Achieving the zero-waste holy grail may seem like a superhuman feat. But sustainability experimenters, from No-Impact Man to many other ordinary families, have shown that drastically cutting down on household waste is possible.
Of course, it helps to first get a visual inkling of the problem. California photographer Gregg Segal attempts to put a face on the mountains of garbage we generate through his compelling series documenting families lying down in week's worth of their own garbage.
7 Days of Garbage is a series of portraits of friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances with the garbage they accumulate in the course of a week. Subjects are photographed surrounded by their trash in a setting that is part nest, part archeological record. We’ve made our bed and in it we lie.
It's an honest look into the post-modern state of things, living in a society where everything -- perhaps even our relationships with others and our environment -- is a bit too disposable. The composed, smiling faces and even the fancy dress of some of the photographs' subjects are at an uncomfortable odds with the evident mess they are fenced in by. It all perhaps skillfully alludes to the "out of sight, out of mind" attitude too many of us may have with our waste-stream, and that despite socio-economic differences, we are all unfortunately unified by the uniformity of our garbage.
Segal's aim is to get viewers to see that in order to tackle the enormous waste problem, one has to start at the personal level, where it all begins -- even if it means starting small. As we have seen before, personal change can have huge repercussions that we may not realize.
Funnily enough, Segal admits in a recent Slate interview that some of the subjects actually edited out some of their garbage, leaving out some of the "really foul stuff." Yet those who brought everything actually ended up with the best images, showing the truth behind this series: that what we throw away also defines who we are, and that we would do better by being honest with ourselves. It's a fascinating photography series that confronts us with what has long been a serious issue, one that we all can personally change. More over at Gregg Segal, and be sure to check out our tips on zero waste living.