J500 Media and the Environment

talking trash by jessicasb
February 18, 2009, 5:05 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate, Nature + Travel, Society + Media, Waste + Recycling | Tags: ,

How much trash have you consumed today? If we’re really counting, I’ll let you know: two muffin wrappers, two paper coffee cups and a ziploc bag. My friend sitting next to me? Plastic sandwich bag, granola bar wrapper, a styrofoam cup and an envelope. The average American throws away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage over their lifetime, according to the EPA.  

We can talk about helping the environment until we’re blue — or green — in the face, but we know that we allow ourselves some leeway every day. “No impact man” we are not.

And we probably won’t ever be, because the effects (overflowing landfills, trash in the ocean and a depleting ozone layer) of our non-environmentally friendly causes (throwing away recyclables, driving) are something we can choose to never see.

I was really fascinated when I first heard about a California man, Dave Chameides, who saved all of his trash for one year. He wasn’t trying to unrealistically wipe out his carbon footprint completely — after all, he still produced 60 pounds of trash. But by knowing he’d have to confront his environment impact — literally — he made adjustments.

And to do the same, take Chameides’ advice, as he tells CBS: “Right now, grab a piece of paper and a pen, write down everything you’re going to throw away for the next week and look at it. Fifty percent of it you can get around.”

— Jessica Sain-Baird

Thanks to YouTube and WPTZ for the video.


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This one of the few rules of ecology: There is no “away.” So what does this mean for our consumer culture? We try to create “aways,” but sooner or later those are going to catch up with us. You should look up a term called NIMBYism, if you haven’t heard of it already. It’s the idea that we all want to throw stuff away, but we don’t ever want to see it or deal with it again.

Comment by Lauren Keith

I agree — there is no “away,” and that’s what I was going for in this post. It’s really easy to not care about the amount of trash you consume when you can throw it in a dumpster and never, ever see it again. Not sure I could be brave enough to collect my trash, but ever since I started recycling, I always ask myself if anything I want to throw away would be better recycled rather than sitting in a landfill.

Comment by jessicasb

I wanted to save all of my trash to see how much I wasted but my roommate wouldn’t let me. I think part of it is because he didn’t want to have a lot of trash in the apartment, but another reason is that he doesn’t want to see just how much we waste.

Comment by tylerw09

I like this experiment. It’s an interesting twist on the idea that “we are what we eat” (“we are what we consume”). The next logical place would be to try for source reduction – actually reducing what we throw “away.”

Comment by j500

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