Unconsumption means the accomplishment of properly recycling your old cellphone, rather than the guilt of letting it sit in a drawer.
Unconsumption means the thrill of finding a new use for something that you were about to throw away.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a service like Freecycle (or Craigslist, Goodwill, or Salvation Army) to find a new home for the functioning DVD player you just replaced, rather than throwing it in the garbage.
Unconsumption means enjoying the things you own to the fullest – not just at the moment of acquisition.
Unconsumption means the pleasure of using a pair of sneakers until they are truly worn out – as opposed to the nagging feeling of defeat when they simply go out of style.
Unconsumption means feeling good about the simple act of turning off the lights when you leave the room.
Unconsumption is not about the rejection of things, or the demonization of things. It’s not a bunch of rules.
Unconsumption is an idea, a set of behaviors, a way of thinking about consumption itself from a new perspective.
Unconsumption is free.
Founder & Editor:Rob Walker, journalist, Savannah, GA
Editorial & Community Manager: Molly Block, marketing and business development geek, Houston, TX
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.
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.
In order to improve the quality of the water and the riverbeds at the same time, the local community [In Jakarta] and many volunteers collected waste of the Ciliwung River and re-used it to strengthen and broaden the riverbeds where people are living.
This way frequent floods are prevented from destroying the lives of the poor people — quite an inventive way of dealing with trash. Meanwhile, many other movements have emerged and organizations are involved with the revitalization of the living environment alongside the river.
A conceptual design for a London skyscraper by Paris studio Chartier-Corbasson Architectes proposes using waste generated by workers already in the building to help construct new floors as demand grows.
Milan 2014:Philippe Starck has developed a counter stool and bar stool to complement the Broom Chair he designed for American furniture brand Emeco using a material predominantly made from industrial waste.
A groundbreaking and innovative project is set to tackle issues of agricultural waste and lack of housing in Africa.
Professor of Architecture and Design Theory Bachelor Architecture Charles Job has collaborated with the Bern University of Applied Arts to acquire a research project that aims to develop building materials from agricultural waste products for affordable housing in Nigeria.
The ultimate goal of the research project is to provide a series of prototype case study houses that are informed by local building traditions and can be integrated into the local community. With this goal in mind, the research project aims to use locally-sourced agricultural waste materials such as corn cobs, rice husks and groundnut shells as a sustainable alternative to cement, as well as a more cost-effective alternative to imported timber products for the construction of low-cost houses. Using these materials further reduces the pollution released by the incarnation of corn, rice and groundnut residue.
The “Occasional Table” is the first prototype on which Jobs hopes to continue and extend the research project. The tables are simple interlocking shapes, each made from a different recycled agricultural waste material. The tabletops are attached to the supporting legs with strong magnets to simplify production, transport and self-assembly. The table reveals how the material can be applied to various designs including walls for low-cost housing.
Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway announced … the city’s approval of a plan to convert organic waste and wastewater from schools and as many as 100,000 homes into a biogas that is mostly methane, which is already being used to power thousands of homes in the city.
Garbage to gold: An experimental project, Upcycle House by Lendager Arkitekter, in Nyborg, Denmark, aims for extreme carbon emission reduction by building a home from converted post-consumer waste, recycled and upcycled into primary construction materials.
Right now we’re working on the Waste Project, with tables and chairs and other things that we make from waste material left over from our own production. This project started in 2000, but we’re still working on it on many different levels.
One of the new things is a Waste Waste 40x40 series—so it’s made of the waste of the Waste Project. Instead of the leftovers determining the size and the image of the product, we cut everything down to 40-by-40-millimeter blocks.
It’s a totally different approaching to using the leftovers, and we’re using almost everything because it’s a very small size. And that provides beautiful new objects.
Okay this is not exactly the ideal form of Unconsumption, but seemed amusingly weird enough to pass along:
Artist James Dive’s “Once” consists of a 4 x 4 meter cube of demolished and compacted amusement park. A closer look reveals midway prizes, lights, tickets, garishly-painted metal scraps, and other mementos of old time carny fun. I’m just waiting for the bits to begin creaking back into shape like at the end of the movie Christine.
The automaker generates an eye-popping $1 billion a year reusing or recycling materials that would otherwise be thrown away — everything from scrap steel and paint sludge to cardboard boxes and worn-out tires. It’s an unexpected but welcome revenue stream that comes from rethinking its approach to waste reduction.
For years, many cities have treated recycling as an individual civic responsibility like paying taxes or jury duty. The onus is on citizens to do the work of separating trash from recyclables: metal, glass and plastic in one bin, paper in another and landfill items in a third, while city trash collectors cart it away sometimes using a different truck for each kind of waste. Not surprisingly, it’s estimated that cities only effectively recycle about 30 percent of their trash.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker aims to turn this equation on its head. Instead of pushing to get consumers to do a better job separating trash from recyclables, she believes tapping technology can get the job done. Her plan is called Total Reuse: One Bin for All, which envisions the construction of a high-tech sorting facility that would allow 75 percent of Houston’s trash to be recycled using technologies from the mining and refining industries and would potentially generate its own power. Residents put everything in one bin; technology handles the rest.
Houston is one of 20 cities vying for $5 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. The City of Houston plans to pursue the total reuse initiative regardless of whether it’s awarded Mayors Challenge funding.
[Update, via a City of Houston media release: Houston’s project was awarded a $1 million grant from the Mayors Challenge, and also was voted the “fan favorite.”
Providence, Rhode Island, won the Mayors Challenge top prize of $5 million for its literacy project; read more about all five award-winning cities’ projects in this New York Times article.]