By Robin Nagle
When I teach classes about the anthropology of waste and discards, I always designate one 48-hour period in which my students and I keep all the trash we would otherwise throw out. (I kindly exclude recyclables and anything that normally gets flushed.) The effort teaches a few important lessons. Robin Nagle: What I discovered in New York City trashIt demonstrates that trash generation is done casually, without much thought at all. My students get an intimate sense of just how deeply their habits of wasting are engrained in their minds. Because they’re unable to let go of it, even for a short time, they also become aware of how trash is otherwise mostly invisible to them.
Here are a few exercises and questions to help you change your own awareness of waste. And I mean waste as both a practice and as a category of material.
1. Choose a disposable object that you use regularly – a take-out coffee cup, a plastic shopping bag, a tissue for wiping your nose – and replace it with its durable counterpart (a reusable coffee cup, a cloth shopping bag, a handkerchief). Notice how often you forget to bring the durable version with you. Notice the kind of attention and care it requires when you do remember it. How does it change your relationship to that object? Does it inspire any reflections about the rhythms and habits of your daily life? Of the larger society around you?
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Finland also has extremely low income inequality, not just because there aren’t lots of rich people but because there aren’t very many poor people. This lack of economic diversity makes it much easier to create a school system that works for all children. This doesn’t work in America, where we try to leave “no child” behind by creating a standard that works for every student in every situation. This, of course, leaves most children behind in one way or another.
Also, Portugal is EXTREMELY INTERESTING TO ME!