exhibition about the real costs of our goods and services.
Your next hairdryer will cost you $291. Each time you drive, you pay an extra $2.28 per gallon of gas. Your bottled water costs 2,000 times the price of tap water. Do we understand the value of the things we buy and how profoundly our purchases shape the future of our cities?
The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) [has in] its downtown storefront gallery a unique exhibition, Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop, exposing how our buying decisions determine the vitality of the environments we inhabit. The exhibition is designed as a pop-up store and takes visitors on a shopping trip through more than a dozen departments. In each, “shoppers” will discover the hidden cost of everyday products while learning how personal values determine the health of our communities. This exhibition is free and located in the ArcelorMittal CitySpace Gallery in the historic Santa Fe Building.
“This one-of-a-kind exhibition provides visitors with a unique sensory experience as it encourages them to consider if future generations will be able to enjoy Chicago as much as we do,” said Ingrid Haftel, associate curator for How Much Does It Cost?
Whether high or low, price tags hide more than they reveal. How Much Does It Cost? contrasts sticker price with the environmental, social and economic costs that individuals and communities really pay. The exhibition revolves around how individuals and communities use energy, water, land, transportation and how they construct the meanings of livability and sustainability.
“While shopping in departments ranging from Home Improvement to Pets, visitors will discover amazing facts and stories and find that each of us can make a difference,” said Gregory Dreicer, vice president of exhibitions at CAF. “How Much Does It Cost? encourages people to ask themselves: ‘what am I willing to pay for livable communities. . . for myself, my family and my kids?’”
In “departments” Gardening, Electronics and Shoes, How Much Does It Cost? visitors will reflect on their core values as well as the contents of their wallets. They’ll find they pay more than they thought. Browse Electronics and discover that a $21 hair dryer really costs $291 over 10 years to operate. Shop for Chicago souvenirs and consider how changing priorities determine the value of the city’s buildings—to the tune of millions of dollars.
The How Much Does It Cost? Shop reveals hidden value, too. Visitors discover how one degree on their thermostat reduces pollution and puts cash in their pocket. They’ll find out how their garden can help save money while protecting drinking water. In Movies, they’ll note shocking conditions that almost no one wants to confront.
Loop Value: The How Much Does It Cost? Shop [is open] in the ArcelorMittal CitySpace Gallery at CAF’s main office in the Santa Fe building at 224 South Michigan Ave. It is made possible through the generous support of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Illinois Sustainable Education Project (I-StEP), the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Illinois American Water.
For more information visit www.architecture.org/howmuch. See interviews and videos pertaining to this exhibition on CAF’s www.onenationunderconstruction.org. Roosevelt University Sustainability Studies Professor Mike Bryson and I served on the exhibition’s advisory board, and we taped (respectively) videos on the Chicago River and cellphones to go alongside several other videos available at the CAF’s site. WLS-TV Channel 7’s Hosea Sanders visited the exhibit and you can see his report here.