I was inspired by this article from today’s New York Times – not necessarily by the (heartwarming?) idea of garbage haulers trained by cops to be on patrol for anything seeming to be out of the ordinary, but by a quote from a Waste Management hauler in Roseville, CA:

Garbage collectors are also informal, hands-on economists, Mr. Garcia said, explaining that when times are good, everyone produces more garbage and that the absence of trash is often a sign of a foreclosed home. “You can tell how well a particular restaurant is doing from the amount of trash,” he said.

Trash Mountain, a representation of the trash an average Minnesotan family of four makes in a year. Gross. Image from

This idea is common across the resource areas: energy consumption is considered one of the strongest indicators of a country’s economic health.

The paradigm disgusts me a little bit – our quality of life, our lives, our wealth – directly correlated to how wasteful we are?

I think with a little more effort, we can make drastic improvements. So next week, I’m preparing to live a Week Without Trash!(tm).

I will probably disgust myself. I will probably fail. I will probably try to slip things in the recycling that can’t actually be recycled. But if my entire host family of five in Morocco can make a single pail of vegetable waste in a week, certainly I can try to make less than a single pail of garbage next week?

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out what to do with all those CDs on Instructables. (Thanks Regi!)


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