Activism Meets Family Business:

How the “Trash Man” and Dad’s Dumpster Rental in Cleveland Ohio are creating a more sustainable future.

It’s not exactly rocket science to know that trash needs someplace to go. We don’t often think about how long the stuff we throw out sticks around. Just to give you an idea, most of what we know about ancient civilizations archeologically comes from their leftover trash. That’s just pieces of broken pottery and spear tips! Pretty mild stuff compared to what we throw away these days. Modern material like plastic can stick around for millions of years or more. Only the most courageous of philosophers can ponder the horrifying consequences of this and not go mad. That means for you, yes you, every burrito wrapper, every diaper from when you were an infant, every single bag of potato chips you tore into at 3am in college will still be under the earth long after you meet your end. So it only begs the question, what are the effects of this? Short answer, not good! The EPA estimates the average American creates 4.5 pounds of waste every day. Do the math and that’s roughly 1,600 pounds a year! Excessive waste in landfills pollutes ground water and even the very air we breathe, creating a disastrous future for not only ourselves but also our children.

To illustrate this point recently New York resident Rob Greenfield decided to take a strange yet powerful symbolic action. Instead of throwing away his weekly garbage like most of us do, he held onto his trash for an entire month. Eventually he accumulated 84 pounds of trash, which he thereafter used to construct a suit. Like a detritus-filled Michelin Man Greenfield lumbered through the streets, subways, and parks of New York in his trash-suit attracting onlookers as he went. Hugging his left shin like the steel greaves of a medieval knight was a Red Baron’s pizza box. Hanging like trophies of war from his neck were multiple trash bags full of cookies, napkins, and coffee cups. The golden arches from you know who made an appearance as well as delivery boxes, paper plates, and Whole Foods bags. This walking golem of consumerism turned quite a few heads and started several conversations. Greenfield’s goal was simple, to use this act as a way to encourage people to recycle. Thus, the legend of the “Trash Man” was born. One I hope enters into the popular mythos to stand side by side with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster. The sheer amount of trash even a conscientious person like Greenfield created in just one month should surprise anyone. Even more disturbingly, the amount of trash strapped like Kevlar to his body was still a 1/3rd less than the average American creates in a month. Let’s hope one day we can refer to that statistic about waste as legendary too!

Activism like the Trash Man’s in New York is all well and good, but what about action from the waste removal industry itself? As the old saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and 460 miles from New York City in Cleveland Ohio Dad’s Dumpsters is finding much treasure indeed. A family run business through and through, Dad’s was started by a father and son team and seeks to service their community through their convenient and affordable dumpster rental service. In the world of small business, sustainability is not only a moral imperative but must always be combined with efficiency. Making their own dumpsters that roll off the truck bed rather than requiring heavy lifting means they can carry their dumpsters on smaller trucks which means less emissions. Here we see a perfect illustration of form equals function and sustainability leading to greater efficiency. A local family-run business like Dad’s Dumpsters is going to feel much more connected to and responsible for their community than an impersonal corporate chain. That is why it is important for society to decentralize and bring our daily economic transactions back to a more personal level. When business owners see the results of their actions on fellow members of their community they can no longer hide behind a bureaucracy. Thus, the environment is helped because of rather than in spite of smart business practices. Dad’s also keeps to a strict policy on what they can and cannot haul, because certain materials like batteries and tires are terrible for the environment and should never be disposed of in a landfill. The future of environmentally sustainable business models lies within small town entrepreneurs like Dad’s Dumpsters.    

We’ve seen how much our waste can affect the world around us. Thankfully there are a variety of responses from activism to good ol’ mom & pop hospitality in addressing this issue. If we come together we can truly make a difference in our communities and for our planet. Smart daily decisions are what ultimately save the world. Trust me that this is not a piece of garbage advice!

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