I've been missing being able to post about green living, recycling and trash on the 30-day No Trash Challenge Blog so when a coworker of mine left this photo at my desk the other morning, I thought, YES! An excuse to talk about trash!
It's a photo by photographer Dwight Eschliman from a shoot for the Green Issue of the NY Times Magazine. I would estimate that the number of plastic bottles in this photo is the amount used/disposed of by the average American every month. I don't have the issue in front of me to see if they in fact give those details or not, but just based on how many are presented, I don't think that's too far off base. And while yes, they can be recycled, it's still a heavy amount of consumption and the best way to reduce the demand for plastics and other non-essential packaging materials is to stop consuming them and to find alternatives (i.e. reusable water bottle).
Before I knew that it was from a shoot for the NY Times Magazine, I thought, "look! pictures of trash (well, in this case, recyclables) are so "in"!" It immediately brought me back to a class I had with Dutch silk-screen artist Harmen Liemburg in design school where he encouraged us to pick up trash (something I'm already known for amongst my friends), collect it and then photograph the collection. And of course, I recalled the photos I took of some of the trash collected during my July participation in the 30 day no trash challenge:
Clearly, Dwight's photos are more impressive. But what I find interesting about his work and any photos of "one person's trash", is that it forces us to look at it in a new way. We're so accustomed to tossing things in the bin and having them magically disappear. The process of collecting, holding onto and documenting those things is something that I think is worth exploring not just from a creative standpoint but also from an environmentally responsible standpoint. Over on 365 Days of No Trash, Dave has been doing this for some 250+ days. Not necessarily photographing it, but otherwise documenting it carefully.
Actually, the idea of documenting one's trash makes me think of Kate Bingaman-Burt. She is an artist/designer/teacher who has been documenting her *consumption* for a couple of years through regular drawings. The idea and product—her lovely, simple marker drawings—has led to her own "brand". Ironic? Perhaps. Smart? Definitely.
So whether it's one's consumption or trash production (they go hand-in-hand by the way) that you look at, it can be a very visual and informing experience.
I'll finish this off with another of Dwight's photos from the same NY Times issue that I found interesting:
This could easily be one person's consumption in a WEEK. When you look at it like this, it really gets you thinking, no? What do I consume in a week?