Our Trashion Fashion project, which launches tonight!, is about bringing attention to how consumption and waste are part of the climate change picture.

We humans generate an incredible amount of waste, particularly us here in the West. It wasn’t always so; until about 150 years ago, there wasn’t really much of a concept of trash. Sure, we “threw things away”, but most things back then were reusable or biodegradable. Leftover food went into compost or was fed to animals. Used clothing was used to make filling or reused to make new clothing. Houses and furniture and tools were made to last multiple generations. Metal things were melted down to make new metal things. There was no such thing as plastic. As Naomi Spinack, who’s heading up the Trashion Fashion project, and I discussed the other night: trash is really a modern concept, from a time when we create disposable things, and throw away as much as 40% of our food here in the United States.

Not only do we use precious resources making all this stuff, much of which we throw away later, we spend more precious resources dealing with trash. We use fossil fuels picking up the trash to send it to recycling or landfill. We use fossil fuels in the recycling process, and most of the time we must down-cycle products because the quality of the material is degraded. And landfills themselves generate methane (CH4) emissions. Methane is an incredibly powerful greenhouse gas; while it lasts a shorter time than CO2 in the atmosphere, it is about 100 times as powerful while it’s up there, and then it degrades to CO2, contributing to our overall CO2 in the atmosphere.

Climate change and trash are intricately linked. In order to deal with our climate change crisis, we must make less stuff, use less stuff, and reuse the stuff we do make.

There is no shortage of art being made out of trash to demonstrate the relationship between trash and climate change, and trash and our environmental issues. Here is a video of a recent project made by the European arts collective Luzinterruptus, that frequently create projects related to political and social issues. This is the Labyrinth of plastic. The artists’ statement:

“We were looking to demonstrate, in a poetic manner, the amount of plastic waste that is consumed daily.”