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Talking Trash

It’s not easy being green. Anybody who’s ever really tried to minimize his or her carbon footprint, knows that even when you’re committed to recycling and responsible purchasing, you can be foiled by forces outside your control. You buy a new set of tiny earbuds, and they come encased in a mound of nasty plastic and Styrofoam. You order lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and get a portion big enough for three (the upside: I now feel virtuous instead of cheap for my unrepentant doggie bag habit, and my predilection for tap over bottled water). You buy something online, only to trigger a torrent of unwanted catalogs.

Like many other design firms these days, the folks at Frog Design have been grappling with what sustainability means from a design standpoint. How can they be more responsible in conceiving objects so that they have less of an impact on our natural resources, and the life of our planet?

But recently, one of Frog’s staffers, Ashley Menger, a design analyst in Austin, decided to launch an experiment to see how much trash she, personally, was generating. The test: to see how much trash one individual produces in the space of two weeks. The rules: Anything that she couldn’t compost, flush or recycle had to be carried or kept within 5 feet at all times. To report on her progress, she launched a blog on the Frog Design site called Trash Talk, in which she documented her struggle to be less trashy. It wasn’t easy, and over the course of two weeks, she discovered her lust for paper napkins when she was eating burritos (recalling, with horror, how she used to just grab a stack), and her dismay at ordering lunch, only to be served giant helping of mustard and mayo in Styrofoam cups along with her sandwich (which she dutifully trucked home to a compost bin in a Tupperware container, and recycled the Styrofoam via Cycled Plastics .

By the end of Ashley’s two weeks, her project had generated such enthusiasm within Frog that other staffers, in various Frog offices around the world, including Seattle, Shanghai, New York, Germany, and Palo Alto, had enlisted to continue the experiment. In Shanghai, Brandon Edwards brandonedwards%20%282%29.jpg
found himself carrying his trash with him on a business trip to Korea. Every time Linda Carlin in Seattle produced trash, she called the company that was responsible for not using recyclable material to find out why. Marc Fenigstein’s trash will be going canoeing with him on a family vacation in Oregon.

The project has been such a success, that non-froggers are even leaping into the pond. A admiring New Yorker named Max, recently picked up the torch, launching his own blog postings on his progress. His sister Elke soon followed.

Read it all on the frog Trash Talk blog. And before you grab three paper towels in the rest room, carelessly dispose of a battery, or pitch that disposable razor, imagine if all your trash was forever attached to you via some weird magnetic field. Because, in many ways, it is. To all of us.