Above, one of three mounds at the Seneca Meadows Landfill in Waterloo, NY, as seen from the west side of Seneca Lake approximately eight miles away (through a telephoto lens). Credit: Kevin Colton, HWS.

EPA Region Map

EPA Region Map
EPA Region Map

Monday, February 7, 2011

Neck Deep


(I didn't actually take this picture, I hope I am not breaking the law, I just didn't want to take a picture of my trash can)

Last week's waste audit didn't take place outside of Scandling Center for no reason. Having our trash piled up in such a high traffic, public area meant everyone was exposed to their own wasteful habits. Maybe those walking by didn't appreciate or understand why it was there, maybe some people were appalled and sorted their trash later that day, maybe some perspective student on a tour was blown away by the funky and unique classes at this liberal arts oasis in Central New York and will come here to major in environmental studies.

Whatever people were thinking, they saw it and they thought about it.

A few years ago (2007/8) I watched a clip on CNN that has, more than any other news story, been rolling around in the back of my mind. It is the story of a man named Ari, who lives in California and decided to save his trash FOR A WHOLE YEAR. He kept a blog, (http://saveyourtrash.typepad.com/save_your_trash/) similar to what we are doing and once his story got out he was interviewed by all of the major news station: (http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2007/12/31/trash.man.ari.derfel.cnn?iref=videosearch)

Think about that for a second... could you live with your own waste for a whole year? How much would you have? It would probably fill my family's two car garage. You'd probably learn a lot about yourself, just as we learned a lot about the people on our campus as we sifted through the bags of trash and recycling last week. But a whole year's worth of trash? We just looked at a small sliver of the trash collected from a few places on campus for one day. What would that have looked like over a week, let alone a year?! A week's worth of trash would most certainly fill the quad and no one wants to look at that. Imagine if we were exposed to our trash for more than just a few hours, it would be disgusting! But that is why we need to understand 'away' and appreciate the fact that we aren't exposed to out waste everyday.

Ari asked the questions that we have been pondering in class: where is away? and what are we throwing out? His philosophy is similar to the objective of this class: that there is no away. Our consumer habits are at the root of this problem, from individual packing to disposable everything. (Is anyone else disgusted by disposable towels now made by Kleenex? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZ5kM_0W1Y4, seriously?! Just wash your hand towels! What's next... disposable jeans?)

So inspired by Ari's project and our waste audit, I am going to save my own trash for a week (not a year) to discover how I can cut down on the 'away' in my life. Next entry I will discuss what I audited from my own trash can and recycling bin. Even as an eco-conscience person, I still throw my fair share of stuff out. I am sure there are ways that I can improve my environmental footprint.

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