Art X Trash X Manufacturers

Let’s start with a quote from Annie Leonard, CEO of GreenPeace and Creator of Story of Stuff;

“For decades, the producers of disposable packaging and products have tried to say it’s our fault that their toxic throwaway junk litters our landscapes, fouls our waters, and kills fish and wildlife. Their most ingenious and insidious effort was the iconic “Crying Indian” ad, which showed a supposedly Native American man (actually, an Italian-American actor) paddling a canoe through a trash-strewn river. As he walks along the shore, a passenger in a passing car throws a bag of trash out the window. A single tear rolls down his cheek as the narrator intones: “People start pollution. People can stop it.”

The ad first aired in 1971 and had a huge impact on a generation awakening to the environmental crisis. We watched it over and over, shared the faux-Indian’s grief, and vowed to make changes in our individual lives to stop pollution. That was exactly what the ad’s creators wanted, since the ad was produced by the garbage-makers themselves.

The ad was part of a strategic effort to brand waste as a problem that should be solved not by stricter regulations, but exclusively by getting individuals to feel responsible and focus on changing their day-to-day habits.” – Annie Leonard


Putting the responsibility onto the people instead the corporations manufacturing the waste causes not only environmental harm but lays a huge burden on the people of this Earth. People everywhere struggle with guilt and anger towards themselves and others for our over consumptive culture.

When in reality the manufacturers producing materials that don’t break down in nature need to take responsibility for their waste. The Earth works by building up and breaking down. A tree flowers, fruits, falls and returns nutrients back to the earth as it decomposes into the soil. Huge companies are creating materials that take thousands of years to break down and rapid consumption has caused these materials to pile up in the ocean and landfills.

zero waste system

One way to combat these synthetic materials from over taking your community is to ban them through policy change. An example of a material that needs to be banned is #6 polystyrene, also known as “styrofoam”. It is not recycled in San Luis Obispo county and is filling up the ocean and landfill at an ever increasing rate.

This past weekend we had a Surfrider X ECO SLO beach clean up at Sandspit in Montana de Oro. Tons of volunteers came out and we picked up almost 300 pounds of trash in 3 hours!  Bottle caps, cigarette butts, balloons, bottles and TONS of little pieces of polystyrene.

With the advice from artist and activist Peggy Oki, I am starting a visual petition called ” Own your waste”. A petition to get manufacturers to take responsibility for the waste they create. If I find a piece of trash on the beach that says “skittles” on the wrapper, I think Skittles brand should  Own Their Waste and pay a littering fine.

Here are some pictures from my visual petition attention to the manufacturers who are creating the waste:

Be a part of the “own your waste” visual petition: Take a picture with trash that you pick up on the street, beach, creek, etc and send it to me to add to the visual petition.

I was so astounded by the amount of trash we collected at the clean up I took some of it home with me and created a trash rainbow 🙂 I love revaluing materials and creating something happy out of refuse. The white clouds are completely made from polystyrene pieces. Everything was found on Sandspit , a beach that by first glance seems very clean.


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XOXO Sarah Bellum

❤ ❤

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