Here’s the deal: we know that trash is a problem. As 1to1 interns, we’re all environmental superheroes-in-training, learning how to become more aware of our own actions and developing the skills to help others do the same. Still, none of us is perfect — there are so many ways to live more sustainably and consume more consciously. This week, in fact, we’re trying to practice what we preach.
Where does this leave us? To take the AWAY project by storm. An educational campaign implemented by 1to1 in local K-12 classrooms, AWAY stands for Achieving Waste Awareness with Youth — and so much more. It’s a way for us to confront the trash we so blindly toss aside each day, and finally own up to it (in front of our co-workers). AWAY is about accountability and alertness. At the end of the week, it’s not a competition or reprimand, but rather a learning experience, an exercise in empathy.
So, every day this week, we’ll carry the trash we make with us. Anything we dispose of (except, of course, biodegradable, sanitary or hazardous waste) will be placed in our fancy, repurposed AWAY bags, which we’ll dissect the contents of on Friday morning. By carrying the burden of our trash on our backs, we’re hoping to truly understand the weight of our daily actions. Maybe by next Monday, we’ll have our capes, too.
It’s the first day of the AWAY project and right as I walked through the door of work I became increasingly aware of the poor choice I had made this morning. On my short mile walk to work I had been really craving some orange juice, I didn’t have any at home to enjoy with my breakfast so I stopped at a 7/11. Of course, they were having a sale! Two small bottles of Tropicana juice for a mere three bucks! I got myself some OJ and cranberry cocktail juice. I had already felt guilty about the sugary juice and plastic bottles, but then when I got to work I thought, did I really need this? I couldn’t have just satisfied that thirst with some ice water from the office? The AWAY Project couldn’t have come at a better time, as I question my consumption more and more with every day that passes. I usually try to use as little packaging as possible with my lunches, but when the time came I opened up my lunch box and there was a granola bar and some fruit snacks that I had packed. That’s two more pieces of trash for my AWAY bag. Just before lunch I had watched a quick TEDx Talk about a woman who could fit all the trash she had produced over a three-year period, into one mason jar. I couldn’t believe it; she was making a real lifestyle change! She talked about learning to make things on her own, in the kitchen and everywhere else. I thought, why couldn’t I make my own granola bars? At least then, it would be the exact flavors I want every time! When dinner rolled around I realized that I had planned to eat a pre-packaged salad. I ate it, and scolded myself for my laziness. I share a fridge with four other roommates and often it gets full with five separate food tastes. I have a hard time fitting things in there, so I try to buy packaged and easily stored foods. This causes a lot of problems in the waste department. I felt a bit defeated after my first day of the AWAY Project but I knew exactly where the changes needed to be made in my lifestyle.
Day one of participating in The Away Project was incredibly informative. Trash is rarely discussed and we often take on a mindset that we throw trash away in bins and it just disappears. By creating a space for involved discussion about where our trash goes and what occurs when we do not dispose of it properly much more conscious thinking can occur. There is a great misunderstanding about the effects our consumption and disposal have on our environment, our society does not acknowledge our responsibility to reduce the impact we are having. By carrying around a bag filled with trash you produced it is impossible not to see where you can improve your habits to live a more sustainable life. I am very encouraged to see the outcome of my participation and new perspectives I take on.
I was surprised by the small trash items I was accumulating that I so often blindly toss away. Just by tidying my room I found myself with lots of paper scraps and old clothes’ tags. Although slightly ashamed by the amount of waste I have gathered already, I am already finding alternatives to limit my impact and disposal.
Trash accumulated: granola wrapper, banana peel, paper products, clothing tag, old tape
Day one of the Away Project involved me being very surprised and overwhelmed by the amount of stuff and packaging that people buy. And also how easy it is. This was mainly because I chose to shop at IKEA and Target for apartment supplies, since my mom had some spare gift cards. In any case it was a great thought exercise because I would pick up a cool doohickey and realize that I could use something I already had for the same task-like using a single pocket knife that I already have instead of buying a paring knife, a strawberry heeler, a cherry pitter, and an apple corer (just a few of the obscenely clever but unnecessary items to be found at these places). I also realized that half of the stuff I needed could probably be found at a thrift shop in perfectly good condition, or that I could even make them myself, and that my apartment mates might already have stuff that we could all share, like pots and fans and a vacuum. I also had a personal awareness moment when I realized at a restaurant with my parents that I am weirdly intimidated by asking people to accommodate needs such as asking for no straw or refusing a plastic bag. Though they are of course very easy things to both ask for and to actually carry out, it’s even easier to just go through the motions. And maybe there’s some stigma attached to it-I don’t want to be called a “tree hugger” or “yuppie”, despite my pride in trying to be sustainable. I’m thinking that it’s difficult to be fully conscious of our everyday motions and to realize how ingrained we are in wasteful or even illogical habits, however convenient they might be. And the ways that our own feelings, stigmas, and attachments contribute to these actions don’t help much.
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