a project by V. Cline

For Project Consume, I focused on the issue of waste by creating a collage series made from the trash that I produced throughout the week. In this series, I decided to examine my consumption and disposal patterns by displaying the waste symbolically to represent the consumer process: purchase, consumption, disposal, and impact. 

Initially, I intended to simply focus on the type and amount of waste I produce and arrange them in the outline of different silhouettes. However, after gathering my trash for the week, I saw an opportunity to convey something more complex and telling of consumer culture (and my place within it). Rather than simply arranging them randomly inside of a shape, I wanted the pieces to depict each step of the consumer process. 

For purchase, I used the shape of my eye to convey the visual power and temptation of food marketing. Like many consumers, I tend to shop with my eyes by paying attention to the design and presentation of a package more so than its recyclability or use of materials. To construct the eye I used bold colored packages and also various plastics. Additionally, I used a shopping bag which prominently displays the store’s logo as the backdrop to the piece. 

For consumption, I used food, takeout, and drug packaging to construct the shape of a mouth. This piece is meant as a literal representation of the act of consumption and overindulgence. By layering the strips of various packages, I wished to convey the common habit of mindless gluttony driven by boredom or the desire for instant gratification, rather than consumption for the nutritious fueling of our bodies. For the background, I used cut-up articles from cooking and lifestyle magazines where food is treated as entertainment and used to influence consumer trends. 

Disposal was represented by the shape of my hand. For this piece, I used multi-pack and single-serve food packages to depict the oftentimes unthinking post-consumption disposal of resultant waste. Using multi and single-serve packaging in this piece also points to the marketing of convenience over responsible consumption. While it is easier to incorporate into a busy schedule, these forms of packaging use more materials, resources, and energy to produce, given that it usually comes in one large container consisting of multiple smaller packages.

Finally, for environmental impact, I used the outline of my footprint. I filled the shape with the material (and some extra for visual effect) from the earlier pieces in the series. I mimicked the main color of each piece by using a step gradient up the foot (from the blue of the purchase piece up to the yellow/bronze used in disposal). This piece was photographed outside on the grass to show my waste footprint and its effect on the environment.

Ashamedly, I have poor consumption and recycling habits and this project dramatically opened my eyes to this fact. While I rarely buy anything outside of my weekly trip to the grocery store, as a consumer, I realize that I tend to think in terms of convenience rather than what is best for the environment. By accumulating and organizing my waste into a series that illustrates the consumption/disposal process, I was able to critically access my environmentally-harmful habits that I would otherwise overlook. 

A lot of waste is produced from the little I buy, and I should implement a regimen that actively reduces my carbon footprint — because every little bit counts.

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