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Sifting through trash

This week’s Potomac Watershed Trash Summit was, in many ways, a lot like other conferences I attend as I try to hone and apply my skills to our mounting environmental challenges. Information was exchanged, new connections were made, and insight into leading edge strategies was gained. But the Alice Ferguson Foundation, the organization behind this annual gathering of people working to eliminate trash from the waterways, streets and lands of the Potomac watershed, gave this Summit an interesting-and unforgettable-twist by including a guy named Olivier Giron.

Olivier Giron, a landscape architect and artist, delivered one of the more compelling presentations I have seen at a conference (and I have been attending these things for nearly two decades.) Mr. Giron focuses attention on dumping sites by creating art out of the trash he finds on them.  His presentation included time lapse video showing his transformation of trash into art that not only makes use of the trash, but communicates a powerful message to passersby (likely those doing the dumping).  You can see Olivier Giron’s work yourself on his web site (link). Check out “36 Bumpers,” for a good example.

Behavior change is such an important, yet often neglected, component of our work to regenerate resilient ecosystems, communities, and human connections to the landscape. Take this issue of trash. In a recent op/ed in the Baltimore Sun earlier this week, lack of trash cans was cited as a primary cause for the city’s trash problem.

Trash is impacting our planet in significant ways, and when we come up with creative ideas of how to address (even if at a pilot scale) impacts, causes, and behaviors behind the causes, I get optimistic about our chances of putting a dent in the issue. We can not rely on interpretive signage, flyers, and community meetings alone. We need approaches to communication that are as creative as our design and engineering solutions.

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