I finally caved to the pressure and joined facebook. So did everydaytrash (I’ve taken to discussing the blog as a ventriloquist might her marionette, as though the thing has a life of its own uncontrolled by me). So, trashies, if you’re into social networking, show some love for us both and join the everydaytrash facebook group. All the cool kids are doing it. What’s more, so are the outcasts.
Archive for September, 2007
Fellow trashie, DumpsterTaoist recently turned me on to the subject of gomi, or japanese trash. Trash, like most aspects of japanese culture, comes with its own set of intricate protocols. Here are some interesting links on the subject detailing:
This week on Trashtastic Tuesday, we check in with Raz Godelnik of Eco-Libris, a green business encouraging readers to off-set the paper consumed by their book-buying by donating money to plant trees in developing countries.
everydaytrash: How did you come up with the idea of Eco-Libris?
Godelnik: It all started when I was thinking about paper and the environmental impacts of its production. I realized it might take a while to get to the point where eco-friendly alternatives (from the use of recycled paper to e-books) will replace virgin paper. Then, I talked with some friends about the idea of giving people the opportunity to balance out their paper consumption by planting trees and received good feedback about it.
The decision to focus on books was made after learning that only about 5% of the paper used for printing books is made of recycled paper and because most books don’t have yet any online eco-friendly alternative (e-book) like magazines and newspapers have. So if you want a book, you usually can’t avoid purchasing the paper-made version, unless you go to the library or get it from places like bookcrossing.com, which are both excellent choices. You also can’t tell people to stop reading books, so it seems only natural to give book lovers a new alternative to make their reading habits greener – planting trees for the books they read.
everydaytrash: How did you find and select planting partners?
Godelnik: We are very picky about our planting partners as we want to make sure the right species of trees are planted in the right places in collaboration with local communities. We conducted an extensive and in-depth selection process to find the right partners that included review of many criteria to ensure the quality of the plantings, such as the specific species that are planted, locations of planting, mixed forest, usage of native species, monitoring and management plans of the plantings, etc.
Eventually we chose 3 non-profit organizations – Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), RIPPLE Africa and The Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR). These are highly respected organizations, registered in the US and the UK, which plant trees in the highest ecological and sustainability standards in Latin America and Africa. In these areas, deforestation is a crucial problem, and planting trees not only helps conserve soil and water, but also raises the ecological awareness of the local communities for whom these trees offer many benefits and an opportunity for a better future. All the planting operations are being conducted in full collaboration with the local communities.
everydaytrash: How many books have you off-set/trees have you planted since starting up your operation?
Godelnik: We have balanced out so far more than 3,500 books. Each book is balanced out by planting one tree (actually we plant via our planting partners 1.3 trees for every book to maximize the chances that 1 tree will reach maturity). Our goal is to balance out half a million books by the end of 2008
everydaytrash: What about other forms of paper waste? Do you have plans to expand this concept into the corporate world to encourage companies to off-set office paper waste?
Godelnik: At the moment we’re focused only on books because of the reasons I talked about earlier and also because we feel that being focused on one major issue helps us to make our message and call for action more powerful. We also want to inspire people and organizations to balance out books as their first stop on the road to sustainability. On the personal level, it means to continue from balancing out books to starting to reduce the whole household’s paper consumption. The same goes with organizations in the book publishing industry, from publishers to bookstores. In any case, in the future, we will definitely consider to expand our call for action into other areas that use paper unsustainably.
Photos courtesy of RIPPLE Africa, Sustainable Harvest International (SHI) and The Alliance for International Reforestation (AIR).
Tonight I finally took a freegan trash tour, something I’ve been meaning to do for months. I’m glad I waited for two reasons. One, it’s Ramadan, a time of year when I’m especially conscious of food, its overabundance in my daily life and temporary absence during fasting. Two, tonight’s trash tour took place in Morningside Heights, which afforded me a fresh view of my childhood neighborhood.
From what I understand, the “freegans” of freegan.info see themselves as a sort of public relations arm of a larger movement aimed at reducing society’s waste and making use of discarded food. The group takes advantage of the relative freedom of New York City to dumpster dive and forage openly and with little interruption from store managers or the police. Members of the media and those new to freeganism are invited to rummage through garbage bags on street corners during trash tours (held several times a month) and to dine communally on the booty at occasional “freegan feasts.” In addition, their Web site deals with a variety of issues ranging from what we eat to a concept called “voluntary joblessness.”
What interested me was the chance to spend an evening more or less practicing what I preach here about ways to combat the overwhelming swell of city garbage. While it’s too late in the evening to process what I learned, I can share with you a little of what I experienced.
Meeting up with this evening’s tour proved easy enough. I showed up at the designated street corner where a Japanese cable access film crew, a student camera crew and a still photographer from Newsweek had already begun to document events. Right away I recognized at least three faces in the crowd from past media stories on freeganism. One of the organizers, a young woman in rubber-like protective bike gear and a bandanna, kicked off the tour with a short speech about privacy (for the benefit of the media present) and the importance of leaving places as clean as we found them. And we were off.
I accompanied the tour to three nearby sites: two grocery stores and one bagel joint. The first stop yielded less than expected (many present were collecting goods for a freegan potluck feast later in the week)—some bruised fruits and vegetables, mostly onions, made their way into tote bags and backpacks. As one freegan put it “it looks like pretty trashy trash this evening”.
The second stop, a high-end grocery known for poor labor practices and beautifully arranged if unaffordable produce, provided more in terms of both food and spectacle. Large plastic trash bins brimmed with overripe avocados, broken carrots and a hodgepodge of fancy greens. As the freegans went to work sorting and the accompanying media fell over themselves recording, a number of passersby stopped to stare, question and even join in the foraging. The event organizers quickly passed out calendar flyers, recited talking points and collected email addresses (I relay this not so much sarcastically as in awe of such tightly organized media strategy).
As one young man tipped a bin of wet produce into another empty container to sort through the carrots and berries at the bottom, a thickly accented voice piped up from across the sidewalk: “animals eat.” I turned around. Apparently an employee of the store, the man with the accent—Turkish it turns out—had stood watching the sorting and documenting from the doorway to the grocery for quite some time before offering this key intelligence. In broken English, the informant explained to me that the trash had been sorted into real trash (collected nightly by a waste hauler), cardboard (collected every other night by a separate recycling hauler) and slops, collected nightly by a private company that drove it to an animal farm in New Jersey. One organizer muttered to another that perhaps this store should be dropped from the tour, seeing as the organic waste they were picking through might not truly be “trash”.
After about an hour of rummaging and a brief display of yam juggling, the woman pictured above stood before an impressive array of produce, bread and half a salami and spoke on a melange of topics including excess waste, fossil fuels, war, labor abuses and rain forest cutting in Central America.
Next, it was on to bagels. I accepted a nearly-whole, perfectly good looking carrot from one of the bins (that by now may be on its way to feed Jersey pigs), peeked into a bag full of bagels from the shop next door and, plucking a pumpernickel for the road, thanked the organizers and headed on my way.
As I walked past the Turkish grocery man again, he asked “going home?”
“Yes,” I said, “thanks again for the information.” He had given me the name of the food waste collection company used by the store. “Wait, I get you sample,” he said. In chatting about garbage collection, we had established the Middle Eastern connection. When I said my family was from Iran, his eyes lit up. He had seemed grateful for a familiar term of reference after watching middle class whites root through would-be-pig-slops for so long. Now, he slipped into the store and returned with a lush container of fresh fruit cup (complete with papaya!), a plastic fork and a plastic bag to carry it in.
“For my neighbor,” he said. I thanked him profusely, considered refusing the bag, but in the end tucked the whole collection into my tote along with my partial carrot and stale black bagel, all to be sampled pre-dawn before another long day of fasting and meditating on food and waste.
I discovered the small company of Monsoon Vermont via a recent comment made by one of the founders on an old post about rag pickers in India. I tend to be a bit jaded about trash-to-treasure products and eco-friendly fashion that encourages us to pay more or buy things we don’t really need in the name of green. That said, I do appreciate the power of talking piece fashion, such as the umbrellas available as part of MonsoonVT’s Scavenger Projet. Objectively practical and fashionable, these bright and beautiful items also carry a political message.
The umbrellas and other recycled wares—bags, waste baskets, wallets—are made with discarded packaging collected by scavengers in Indonesia and double as awareness-and-fund-raising tools for the YE Water Program in Jakarta.
Photos via the MonsoonVT site.
Check out this photo slide show of West End’s Trash Fash, an eco exhibit in high fashion store windows timed to coincide with London’s Fashion Week.
Photo via Sky News
Check out this video and slide show on NBC documenting Hong Kong’s recent investment in worms to reduce waste by eating organic trash separated and collected from restaurants. If it works on that urban island, I hope this plan comes to mine!
I’ve been a trash slacker, I know. Here are some tidbits, meatier posts coming soon, I promise! This week (or thereabouts) in trash news:
- It looks like that trash reality show was finally taped (holding breath for DVD release);
- A scrap art show comes to NYC;
- Coke launches an ambitious recycling campaign;
- Brits support a tax rebate for recycling; and
- The kitchen trash can is taken to the next level (pictured).
Photo via teensygreen.com. Thanks to Bernardo for two of these links, my mom for one and Kimberly for another (this blog has become self-sufficient)!
So, it’s been more than one year since I first set out to upload my fascinating collection of trashy factoids in the hopes of sharing them with others and meeting fellow trashies. And in my book, this calls for an Oscar-speech-style post as a nod to the many people who helped keep this small corner of the World Wide Web trash-filled and mildly entertaining for so many days!
First off, thanks to you, dear reader, tending to everydaytrash has surpassed all of my expectations. By starting this blog, I have discovered a world of creative solutions to waste and excess, an on-line community of green thinkers, an array of artists repurposing rubbish and a slew of novice trash reporters quick to forward me the latest in solid waste happenings. Thanks for the support and keep the trash tips coming!
Special thanks are due to tipster-in-chief Kimberly, logo-designer extraordinaire Ricardo and fellow highly-specialized blogger Emily. This first year also yielded not one, but two features about everydaytrash on BlueEgg and in the Brooklyn Papers. Thanks to Jenn and Dana for making those happen.
Here’s a brief overview of (what I believe to be) the best of everdaytrash to date:
- Literary Trash, a week of Q & A’s with trash authors;
- Trashtastic Tuesdays, such as those with fashionista Miss Malaprop, composting middle schoolers in Brooklyn, and a professor of trash; and
- Notes from a trip to Northern Malawi.
Here’s to taking trash to the next level in year two!
From Steven Erlanger’s grim New York Times piece on young Palestinians picking through Israeli settler trash to survive:
The boys are part of a loose-knit colony of scavengers, nearly 250 people who scramble over fetid hills of other people’s trash to eke out a living for their families and themselves. Most are younger than 16; some sleep here during the week to maximize the hours they can hunt for goods to sell. Many are related, from a few large clans, and they have a kind of organization, with a 23-year-old bulldozer driver who settles disputes, and a code of conduct, so that every digger’s finds are respected.
Photo by Rina Castelnuovo via The New York Times