Watching waste

6 February 2009 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

david-chameides-basement-11.

by Sarah Catlett

The beginning of any new year is inevitably marked by the disposal of things from the old one, be it the trash from holiday festivities or an often futile attempt to rid ourselves of bad habits from years past. For most of us, New Year’s 2009 was no exception. But for “Sustainable Dave” Chameides, the New Year brought an end to a year-long experiment in taking (very) personal responsibility for dealing with his daily waste: 365 Days of Trash.

The experiment was hatched following a discussion with a friend about how easy it is for all of us to throw things away, “because we are not confronted with that waste since it goes ‘away.’” The question became: What happens when we are confronted with the ugly truth of all the “stuff” that results from our living and consumption patterns? So for the 366 days of 2008 (it was a leap year), Chameides kept all his trash—including recyclables, e-waste and food waste that went to the worms for composting—in the basement of his Los Angeles home. Yes, Dave credits his wife for making the experiment possible.

On his blog, Chameides kept a running trash diary of sorts, describing his detritus in terms of how he would eventually have to deal with it and where it would end up—garbage, recycling, re-purposing. The hope was that the experiment would allow him (and perhaps others) to honestly assess what waste could be cut out simply by making better choices, what “necessary” waste could be dealt with in a sustainable fashion and what waste could not be avoided.

In the end, it turns out that he produced only 30 or so pounds of real garbage in a year—because most of his waste was recyclable or otherwise reusable. On reaching the end of his 365 Days of Trash, Chameides blogged of feeling uneasy about the odd experience of actually throwing something “away.” While he may not have achieved zero-sum consumption, the challenge of keeping his trash went a long way, to reducing it, while providing an interesting case study in conscious (rather than conspicuous) consumption.

There’s more at CNN, in the Ney York Times, and in TIME.

The photograph at the top of the post is via Treehugger

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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