Making Waste Explicit

Reducing waste can save more than time.

Reducing waste can save more than time.

Noticing waste serves no purpose. Understanding it does. Whether we seek to manage waste or attempt to eliminate it entirely, we need to know how much of it exists and what form it takes – what’s its volume, its shape, its weight.  So we monitor it. We watch it. We learn from how it grows, how it spreads, and what its impacts are.

On an idyllic spring day on Bainbridge Island near Seattle, in the crisp fresh air I stood rapt as people heated rice over an open fire. With huge mallets they furiously pounded the grains in a mortar, turning the hot steaming mass into a glutinous paste that is life’s most perfect confection – what the Japanese call “mochi.” With apparently heat-resistant hands, they grabbed and worked the steaming paste, transforming it into the fluffiest mochi balls imaginable.

This scenario took place at the 2008 Mochi Festival at IslandWood. IslandWood is an educational facility situated in the heart of a forest in the middle of an island in Puget Sound.  In their carbon-neutral environment, IslandWood’s stunning 255 acre campus embodies an ideal. In this setting, students of all ages can spend a few days or even an entire university term studying sustainability and culture.

Making Mochi Naturally in Ecotopia

Making Mochi Naturally in Ecotopia.

Me? I was there simply for the mochi.

While waiting in line, however, I passed IslandWood’s own low-tech waste monitoring system.

It’s name is “Wade.”

Wade measures IslandWood’s food waste. Diners place their meal remains into one of three buckets for weighing: Non-compostable food (like meat), compostable vegetable, and liquid waste. Wade’s goal is simple: leave diners cognizant of the amount of food waste they create, even if it is going to be composted.

The added benefit of Wade is the visual control of waste. At all times, the amount of waste from previous meals is visible. This keeps diners mindful of the goal and conscious that their actions impact it.

This message translates well for setting up a personal kanban. Whether it is for one person, a family, or an entire group at work, keep in mind that once a type of waste is identified, over time it will continue to need managing and we will continue to need reminding.

Wade Measures Food Waste

Food Waste Monitoring at IslandWood

Making Waste Explicit

Making Waste Explicit