310 Energy Class Interventions

We change something in our lives. Can you predict what this change will result in?
While you log these experiences, please reflect on NPR on Goals, Writing, Success

For the first self intervention, we don’t throw anything away for a week. Keep all garbage and recyclables somewhere. Afterward a week, please sort it according to what you will do with it and consider the best place to put everything. Take a picture of it and post your experience with the picture. If you want to know what this is like, please see the page from PSC 320 W2017 Log your experience below and provide a photograph. I show you how to do this in the video for Wednesday’s class.

Jamie Chafe:
This was my second time attempting this self-intervention and once again it slaps you in the face on how responsible we are for a large amount of waste in a short time. January 17th though 22nd I tried my best to collect my waste. I wasn’t able to collect and account for every piece of trash due to either my forgetfulness of the challenge or the cleanliness of certain items such as food waste. The stuff I did collect was mostly plastics, paper or cardboard products. There were a lot of plastic packaging, cardboard boxes, paper towels, and small plastic bags. I have also realized that it is also easier to recycle at establishments like in Cal Poly with different waste bins, but living in an apartment it is hard to keep different trash cans and regulate what goes in them. It surprises how much waste I produce and how much must be going to landfills all across the US. It is also crazy to think that me and my roommates pay each month for garbage services to take our massive amount of trash to landfills, when most of it could probably be reused or recycled. I do think shipping our trash to landfills is much better than us individually burning our daily trash, as they do in undeveloped countries. Most things we use or buy come in wrappers and bags etc. and something has to change in our society to reduce the amount of waste we produce as a country. Participating in this project has definitely inspired me to be aware everyday about what I buy, how things are made and the waste I produce. It all matters.

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Sarah Stephens:
After a week of collecting trash and recyclables I realized that almost every item was food related. The only two things that did not pertain to food were paper/receipts and some thin plastic from the wrapping of a textbook. Considering how much I apparently eat, the amount of compostable material was surprisingly small. My compost is at the bottom of the picture and consisted of orange peels, and lots of coffee grounds. There are also compostable K-cups which I brought home from the office. The non-recyclables are in the middle of the picture, mostly food containers, candy wrappers and some dirty paper towels. The recyclable materials were cups, bottles, and cardboard/paper. Overall it wasn’t challenging to collect everything for a week because I almost always eat at my apartment, and that’s where the majority of my trash is generated. I’m also used to pausing before I toss something in a trash can because I always check to make sure the item is not recyclable anyways. This intervention indicates that I need to cook more and eat out less.

Matthew Walker:
I collected all disposables for 6 days, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount. I imagined it would be much bigger – and mostly trash. I realized that if I sort my disposables more carefully, about 75% of my “trash” is compost and recycling. I found that I treated it more as a challenge to use the least that I could (instead of just being annoyed by having to lug my stuff around). I carried around a water bottle, grocery bag, and silverware at all times.
I certainly was not looking forward to doing this, but it was not at all time consuming and taught me a valuable lesson. I caught myself turning off the lights and water more often also. I hope I will continue to think about how I can reduce what I use, sort my “trash” correctly, and live in a more sustainable manner.
The bag on the left is trash, middle is compost, right is recyclingtrash.jpg

TJ Tamura: The amount of trash that I collected last week was abnormally high for a couple reasons. The amazon box and package envelope were both from things that I ordered for a trip I was going on the following weekend, which is not a normal situation for me. Also, my 2 roommates and I all share food, and we were trying to finish foods in our fridge before we left for the weekend, so the yogurt and bread bag and other packaging materials were due to that. That being said, not shown here are compostable foods such as bananas peels and the ends of vegetables, or about a dozen egg shells, or dirty paper towels (about 10 pieces per week). I do not typically compost because there is not an effective way for me to do this in my apartment without smelling, but I do recycle anything that can be recycled, throw large materials directly into the trash can outside instead of filling up plastic bag space in our trash cans, collect aluminum cans for CRV, and always bring bags to the grocery store.
Alfredo Medina: I saved my trash from Monday 4/10 to Monday 4/17. Problem is, my roommates took it out while I was gone! So I didn’t get a picture of all the trash together. Most of my trash was recyclable things like cardboard, napkins, bottles and cans. Honestly, this intervention was no different than what I normally do. I sort my recyclables and compost and take them out to the bin. The thing that really surprised me though, was the amount of volume that this waste took up.
Some things I didn’t put in the pile, like supermarket plastic bags that I occasionally bought, because I re-use them when I go the store for as long as I can. A significant portion of the mass was food related– a bunch of it was food packaging, mostly plastics(Some of them unrecyclable?), but a large portion was compostable waste: egg shells, leftover food, etc.
Overall, this was interesting, but most of my “waste” gets reused for weeks before it finally gets too battered to use anymore (boxes, plastic bags, even plastic snack containers are used as a grease catch), so I’m not sure how representative this was.

Stuart Slavin: After one week of saving my trash, I had collected around two pounds of garbage. The majority of the trash items were non-recyclable plastic, either as packaging for food or textbooks. However, by weight, they were a relatively small contribution. The large cardboard box came from a Costco trip, and is the only thing I am sure can be recycled.
I am actually fairly surprised how little garbage I produced. Many of the items, such as the textbook packaging, are not representative of my normal trash production, and in any other week I would have produced less. On the other hand, what garbage I did produce is mostly unrecyclable. While this does mean I’m using less single-use containers like cans and bottles, it also means that I’m still contributing to landfill crowding. My tendency to avoid cooking also means I probably produce more food packaging than average, and the plastic packaging is much worse for the environment than its low weight would suggest. For me, this highlights the importance of companies using biodegradable or recyclable materials for more applications. Personally, I should consider avoiding packaged foods when possible.

Brad Shaw: I collected my trash from 4/12/2017 to 4/18/2017. The experience itself wasn’t so bad, although the more annoying part of it was that since I had roommates, I had to keep all my trash in my room to avoid it being thrown away accidentally. This was all right except for the food waste, which did not have a pleasant smell after a while. Luckily, I tend not to waste too much food, although the bag in my picture looks fuller than it actually is. Most of my trash was comprised of various plastics that are not recyclable, so I should probably cut back on those by buying in bulk more often. The food waste in my picture would ideally go to a compost, while the plastic bottles and cardboard would be recycled, and everything else would be thrown away.
Joe Long: I collected trash from 4/13-4/19, I noticed first the amount of food container trash was involved, but more than that I also started to look at my health in terms of consumption. I see top ramen and chip containers in much of my plastic waste, and am simply blown away by the efficiency of my body to turn these terrible foods into energy! I am not necessarily applauding this, but am noting how impressive our bodies really are. I definitely reduced the amount of times I ate out to limit waste, but still found that everything came in packaging as the butcher simply would not hand me a slab of uncooked meat without a container. As well I noticed there is a large amount of paper waste, I try to read the mustang news and support our local paper every week, but can’t imagine the waste printing the paper every week costs especially for the amount that tend to go unread. We also get a lot of junk mail that provides paper waste. As far as the backdrop, we try to save our containers for wallpaper as you can see in my photo. For compost I had a few avocado pits and peels as well as some old tomatoes and limes, but I also saw this as a call to action in my need for fruits and vegetables in my diet. I learned a lot about conservation and health as well as our values as a society as we seem to value shelf-life over freshness. This is an observation, neither good nor bad, but inherent in our grocery stores and waste.
Adam Berg: To be honest, hoarding my trash is not a new thing. A good portion of the garbage that I produce ends up in the bin next to my desk, which only gets emptied every so often. However, items such as food scraps and compost items are emptied from my apartment daily, unlike some of my recyclables and trash. Holding onto the bottles, papers, plastic items, and other related items was not difficult at all, because most of what I discard ends up in the bins that we keep in our apartment, and I don’t eat out very much. However, what was rather annoying was holding onto the compost, which stinks and gets moldy after a few days. I accidentally (or maybe subconsciously) threw away many food items, because I know that old banana peels hanging around is not a great thing. Hence, probably only a quarter of my compost was actually saved. This activity in general was not difficult, but it was intriguing to see about how much trash that I go through in a week. Prior to this activity, I believed that I went through more trash than this. This pictures below show the trash I collected, and me with my trash (see captions).

Me and my glorious garbage.
Trash (left), Compost (bottom), and Recyclables (right)

Chris Lambert: I was able to collect my trash for a week, but it was surprisingly small. This was most likely because I was on campus a lot and I don’t eat much when I’m busy, so this was about all I got. Was interesting to see that my recycling was the largest portion of the trash, so I’m glad to see that at least 50% of my trash can be potentially reused.

Trash Recycle Compost
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Trung Nguyen: Definitely thought it was a bit inconvenient having to collect the trash and recyclables in a corner of room and walking back and forth between the kitchen/living room and my room just to stash them. So most of the time, whatever was convenient for me collect I will remember to do it, otherwise I forget. There were some garbage, banana peels, foods, and vegetables I did not collect because I did not want them to smell or rot in my room for a week, so I say I collected about 65% of my total garbage and recyclables this week. In the picture, the left shows what I’m going to put as recyclables and the right shows my garbage.


Nick Stair: I remember doing this for a class in high school and for me both now in then it was interesting to see how much and what kinds of waste I accumulate. It is sort of like a mini history lesson about what I did in the past week. I suppose my fist thought is just how inefficient most of our packaging is. I had to buy a lot of allergy medication last week and gram for gram I think there was probably four times as much packaging as actual product. For me it’s definitely a takeaway to look to use things that have less packaging, because not all brands do, and some make it a point to have more sustainable packaging. Although it isn’t in the picture (thrown away inadvertently by my girlfriend cleaning out the car) fast food packaging is also outrageous, everything is basically wrapped in three separate things. It’s almost worth mentioning that at least most of the waste was compostable or recyclable, the landfill section in the middle is the smallest of the three piles. Carrying some of the stuff around with me when it wasn’t convenient definitely makes you more aware of everything you purchase, and by the end of the week there were some times when the inconvenience had some bearing on my decision to get something or not.


Daniel Baron: I collected my trash (along with my roommates) for week. Throughout the week, we had one garbage bag of non-recyclables, and then a large pile of recyclables The garbage bag mostly consisted of some packaging and compost, while the recyclables consisted of boxes, and other containers. I noticed two key observations from this experience. 1) That packaging adds up to a significant amount of waste and that much of what I was recycling could probably be reused (or could be replaced by a reusable solution) and 2) it made me pay attention to what I was eating. Looking at the abundance of packaging, I did have the thought that I should probably be making food more than eating out/bringing in. Overall, I would say the breakdown of the trash generated in my house over the week was 90% recyclable and 10% non recyclable, and of the recyclable items, about 60% of it could be directly reusable. Caption: Recyclables generated from me and my roommates over a week.


Pete Schwartz: I’m going to do something different for this intervention: I’m NOT going to collect my trash. Sounds weak? Maybe not… I do this most quarters. My kids roll their eyes and ask if we have to keep the bag of trash in the kitchen again. Besides, this is largely my life anyway – bringing back the food and cookware from farmer’s market because we can recycle the plastic and compost the paper plates and food. Tekuru’s embarrassed about her dad (at 13, I’d hope so) who picks her up on a tandem and collects fruit off the street and lost personal items to give them new life. One of the things that I learn in a self intervention is the strength of societal pressure: Most of our adjustment to a change is dealing with the reaction of our friends and family. So, if the purpose of a self intervention is to bring awareness, change something, and see what happens, then I’ll stand to learn more by intervening as a “disposable American” and see how the change feels. For one week, I’m going to throw things away that are not of immediate use to me – I mean not like my clothes after I wear them. I mean like apple cores and plastic forks and plates. OK, so it went OK. Actually, I failed many times. Like I still picked up things off the street that seemed like I could use them, and I composted or used the recycle bin whenever it was handy. However, I did manage to throw away usable food (that I didn’t like) at open house, and threw compostables into the trash in my office… but the question is: “now that the week is over, am I allowed to pull them out again and compost them at home? Captions Left: Trash in my office that should be composted. And the plastic bags should be collected to return to the grocery store. Notice that there are orange peels in my backpack because they are from today, and the intervention is over, so I’m taking them home. Right: Yes, it felt awkward throwing food during open house in the trash that I otherwise would have taken home to improve with better cooking or at least compost.
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Dean Lockman: I know it was a self intervention but that was an inconvenience so as a bonus I’m including my roommate, my girlfriend, and myself in on this collection of fun. It turns out we eat very poorly in that we had no compost this last week other than a couple eggshells on top of the trash bin there. Most of our fruits and veges comes from either frozen or juices, I know, we’re terrible people. We had 1 full trash can by the end of the week (Left photo) my girlfriend and I had a smaller trash bag from the bathroom so mostly Kleenex and q-tips or what have you (Middle photo with a 15 inch ruler for scale) and finally the super bonus is the school year worth of recyclables (Right photo), not just the last week. If we drank that much sugar in a week I’m not sure we’d even be alive. I usually take them to my parent’s since they live where you actually get your CRV deposit back, last I checked there’s not a place in SLO, you can just drop it off for nothing. Eff that right? That’s a bag full of nickels right there. I’ve just been lazy or forgot to take it to their place since I don’t go home that often.