J500 Media and the Environment

American Consumption Addiction by beccan

Growing up, my mom and dad made sure I knew the difference between needs and wants. We would go shopping and when I picked something up to show my mom she would ask, “Now, do you really need that or do you want it?” and I would hesitantly say, “want it” without any argument as to why I should get it. I just knew that it wasn’t going home with me. 

Photo courtesy of flickr.com

Needs v. Wants


As much as I dreaded that question as a kid, I now realize why my mother drilled that concept of needs and wants into my head. In the United States, we account for 5% of the world’s population yet account for 30% of the world’s resources. If everyone consumed like we do, we would need three to five planets to contain all of the waste.

For some strange reason, the idea that when we throw something away it simply disappears into thin air, has been engraved in our minds and is starting to affect our planet. We buy, buy, buy and do not see the damage that is being done or the consequences to our wastefulness. Our ignorance is killing our home and it is going to take a lifestyle overhaul to change it.

Having the newest phone, car, computer, you-name-it, is so important to us as Americans. The stuff that we have determines our social status and that status is so important in the American culture. Just think, when the U.S. was deep in the recession people freaked out, because they were not going to be able to consume mindlessly anymore. It made people crabby, because they couldn’t have all of the new stuff they wanted.

The internet has also made it easier to consume. We do not even have to get out of our chairs to buy new stuff anymore; it is delivered to our doorsteps. Advertisers tell us that to be “cool” in society we need to have the latest gadgets, styles and trends, which means we throw our barely-used stuff in the landfill to replace it with a new version of the same thing. This lifestyle has started to spin out of control. 

 There has been a consistent increase in the amount that Americans waste each year and the question is: can this be stopped or are we too far into our consumption addiction to turn it around? 

Becca N.

Food Waste Doesn’t Have to be Wasted by beccan

Studying food and the environment lately makes mealtime a bit different than in my past 21 years of life. My thoughts have been consumed by where my food comes from and what it does for my body. I feel like a can’t even enjoy food anymore at times, because I have been so worried about the harmful pesticides and damage that the environment has been through just so I can eat my dinner- I feel guilty. After breakfast I poured the remains of my oatmeal in the drain, turned on the faucet and pushed the disposal button to make my leftovers disappear. I do this at least once daily without even thinking about it, but for some reason this morning I started to think about where that food was going; down the drain and into the sewer system- it was not just disappearing. Nothing about this process ever seemed wrong to me until today; why waste food that has enough nutrients to support even the human body?

Leftover oatmeal as I dump it down the drain to "disappear".


My mind wandered for a while, questioning the amount of waste my roommates and I, the University of Kansas campus, the Lawrence area, the U.S., the world produces. That is when I found an article explaining that food waste and other organic waste take up almost half of the landfill space in the U.S. and release an unruly amount of methane, which is 34 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This article also explains a law that was passed in California in 2009 requiring businesses and residents to compost food scraps.

I looked further into composting to find out what exactly could be composted and what it takes to compost food waste, in residences and in businesses. This website walked me through the basics of composting. I was surprised to find that composting really is not that expensive or difficult, but for some reason I still cannot see myself composting- at least not at my own home. I think part of my reasoning is the fact that I don’t want a smelly bin or pile of waste in my yard. Yeah, I realize that my reasoning is shallow in some sense, but I’m kind of a “neat-freak”.

If I wasn’t going to compost on my own, maybe KU would. I looked at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Environmental Center to see what one of the most environmental-friendly universities is doing. CU hosts a “Scrape Your Plate Day” each year and in 2008 collected 1,760 pounds of food for compost from 5,887 people in the dining halls. That got me to thinking what KU could do to help and the answer to that is a lot. Individually, people like myself do not want to take the time and deal with the smells of composting, but a University could make a huge difference, like CU has done. 

Becca N.

My Environmental Millstone (Not For Assignment) by angelajon
June 20, 2009, 2:14 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , , ,
“It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.”  Luke 17:2 (NIV)
My millstone sits in my garage, between my two Aero gardens, where my mid-summer starts are getting too big too early, and my five recycling baskets, each one holding a different type of material (plastics, paper, cardboard, glass, other).  It is not a large box, no more than 18 inches to a side.  The box is not ugly; in a previous life it contained Bacardi.  I cannot even complain that the box is in the way; it is not.  BUT IT BUGS ME! In the morning, as I am putting my lunch and purse into my car, getting ready for the drive to work, I stop and curse this darned thing.  When I sit at my desk at work, taking a break from the normal demands on me, I start my online searching, AGAIN.  But I can find nothing, no help.  When I come home and pull into the garage, there it sits accusing me, ruining the view of my otherwise nicely organized and clean garage.  I sit for a few minutes as the garage door closes, I don’t want to get out of the car.  Sitting in the car I cannot see the box, when I open my car door, it comes back into view.  I step around it and go into the house.  I boot up my computer and search again; maybe I will find the right combination of words this time, maybe someone will give me an answer.  But, yet again, I go to bed and the box sits, waiting for me, crouching there to guilt me again in the morning.   

 At one time, the contents of this box provided me a great deal of enjoyment, family time, entertainment and it actually made my life easier.  Now, it is the perfect example of our species’ folly; our desire to have ease and comfort in our life without regard for the consequences.  It is a box of old VCR tapes!  To date, I cannot find a viable way to dispose of these. Burning these releases toxins, there is no recycling program that uses them in any way.  The suggestions I get, even from the experts, is that I should donate them to a thrift store.  I am rejecting this as an option as I cannot be sure that they won’t simply throw my home recording of “The Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie” directly into a landfill.  I’m simply not comfortable foisting my troubles onto someone else.  I created this mess, I feel responsible, and right now it is my quest. 

Flowers Made From VCR Tapes and Sewn on to a Thrift Store Bag

Flowers Made From VCR Tapes Sewn Onto a Thrift Store Bag

Then comes the ‘red letter’ day; I find my answers.  I was surfing for recycling of VCR tapes, when I saw mention of craft uses for VCR tapes.  Huh?  Craft ideas with VCR tapes?  

Updating my search engine to Craft Ideas for VCR tapes turns up a plethora of ideas.  From clutch purses to shopping totes, to decorator flowers, to coasters, who knew a VCR tape had so many uses.

Adding to the great find of craft ideas, on this search I discover Greendisk.com!  I can have all of my electronic needs recycled at about 7$ for 20 pounds.  My CDROMs, my old remotes, phones, VCRs themselves and my tapes; I can have them shipped tomorrow with media mail rates to be fully recycled.  SUCCESS IS BEAUTIFUL.

A Tote Bag Made From VCR Tapes and Ribbon Yarn

A Tote Made From VCR Tapes and Ribbon Yarn

With the new search I came across quite a few suggestions for disposing of VCR tapes.  Here is the list:

Talk to a local hospital, they often have older equipment and could use commercially recorded tapes for their patients (all ages).  This works for Hospice care, assisted living facilities, any not-for-profit child care agencies or elder care.

Convenience stores often use VCRs for security, ask around, they may use your home recorded tapes for their security systems.

Freecycle is always an option.  http://www.freecycle.org/

Greendisk recycles all electronic media.  For roughly 7$ you can recycle 20 lbs of electronic waste.  The site gives all the information.  If you are shipping tapes, use the slow media mail option, it is cheaper.  www.greendisk.com

If you are crafty the two sites below give ways to make clever and even useful things from VCR tapes.  The one that interests me is the ‘earth friendly’ size tote bag; I wonder if it is strong enough for groceries.




Life is GREAT when there is lots of LOVE!

Angela Jones

About Me: Angela Jones by angelajon

While Oregon is very green (in many ways) growing up in the Willamette Valley on a medium-sized ‘working’ farm was not always fun; in fact I believe it is the reason I ran away and joined the military.

My First Horse and Her Colt; Roxie and Rusty

My First Horse and Her Colt; Roxie and Rusty

As a kid, my summers were filled, from before school let out to late fall, with putting up peaches, apples, apricots, plums, pears, tomatoes, and berries into sauces, jams and jellies. We had 7 chest freezers for any food that was not preserved by canning or drying. We traded apples from our orchard for peaches with the guy up the road. We grew our own blackberries and raspberries; at picking farms we picked blueberries and strawberries. Beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, onions, cucumbers and a full menu of squashes were some of the vegetables we could put up and there were so many more in the garden that we just ate as they matured. We raised our own livestock and chickens. For variety my father would hunt deer, elk, rabbit, raccoon, and we all fished from the local lake. Meat was canned, pickled, jerked, frozen, or made into pâté or sausage. All parts of the animals were used: bone was ground into dust and tilled into the soil, skin was tanned, horns and teeth were used for handy-crafts, and buttons, hoofs, tails, guts, and inedible bits were cooked or steamed down into a meal to feed the pigs, goats or chickens.

My Older Brother, Carl, and His Award Winning Kill

My Older Brother, Carl, and His Award Winning Kill

Firewood finished the summer. As harvesting and storing the garden came to an end, my father would get us up drastically early and drive us into the wooded areas of our land. There we would fell, split, chop and cut cottonwood, oak, and ash. We had a wood room on the side of the house. There we could store over 20 cord of wood. Then we would fill the adjacent field with another 20-25 cord of cut, split, and stacked wood. By spring it would all be gone; we heated solely with wood. The ashes were mixed with the winter collection of manure and tilled back into the soil.

Maybe, in some eyes, this is living naturally, living off the land, recycling the woods (we used downed trees first as the wood was ‘seasoned’, but felled what we required). My father was very conscious about sustaining the woods; we cut and felled responsibly, providing growth room for new saplings. He was very aware that if he cut too much, in the wrong areas, or of the wrong type it would impact our ability to heat the home in upcoming years and could cause land erosion.

However, we had a playground for bored kids; a dirty secret for the family.

Most farmers have the same secret, but in our area, since much of our land was not cleared, and the land of the other farmers was sustaining crops, several of our neighbors would come and add to our shame; we had a dump. Out, alongside the furthermost field, ran a tree infested gully. Our land was flood land and every few years the Willamette River would flood its banks and turn much of our land into a lake. There were lots of gullies, formed by water rushed along under the force of the overflowing river. In this gully my father dumped our waste. We burned what we could, the rest: the glass, metal, old mattresses, and what-not were dumped between the trees into this depression. Neighbors came frequently to ask for a favor, “As long as it don’t stink, and bring in varmints,” was my father’s reply to the request, and the dump grew.

At the end of our quarter mile long drive, our closest neighbor had the same type of dump. Otto Hahn was the only farm equipment repairman for over 100 miles; he was famous, much sought after and damned good at what he did. Out the back door of his work shop went his trash, down a small incline into a low area. Trees had grown over it, brush obscured it from view (for the most part), but it was there. On occasion, instead of playing in our own backyard dump, we played in Otto’s. One day I discovered a clear-glass Pyrex dish, wrapped in baking parchment, held in place by cooking twine, with a treasure inside; a piece of wedding cake with a note giving the date and a wedding blessing. Otto Hahn, widowed less than two years ago, had just married is childhood sweetheart 70 years after they met and 57 years after her mother refused to allow her to marry a farmer. Otto and his first wife, Adelia, had been married over 50 years and this was a piece of their wedding cake.

I gave the Pyrex dish, complete with the treasure it contained, to my mother. She took it to Otto and asked his wishes. He was touched, but felt the cake and its importance in his life had been overcome by events. That dish was the first piece to be put in my hope chest; it is a bread loaf baking dish. My dream for many years was to be a baker. I love to make bread. I use the pan often and always remember the sweet old man who could repair anything.

Today, I consciously avoid yard/garage sales as I tend to ‘discover’ way too many treasures. Being with the military and now the federal government, I have not lived in the same house for more than 3.5 years since 1981. I keep my clutter to a minimum or face the pain of packing and moving all of it every few years. This can be a powerful motivator.

I have traveled extensively all over Europe and lived more of my life in countries where English is not the native tongue than the total number of years I have spent state-side. I bring with me all of the paradigms created in Europe by the lack of space, the need to build up rather than spread out, the drive to maintain standards in densely populated multi-cultural cities. In Germany, Italy and several other European Union nations, recycling is mandatory. My weekly garbage, what did not go in one of the three different recycling bins, could fit in a sandwich bag. Taking my trash out each week was actually a pleasure.

We are not as efficient or regimented in our recycling here in the U.S., but I hope to be part of that change as it happens.


Life is GREAT when there is lots of LOVE.

Angela Jones

For the love of landfills by tylerw09
March 6, 2009, 4:18 pm
Filed under: Society + Media, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , , ,


I feel at home in a landfill. I love everything about it, all the different colors, textures, shapes and especially the smell. The smell that stays with you all day. The smell that gets on your clothes and your shoes and completely overwhelms you.

I love going to landfills because I can actually show people how awful they are. I could list staggering statistics like how Americans throw away around 40 billion bottles and soft drink cans and 25 billion Styrofoam cups each year, but I feel that these numbers can be expressed better in a visual way.





These photographs are from a project I did on mass consumption a few years ago. I tried to show the tremendous amount of waste and how are society makes these products readily available to consume and throw away. As has been said many times “away is a place” and this place is a landfill.

I am the youngest of 4 children, all boys. Most of my clothes are hand me downs, I’ve never really lived any other way. This is a good way to reuse old things, which is the second step to the good old phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle.” I reduce my wardrobe by not having many clothes in the first place, and donate all my clothes to goodwill to reuse them. Every American throws away over 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year, and this could be dramatically reduced if people shopped more at second hand stores or the goodwill and reused old clothes. The photographer Chris Jordan has also done some wonderful work on mass consumption.

I will continue to document the horror of landfills. If people see where “away” is then maybe they will start reusing things and think twice before throwing things out.


– Tyler Waugh

Poo Pundit Pushes Back…Part II by shemme

Has the poo crusade of Brad Pooterish had an impact in America? Let’s take a look at waste reduction and recycling in Lawrence, KS to find out.

Use less CRAP, people! Reuse your crap! Recycle your crap!

~ Sarah H

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Poo Pundit Pushes Back by shemme

This is the account of a poo expert’s crusade to save landfill space for dirty diapers. Brad Pooterish, founder and CEO of Daddies Using Diapers (DUDs) shares a dirty little secret behind America’s looming landfill crisis.

All statistics in this video are true and based on real reports from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Diapers really do make up only 1.4% of the waste stream, while paper products and yard waste make up 47%. NO, paper and yard waste do NOT decompose in landfills. Landfills are designed to be a “dry tomb” environment; waste becomes mummified due to the lack of moisture and air flow.

What’s in your landfill?


For more info, visit http://www.epa.gov/msw/facts.htm

~ Sarah H

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