There’s a guy in Los Angeles (where else?) that’s undertaking a bit of a strange project in order to change his impact on the environment.
Los Angeles cameraman Dave Chameides reduces his environmental footprint by keeping his garbage for a year.
Of course my first reaction was "this won’t achieve anything" as obviously he has to throw it all out at some point, thereby creating zero net effect. But there’s more to this than the illusory headline.
For the past nine months (since Jan. 1), the lanky Hollywood cameraman has been filling his basement with every single thing he would ordinarily recycle or toss into the trash.
For his scientific/social experiment Chameides keeps a running tally of his waste and documents it for all the world to see courtesy of his blog. On July 26, for example, his waste stream included one toilet paper tube, two plastic food containers, one plastic vitamin-water bottle and two paper sugar packets.
Wow. Bring on the air freshener.
Chameides, an effusive speaker who had taken his shoes off, is quick to note that he hasn’t inflicted the experiment upon his wife or two young daughters.
Aside from the fact that I bet they don’t use the basement anymore. There are lessons for all of us though.
He recalled a conversation with a friend in which the two concluded how easy it was to throw things away, since away is out of sight. Both wondered how their habits would change if they were confronted by those items each day. Chameides followed through on the idea. And since he considers recycling a crutch (because it requires energy and other resources), he decided to store his recyclables, too.
That is an interesting experiment, and I’ve tried it at a couple manufacturing companies. Hold all of the waste for a week, then use the photos as visuals as we go through lean-oriented waste reduction efforts. Guess what happened in both cases: the amount of waste dropped by almost half during that week. Just thinking about saving the waste seemed to dramatically reduce it.
Chameides has apparently experienced the same phenomenom.
And the 31 pounds of trash in his basement is pretty impressive, considering the average American generates about 1,600 pounds a year.
If you start to think about how to actually reduce the waste stream, you realize it doesn’t have to be all that hard, and can even be profitable.
Moving on to everyday solutions, he said a radical shift in thinking is needed to affect change. Chameides then started pulling items out of a backpack he totes around with him. A toothbrush holder carrying eating utensils, along with a coffee mug, reusable water bottle, and a collapsible bowl ensure he doesn’t use disposable products.
The steps he takes to conserve are practical measures that save money, he noted. Coffee shops often give him a discount for using his own cup, for instance, and never buying bottled water saves him an estimated $600 a year.
Take a look at your waste stream. Even try capturing and containing it for some period of time. You might be surprised with what happens.