#TedxWindyCity – Elise Zelechowsk

  • “Nature does not create waste”
  • Reimagining waste for a new economy
  • i want to reflect nowhere our waste comes from, where it goes, and how we can reimagine what we can do with it.
  • How did we arrive at this current relationship with waste?
  • When we throw something away we don’t really want to think about it again.
  • The whole notion of how we think about waste is that there is this place called “away.”
  • The real ‘away’ are landfills. And they are hidden from our sight.
  • Wealthy neighborhoods pay to have their waste sent away to unhealthy neighborhoods.
  • We have about 5 years of capacity left in our landfills here in Chicago.
  • When we do have control over where our waste goes, it often does go to landfills.
  • The landfill in Statin Island landfill in volume is the same as the great wall of China.
  • Many of our older landfills, close to 90% of them are leaking contamination into our water supply.
  • “What people have owned and thrown away can speak more eloquently, informatively, and truthfully about the lives they lead than they themselves every may.”
  • What does what we throw away say about us as a society? Does our waste demonstrate that we are resourceful, or does it demonstrate something else.
  • In the last 50 years people have consumed more resources than in all of human history.
  • Since 2006 Chicago has demolished 49 million square feet of buildings. Most of those buildings are occurring in high-income neighborhoods where we’re demolishing large houses to build larger houses.
  • Waste is a 47 billion dollar business.
  • Part of the problem is that we don’t know alot about that industry. We have this problem with waste. We’re uncomfortable with it, and we don’t want to think about it again, so we don’t want to invest the resources to manage it.
  • There are some ways to measure the impacts. The recycling industry has shown that they have create 7 jobs for every 1 job in landfilling.
  • There is reimagination happening in cities all over the country.
  • I want to talk to you about a project we’re working on called the Rebuilding Exchange.
  • People in other countries value their waste and natural resources much more than we do.
  • Chicago was only recycling 12% of their waste.
  • What does it take to change people’s behavior?
  • Rebuilding Exchange is a store where people can come and get reclaimed building materials.
  • Having a store is just one aspect of the reimagination. We also provide alot of educational programming. How to use tools to actually make the things that we’re reclaiming.
  • We create jobs in the reimagination sector. A core part of what we do is provide job training for people coming out of the prison system.
  • We give them what every person deserves, a job.
  • If there aren’t opportunities for people when they get out of prison then they’ll re-offend.
  • 20 staff, 8,000 tons of building materials, 80 formerly incarcerated trained and over 16,000 customers served per year.
  • 17.5% of houses in Chicago in foreclosure in September 2010.
  • 1. In order to change the way we think about waste is to see waste. Make waste a focal part of our conversation.
  • 2. There’s no simple solution to our waste problem. This will take time, but we have to take the first step. Think twice about what we consume and how much we consume. Each of us generates 5 pounds of waste each day. Think twice about where you throw things away.
  • 3. I think we’re starting to realize that unregulated consumption is unsustainable. I challenge all of us to start reimagining our world where we value our waste.

Tags: ,