Unconsumption

Aug 28

A don’t-buy-stuff phone! … that says, among other things, “That’s right, I recommend that you don’t buy stuff!”
And going one step further: “Don’t even buy me! Your current phone is awesome!”
Gotta say this The Joy of Tech comic poking fun at smartphones, namely Amazon’s own smartphone, made me smile.

A don’t-buy-stuff phone! … that says, among other things, “That’s right, I recommend that you don’t buy stuff!”

And going one step further: “Don’t even buy me! Your current phone is awesome!”

Gotta say this The Joy of Tech comic poking fun at smartphones, namely Amazon’s own smartphone, made me smile.

Aug 27

Pill bottle art.
(Repurposed prescription pill bottles and a pine box.) 
Artist: Elizabeth Lundberg Morisette, a.k.a. clementine mom on Flickr.

Pill bottle art.

(Repurposed prescription pill bottles and a pine box.) 

Artist: Elizabeth Lundberg Morisette, a.k.a. clementine mom on Flickr.

Aug 25

theonion:



Experts: “We can just keep using the chairs we have.”


"According to the report, chair production can cease entirely with no negative consequences for American consumers, as the many good chairs now on store shelves and available at garage sales are sufficient to satisfy the country’s seating requirements for the immediate future." 
Amusing. And a good reminder that so many existing items can be found in second-hand shops and/or in antique stores, listed on Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, and even found in many of your friends’ homes and/or those of family members (“hi, Dad!”); so why would consumers need to buy newly made merchandise?!
Yeah, reuse! 

theonion:

"According to the report, chair production can cease entirely with no negative consequences for American consumers, as the many good chairs now on store shelves and available at garage sales are sufficient to satisfy the country’s seating requirements for the immediate future." 

Amusing. And a good reminder that so many existing items can be found in second-hand shops and/or in antique stores, listed on Craigslist, Freecycle, eBay, and even found in many of your friends’ homes and/or those of family members (“hi, Dad!”); so why would consumers need to buy newly made merchandise?!

Yeah, reuse! 

Aug 24

Many compelling nuggets in this account of a panel discussion on NYC’s recycling-management infrastructure — lots of improvements, but lots more that could be done (and is under consideration — such as, above, a pneumatic-transfer system connected to the High Line!).
The whole thing is interesting but something that jumped out to me:

Spertus acknowledges the massive contribution of the new Sims plant in Brooklyn.
But it can only be as good as its inputs, and our recycling rate remains stubbornly low. She wonders why the city, which has proven so adept at squeezing public benefits like parks and space for schools out of a feverish development climate, cannot prioritize waste infrastructure using the same methods.
Nagle goes further. She suggests a complete rethinking of our manufacturing and consumption processes is needed to stem our nation’s great tide of trash and urge us to revalue our material possessions. We must begin to internalize the externalities our wasteful culture inflicts on the environment. 

Read the rest here: Urban Omnibus » Wasted: The Future of New York’s Garbage

Many compelling nuggets in this account of a panel discussion on NYC’s recycling-management infrastructure — lots of improvements, but lots more that could be done (and is under consideration — such as, above, a pneumatic-transfer system connected to the High Line!).

The whole thing is interesting but something that jumped out to me:

Spertus acknowledges the massive contribution of the new Sims plant in Brooklyn.

But it can only be as good as its inputs, and our recycling rate remains stubbornly low. She wonders why the city, which has proven so adept at squeezing public benefits like parks and space for schools out of a feverish development climate, cannot prioritize waste infrastructure using the same methods.

Nagle goes further. She suggests a complete rethinking of our manufacturing and consumption processes is needed to stem our nation’s great tide of trash and urge us to revalue our material possessions. We must begin to internalize the externalities our wasteful culture inflicts on the environment.

Read the rest here: Urban Omnibus » Wasted: The Future of New York’s Garbage


Composting—like jam-making—is one of those activities I tend just to read about. Nice idea, but too much hassle to actually carry out.
Until I somehow became one of those people who processes kitchen waste on her balcony, producing nutrient-rich soil and saving the environment one banana peel at a time.
I am not an urban hippie or a even a DIY type, much less a person with any sort of practical skills. Instead, my worm-filled adventure started (as these things often do) with guilt. I read too many articles about how choking landfills with organic matter is terribly harmful for the environment.
I finally caved and bought a cute composting crate (bag of worms sold separately). Composting doesn’t require worms, but vermicomposting sounded like less effort, as it does not require you to regularly aerate your pile of kitchen refuse. My modest goal was to collect just my food scraps and let them rot in a semi-responsible fashion.

A charming essay: My Misadventures in Urban Composting - CityLab

Composting—like jam-making—is one of those activities I tend just to read about. Nice idea, but too much hassle to actually carry out.

Until I somehow became one of those people who processes kitchen waste on her balcony, producing nutrient-rich soil and saving the environment one banana peel at a time.

I am not an urban hippie or a even a DIY type, much less a person with any sort of practical skills. Instead, my worm-filled adventure started (as these things often do) with guilt. I read too many articles about how choking landfills with organic matter is terribly harmful for the environment.

I finally caved and bought a cute composting crate (bag of worms sold separately). Composting doesn’t require worms, but vermicomposting sounded like less effort, as it does not require you to regularly aerate your pile of kitchen refuse. My modest goal was to collect just my food scraps and let them rot in a semi-responsible fashion.

A charming essay: My Misadventures in Urban Composting - CityLab

Aug 23

Here’s a fascinating — if not exactly uplifting — look at the economics, business, and design strategies that led to our throwaway culture came about: Modern Waste is an Economic Strategy « Discard Studies:

About one third of MSW [municipal solid waste] —food scraps, and to a debatable extent, yard trimmings—are present in pre-modern waste.
The rest of modern MSW are disposables: paper, plastics, aluminum, textiles, and packaging.[i] In 1956, Lloyd Stouffer, editor of Modern Packaging Inc., famously (and controversially at the time) declared: “The future of plastics is in the trash can” (Stouffer 1963: 1).
Stouffer’s idea addressed an emerging problem for industry. Products tended to be durable, easy to fix, and limited in variation (such as color or style). With this mode of design, markets were quickly saturating (Packard 1960; Cohen 2003). Opportunities for growth, and thus profit, were rapidly diminishing, particularly after America’s Great Depression and the two World Wars, where an ethos of preservation, reuse, and frugality was cultivated.
In response, industry intervened on a material level and developed disposability through planned obsolescence, single-use items, cheap materials, throw-away packaging, fashion, and conspicuous consumption. These changes were supported by a regimen of advertising that telegraphed industrial principals of value into the social realm, suggesting the difference between durable and disposable, esteemed and taboo.
American industry designed a shift in values that circulated goods through, rather than into, the consumer realm. The truism that humans are inherently wasteful came into being at a particular time and place, by design. 

There’s a ton of great info in this piece, it really is a good read. The over-arching point is that the shifts are so massive that we can’t solve them via individual behavior-change (recycling, etc.) alone; we need policy-level solutions.
I half-agree: Yes, we need policy-level solutions, but we’re more likely to get there by way of individual-level action, behavior change, and engagement. Which is what this site encourages.

Here’s a fascinating — if not exactly uplifting — look at the economics, business, and design strategies that led to our throwaway culture came about: Modern Waste is an Economic Strategy « Discard Studies:

About one third of MSW [municipal solid waste] —food scraps, and to a debatable extent, yard trimmings—are present in pre-modern waste.

The rest of modern MSW are disposables: paper, plastics, aluminum, textiles, and packaging.[i] In 1956, Lloyd Stouffer, editor of Modern Packaging Inc., famously (and controversially at the time) declared: “The future of plastics is in the trash can” (Stouffer 1963: 1).

Stouffer’s idea addressed an emerging problem for industry. Products tended to be durable, easy to fix, and limited in variation (such as color or style). With this mode of design, markets were quickly saturating (Packard 1960; Cohen 2003). Opportunities for growth, and thus profit, were rapidly diminishing, particularly after America’s Great Depression and the two World Wars, where an ethos of preservation, reuse, and frugality was cultivated.

In response, industry intervened on a material level and developed disposability through planned obsolescence, single-use items, cheap materials, throw-away packaging, fashion, and conspicuous consumption. These changes were supported by a regimen of advertising that telegraphed industrial principals of value into the social realm, suggesting the difference between durable and disposable, esteemed and taboo.

American industry designed a shift in values that circulated goods through, rather than into, the consumer realm. The truism that humans are inherently wasteful came into being at a particular time and place, by design.

There’s a ton of great info in this piece, it really is a good read. The over-arching point is that the shifts are so massive that we can’t solve them via individual behavior-change (recycling, etc.) alone; we need policy-level solutions.

I half-agree: Yes, we need policy-level solutions, but we’re more likely to get there by way of individual-level action, behavior change, and engagement. Which is what this site encourages.

[video]

Aug 22

Food waste, by production stage and food type Click to see larger image. Katie Peek, via. 

How The World Wastes Food, on Popular Science. 

Every year, the planet loses nearly a third of its food—a staggering 1.4 billion tons. That’s according to a 2011 United Nations study that assessed food networks in 152 countries. The researchers’ results reveal where in the food-supply chain farmers, engineers, and consumers might more effectively get comestibles into mouths.

Food waste, by production stage and food type Click to see larger image. Katie Peek, via

How The World Wastes Food, on Popular Science.

Every year, the planet loses nearly a third of its food—a staggering 1.4 billion tons. That’s according to a 2011 United Nations study that assessed food networks in 152 countries. The researchers’ results reveal where in the food-supply chain farmers, engineers, and consumers might more effectively get comestibles into mouths.

Aug 21


The BioEnergy Team, led by Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in Britain, are hoping to profit from working with [um, urine].
They have developed a new technique to turn urine into electrical power—or “urine-tricity” as they call it. People around the world produce an estimated 6.4 trillion litres of urine every year.
BRL, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, want to make the most of this abundant resource. At the core of urine-tricity are microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which contain live microbes. When urine flows through an MFC the microbes consume it as part of their normal metabolic process. This, in turn, frees electrons. Electrodes within the cell gather these electrons and when they are connected to an external circuit a current is generated.

Renewable energy: Pee power | The Economist

The BioEnergy Team, led by Ioannis Ieropoulos of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) in Britain, are hoping to profit from working with [um, urine].

They have developed a new technique to turn urine into electrical power—or “urine-tricity” as they call it. People around the world produce an estimated 6.4 trillion litres of urine every year.

BRL, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England, want to make the most of this abundant resource. At the core of urine-tricity are microbial fuel cells (MFCs), which contain live microbes. When urine flows through an MFC the microbes consume it as part of their normal metabolic process. This, in turn, frees electrons. Electrodes within the cell gather these electrons and when they are connected to an external circuit a current is generated.

Renewable energy: Pee power | The Economist


Researchers at the University of California San Diego have designed an electronic tattoo—a small, flexible circuit board that can be worn just like the Spiderman temp tats I used to stick on my face—that produces an electrical current.
It works by stripping the electrons from lactate, a byproduct of sweat, with an enzyme imprinted on the e-tattoo’s sensor. In other words, it produces power from your nasty workout juice. And, the researchers say, the technology could eventually generate enough electricity to run devices like phones, smart watches, and heart monitors.
"These represent the first examples of epidermal electrochemical biosensing and biofuel cells that could potentially be used for a wide range of future applications," said research lab director Joseph Wang in a statement.

More: This Sweat-Powered E-Tattoo Could One Day Charge Your Phone | The Creators Project

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have designed an electronic tattoo—a small, flexible circuit board that can be worn just like the Spiderman temp tats I used to stick on my face—that produces an electrical current.

It works by stripping the electrons from lactate, a byproduct of sweat, with an enzyme imprinted on the e-tattoo’s sensor. In other words, it produces power from your nasty workout juice. And, the researchers say, the technology could eventually generate enough electricity to run devices like phones, smart watches, and heart monitors.

"These represent the first examples of epidermal electrochemical biosensing and biofuel cells that could potentially be used for a wide range of future applications," said research lab director Joseph Wang in a statement.

More: This Sweat-Powered E-Tattoo Could One Day Charge Your Phone | The Creators Project

Aug 20


Bionic Yarns [is] a New York City-based startup that makes fabric from recycled ocean plastic, and next month, the company is launching its biggest collaboration to date with designer clothing company G-Star RAW.
The “RAW for the Oceans line” includes a range of denim products that, all told, are woven with some nine tons of ocean plastic inside. It’s a tiny fraction of the pollution problem, but you have to start somewhere.

More: How a Pair of Jeans Could Save Our Plastic-Choked Oceans | Business | WIRED

Bionic Yarns [is] a New York City-based startup that makes fabric from recycled ocean plastic, and next month, the company is launching its biggest collaboration to date with designer clothing company G-Star RAW.

The “RAW for the Oceans line” includes a range of denim products that, all told, are woven with some nine tons of ocean plastic inside. It’s a tiny fraction of the pollution problem, but you have to start somewhere.

More: How a Pair of Jeans Could Save Our Plastic-Choked Oceans | Business | WIRED

[video]