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An afternoon with Sustainable Dave

October 25, 2009

What happens when you save all of your trash for an entire year? You make the front page of The New York Times. Freelance cameraman Dave Chameides decided to save his trash for an entire year in an effort to see how much waste he produced.

Photo from The New york Times

Photo from The New york Times


Why do I bring this up? I had the chance to meet with Chameides on Wednesday while in L.A. I’d written part of my master’s thesis on Chameides’ work as a new media activist* so I was anxious to meet in person. We grabbed lunch at a bar in Hollywood, before heading over to Shalhevet K-12 day school where he asked me to speak to his students about the garbage patch.

I say his students because he is sort of a visiting scholar at the school. He has his own office and even though they don’t pay him he’s heavily involved in getting the kids to be environmentally aware.
me and Dave chameides

He posted a map outside his office that shows where the school gets their energy and how some of those companies are tied to mountain top removal in other states. He’s given lectures on campus and encourages the students to write letters to their representatives to enact change. His students call him Sustainable Chameides, as indicated by a small piece of paper taped to a blank wall outside his office.

So I showed up to the school with a bag full of debris from the Pacific Ocean and a water sample the Algalita crew had graciously given me. Inside the jar were tiny pieces of plastic floating in the water along with rope, a toothbrush and the top of a water bottle. I talked to a 6th and 12th grade class with notably different results. The 6th graders were more wowed by the fact that I’d been on a boat in the middle of the ocean than by the fact that I’d witnessed a floating plastic vortex.
me presenting

The high schoolers in the ecology class were much more receptive and had great questions like, “if a lot of the trash is coming from Asia why aren’t you speaking to them?” or “why should we care?” In answer to those questions I’d say a) money and b) because it affects what you eat and is killing marine life.

me holding with trash

I like to think that the 20-minute presentation I gave had some impact but Dave is doing the real legwork at this school. He works at the school without getting paid and he said he’s there as often as possible when he’s not filming. His effort to get kids to think about their affect on the planet is wonderful and innovative. He’s trying to get the students to use stainless steel water bottles and as he ushered me down the hall he nonchalantly reached into an empty bathroom and switched off the light. It’s these little things that will make all the difference.

* Dave writes articles for and maintains his own site 365daysoftrash, which emerged out of his one-year experiment.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2009 10:01 pm

    Thanks for the shoutout and for coming by Lindsey. The kids were talking about it the next day so you had an effect. While I should take ownership to saying I don’t really know why I;m there (nor does anyone else) I should probably put it into context. I’m definitely there to connect these kids to their impact on the environment and show them how they can change that impact. That said, what i don’t know, is exactly how to do that, so i kind of make it up as i go along. My hope is that once I’ve been doing it for a while, I’ll have a curriculum up and running that can farm out to other schools. So why I;m there, yes. How i’m doing it, i’ll let you know when I’m done.



  2. October 28, 2009 3:50 am

    Excellent to see you in action Lindsey. I recognize your props!!! Great tools from the Great Garbage Patch – glad to see you sharing the finds from the gyre with students. They are a big piece to the solution to plastic pollution. Thank you Dave and Lindsey for an excellent post!!!

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