J500 Media and the Environment

Let’s get trashed by travisjbrown
February 26, 2008, 3:58 pm
Filed under: Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , , , ,

Environmentalist beware…..


The garbage monster!

Yeup. That’s mine. A whole day of trash. You have to admit, he’s kind of cute from a distance.

But get up close and the story changes. There’s the smelly, rotting onion hiding behind his jug lid-nose. Take a peak inside the treacherous creature’s mouth and the view get’s even worse. Moist coffee grains strewn about, a pile of uneaten beans, a mound of bacon grease.

That’s not even half of the horror behind this monster. Think of how long this trash will be around. His left eye – that bean can – that’ll biodegrade in 50-100 years. His right aluminum eye will take 80 – 100 years. And that OJ jug he’s trying to chomp down – that’s here for the the long haul with a life expectancy of forever.

Two weeks ago I started this exercise of putting my trash out on display. Now I’d by lying to you if I told you this was an eco-conscious decision. Actually, I just don’t have a trash can by my desk at work, and I’m far to lazy to bring one. So I just create a pile next to my computer. Every time I drink a soda or finish a candy bar, I add the remains to the pile. At the end of the day I take the mini-heap to the trash can and recycling bins.

This is good for two reasons. 1) I make sure to recycle and 2) I’m more aware of my waste. Now, when I get my morning coffee, I nix the straw and napkins so that they won’t be staring at me all day.

When I decided to carry this experiment over to my home life, it didn’t go over as well. At work the trash just blends in with my usual clutter, and it only consists of a few remnants of items taken from the break room. At home I create much more waste and my roommates don’t appreciate it being left out in the open… no matter how pretty I make it look.

One of them even had the nerve to put my beautiful creation in the garbage can. Of course, I was forced to dig out and reassemble my new friend.

People don’t like seeing their trash.

No kidding, Travis. Why the hell do you think they invented the trashcan?

But maybe it’s good to see how much waste we produce. And I think I know just the man to help us with this.

Chris Jordan makes works of art that put our consumption in perspective.

Oh how lovely, it’s George Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.

Wait a minute, that’s not a Seurat.


Why, that’s not a Seurat at all!


Artist: Chris Jordan, chrisjordan.com

This piece uses images of 106,000 aluminum cans. That’s how many are used in the U.S. every 30 seconds.

It may not be Neo-impressionism, but it sure makes an impression on me.

So is this mind control? Propaganda? Heresy to good old American capitalism? Does this artwork thrive of the guilty conscious of it’s viewers?

No. It educates us. Numbers just don’t have the impact they used to. We hear so many astronomical statistics on the news that we’ve become desensitized to them.

It’s the difference between these two fellas:
Photobucket Photobucket

Al Gore and Iron Eyes Cody may have strikingly similar facial features. But they used completely different means of communicating their message. While Cody tried to make us feel guilty for destroying mother earth, Mr. Gore has worked to educate us.

So I say bring on the awakening. Bring on the awareness. But it doesn’t hurt to focus on aesthetics. We all like pretty things

-Travis Brown


8 Comments so far
Leave a comment

WOW, excellent work with the trash monster! Now I’m going to have nightmares all week!


Comment by rarab

I posted a link a while ago to Chris Jordan’s site. Simran said he is coming to talk to our class soon. Should be great!

Comment by Lauren Keith

But it doesn’t hurt to focus on aesthetics. We all like pretty things.

This is such an important point, Travis, and one that’s raised by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. A quick quote (which I found in Hal Clifford’s review of the book at Grist):

We see a world of abundance, not limits. In the midst of a great deal of talk about reducing the human ecological footprint, we offer a different vision. What if humans design products and systems that celebrate an abundance of human creativity, culture, and productivity? That are so intelligent and safe that our species leaves an ecological footprint to delight in, not lament?

Aesthetics is a part of that abundance McDonough and Braungart celebrate; they claim good design embraces it rather than striving to “be less bad.” If designers shift to a “cradle to cradle” mindset, using materials in aesthetically pleasing ways doesn’t become a conflict — nothing’s “thrown away” at the end of the product’s useful life, so why not design things to be both pleasing and practical. Rather than butchering their ideas further, though, let me point you their own words (and this a short read… promise!):

“The Cradle to Cradle Alternative” Worldwatch State of the World 2004

Comment by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

Excellent post — and perspective, Travis. What is the most effective way to shift behavior(s)? Fundamentally, that’s what this is all about. And that’s why we see so much backlash against it. This isn’t (just) about shopping differently or consuming differently, it’s about rethinking how we see the world. Or does that sound too precious? Braungart & McDonough would concur, but I fear their mandate that we can consume endlessly (even if we create no waste) is dangerous.

Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Braungart & McDonough would concur, but I fear their mandate that we can consume endlessly (even if we create no waste) is dangerous.

Point well taken…. the “cradle to cradle” concept should be coupled with the aim to consume less. I saw that implicit in their concept of abundance (and perhaps that’s Colin Beavan’s take on it seeping into my consciousness), but it’s also been a few years since I read the book…

Comment by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

I think awareness is a great thing, but using guilt to make people aware is tricky.

I bring to the table a possible explanation of why people react so differently to the idea of trash, recycling, and reducing.


We are all in some stages of recovering from having too much and wanting too much. Some will just be in the denial and agitation stages for quite a bit longer.

Comment by acbowman

I don’t really believe that this is guilt. Is any environmental statistic written with the intention of quilting someone? I just view this as a beautiful way of showing statistics.

Comment by travisjbrown

Great Blog! If any of your readers would like to see Art made from recycled trash, check out http://www.earths-journey.com. We have some pretty amazing things. Keep up the good work!

Tina Santillo

Comment by earthsjourney

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