Wasting Away: The Story of Trash

What is waste and why should we care? Explore the driving question: How might we improve the state of waste in our community?

Recommended Timeframe: 2-3 months, 4-5 hours/week

What is waste and why should we care? Home to only 4% of the global population, we (Americans) are responsible for more than 30% of the planet’s total waste generation.  Each American discards an average of more than 1,650 pounds of garbage every year, or approximately 4.6 pounds per person each day, nearly double the 1960 average of 2.7 pounds per day. In Jackson, Wyoming, a town of about 10,000 people, we produce nearly 80 million pounds of waste per year, nearly 65% of which gets hauled over 100 miles away to a landfill in another state! How does your community compare? And, for every 1lb of waste you generate (downstream waste) nearly 7lbs of waste were generated to create the stuff you throw away (upstream waste)! Your task in this unit is to learn about the cultural, economic and ecological impacts of waste in your community and come up with a solution to help. To help you, you will learn about cause and effect mechanisms in science, great literary figures who effect change in their communities, artists who repurpose trash into treasure, go on a field trip to a recycling and/or waste transfer station and work to design a solution. You’ll also be exposed to people who have found problems, come up with creative solutions to those problems and made a difference in their communities. In the final stage of this unit, we will ask you to do the same.

Key Topics

  • Read The Lorax and The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono, study literary devices, the different forms of making positive community impact.
  • Study elements and principles of art in pieces using reclaimed materials.
  • Journey to a local gallery, exhibition or museum and write an art critique.
  • Learn about cause and effect mechanisms in science.
  • Explore your place through cultural, economic and ecological lenses.
  • Investigate citizens who see opportunities in the community’s problems.
  • Implement your solutions and ideas to improve your community.