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Want to curb your consumer waste? See The Clean Bin Project

Now, every time I throw something out, I think of the one, tiny basket of garbage that Grant Baldwin and Jenny Rustemeyer each had left after one year. The Vancouver, B.C. couple, creators and stars of the documentary The Clean Bin Project,  achieved almost zero waste after a year of purchasing nothing except food and work-related necessities. I found their dedication (Jen was the most committed of the two) truly inspirational. Jen started growing veggies, she made her own toothpaste, created hand-made family Christmas gifts, and avoided plastic when buying food by re-using a mesh bag for veggies and requesting that items such as cheese be cut from a large block, rather than purchasing some prepackaged.


Their 2010 documentary is an entertaining look at the competitive fun the two had in seeing who would end up with the least amount of household waste after one year. At the end, they each weighed their individual trash bins — I won’t tell you who won. Besides the humor and drama of their ongoing challenges, the movie includes an interview with Brian Burke, compost and recycling guru at Quayside Village Co-Housing in North Vancouver; international artist Chris Jordan (who traded in 10 years of wealth and over-consumption as a New York corporate lawyer to create photographic art composed of mini-images of trash heaps); and Charles Moore, who first discovered the miles-long pile of floating plastic waste that circulates in the Pacific Ocean.


The most poignant part of the film for me was watching Jordan photograph the remains of dead albatross on tiny Midway Island near Hawaii (the atoll is home to almost 70 per cent of the world’s Laysan albatross population). Each skeleton in the sand appeared with what were once the bird’s stomach contents:  a motley assortment of colored bottle caps and other plastic debris. Each young bird was suffocating to death after swallowing plastic, which its body couldn’t process. The mother albatross fly out to sea, retrieve what they believe is food from the floating debris pile in the Pacific, and then feed it to their young ones. How’s that for a powerful metaphor of what our consumer society is doing to life itself?


I appreciated the global perspectives that these interviews added to the immediate story of Grant and Jen’s one-year adventure in waste reduction and recycling. It truly put their efforts in a much-needed perspective of how all human consumption and waste patterns affect the planet, ourselves, and all living things.


The Clean Bin Project film has won a variety of awards, including Best Canadian Documentary at the 2011 Projecting Change Film Festival. The filmmaking duo is on tour to promote the film and its messages. I saw it in Gibsons, BC as part of the excellent Green Film Series sponsored by the Gibsons Green Team and Sustainable Coast Magazine. It’s guaranteed to get you changing your consumer habits — or, if you’re a diehard, at least thinking more about them. 



October 2, 2011 at 12:18 pm
1 comment »
  • October 23, 2011 at 9:36 pmBeverly Saunders

    Heather, thanks for the great comments on the Green Film Series. We were very please with the turnout at our first showing. Looking forward to this series gaining momentum. Our goal is to engage the audience and hopefully get people to take action. Not just watch a movie, say that was nice and go home. We are already scheduling more films for the spring. Hope to see you at more of the films!

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