Dirty Little Secrets.

I recently finished reading Edward Humes' "Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash". Working in this industry, I was assuming it would cover a lot of information that I already knew. It did. But I was also blown away by several sections of this book. 

In addition to siting the Environmental Protection Agency's 249.6 million tons of trash (in 2008), Garbology also pulled in research from Colombia University and the journal BioCycle, which has "more accurate, scientific surveys". This research reviews that we're sending "twice as much waste to landfills as the EPA's calculations let on, and recycling proportionately far less than the rosy official stats suggest", or 389.5 million tons. 

We have to start getting trash out from behind the building. It's too easy for people toss their bags in and have no idea where it goes.

We are in denial about our dirty little secrets.Waste certainly isn't sexy. But there is so much potential to change the way we consume. 

Be thoughtful about what you buy. Be thoughtful about how you dispose of things. Reuse and Repurpose as much as possible. And as a last resort, recycle and compost. 

Read this book. Or several other good ones out that. Take a little time to be aware.

Creative reuse

In the past few weeks, a few stories have come out highlighting companies repurposing materials in interesting ways, such as Jet Blue - they've been collecting their used uniforms and are saving 18.5 tons of fabric from the landfills! And then there is Repurposed Materials in Denver - their entire store is made up of repurposed materials from pool covers to fish netting.

Over the past few years, with I've been able to work on similar projects - keeping interesting items out of the landfill with a little creativity and industry connections. Projects have ranged from scraps from t-shirts that needed the logo's destroyed that turned into hundreds of new onesies for mom's in need by Bundles of Love in Minneapolis, a decommissioned hot air balloon donated to an environmentally focused apparel non-profit for a design contest in Minneapolis, a jumbo hanger used during an event now draws people into the Dress for Success office in San Antonio, and scraps of wood from an industry product launch that now make up part of an indoor skate park in Brooklyn. 

So much waste is added to the landfill every day. With a little time an effort, there are so many alternatives to this practice! But let's not forget to try to reduce consumption first.

State Fair Waste Audit

Native Sustainability, in collaboration with Made, is working with the Minnesota State Fair to assess the probability of all trash cans being converted to compost cans. That switch could save the Fair more than $50,000 a year, as well as provide amazing educational opportunity about organics in the waste stream. 

Minnesota Public Radio did a short piece about the initiative. Read it here!

I also did an interview with Environmental Initiative regarding the efforts. Many thanks to the EI staff members who helped us with day one of sorting! 


Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables

France got it right. 

Noting the vast amount of "not perfect" food waste being created (300 MILLION tons per year), they started a new campaign. It reached 13 million people in a month! We're not perfect, why do we expect our food to be? This gives a whole new meaning to "it's what's inside that counts". 


Photos in a weeks worth of trash...

Photographer, Gregg Segal beautifully captured images of people in a of weeks amount of their person waste contribution (which the EPA estimates at 4.38 pounds per person, per day). He has ongoing series, “7 Days of Garbage,”. Segal hopes "...the series is guiding people toward a confrontation with the excess that’s part of their lives. I’m hoping they recognize a lot of the garbage they produce is unnecessary".

See the related Slate story here

This is a great step in getting waste out from behind the building. We need to be aware of what our contributions really are and trust that people can change. Let's start from source reduction, thoughtful purchasing, getting food into hungry people and animals and only then, to compost. We can do better.