Sustainable U: Consumer-waste exhibit at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul Campus invites reflection

On St. Paul Campus, University of Minnesota design students have a rotating display of their work in McNeal Hall outside of the Goldstein. If you blink you'll miss some really great stuff like the "Vote No" (and a few "Vote Yes") posters last month. Currently up is a consumer-waste exhibit with students' creations inspired by a month of their own consumption especially regarding waste, sustainability, and health.

The exhibit has me rethinking my place on this delicate earth. The piece on pork reminded me of a visit I took to a local meat processing plant last year where a lone carcass bounced inside of a skin softening and hair removal machine that rotated next to the boiling vat of water where the pig had first been processed. Not a vision a pork belly lover soon forgets. My consumption of salt, sugar, plastic ware, Starbucks, and shoes? Also not a vision I can forget. I've always believed that whoever dies with the most shoes, wins. Now I realize I don't want to become known as 21st Century's Imelda Marcos.

I like to think of myself as Ms. Sustainability. I recycle, eat less meat than ever before, carpool, try not to consume unnecessary resources, eschew plastic bags (mostly), avoid bottled water, and turn the faucet off while I am brushing my teeth. But I shouldn't be patting myself on the back for these few "sacrifices." The consumer-waste exhibit is a reminder of what more must be accomplished. But I can keep the shoes I already own, right?

McNeal Hall
1985 Buford
St. Paul, MN

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Patrice's picture
Patrice Johnson