Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Trash Talk

High-end hotels often capture attention by their collaborations with artists and a daring approach to design. For guests, it’s an escape to a dramatic world far removed from the mundane details of daily life. I haven’t seen any hotel design so daring, though, as a recent pop-up in Rome which is created entirely out of one of life’s least glamorous aspects – garbage.

Created by German artist HA Schult, the five-room Save The Beach hotel was erected for World Environment Day on 5 June. It’s made of a whopping 12 tonnes of rubbish – all of it collected from European beaches. Schult has been working with waste materials for over forty years, and his legions of “Trash People”, arranged in formation around famous landmarks, are an incredible spectacle. He summed up the background of the project neatly: “The philosophy of this hotel is to expose the damage we are causing to the sea and the coastline…We live in the era of trash and we are running the risk of becoming trash ourselves.” You can see photos of the hotel, (and its first guest Helena Christiansen!) on the Save The Beach Facebook page.

It reminds me of a campaign Saatchi & Saatchi LA did a few years ago for the Surfrider Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches. To engage people with the far-reaching consequences of pollution, trash was collected from beaches and packaged up as “Catch of the Day” style seafood, displayed in farmers’ markets. It’s not often the sense of taste is evoked in sustainability communications, and just looking at stills from the campaign gives a strong gag-and-gut reaction, prompting seafood lovers to think about the environment their fish dinners come from.

If you’ve been watching the FIFA World Cup (as I certainly have), you’ve seen yet another imaginative effort to put trash to good use. Nine teams, including New Zealand and the United States, are wearing jerseys made entirely out of recycled plastic bottles. Nike converted 13 million bottles from landfills in Japan and Taiwan into the polyester thread that was used to weave these jerseys. In the process, they reduced their energy consumption by 30 percent!

Here’s to clean beaches and oceans, to wasting less, recycling more, and to committing to Do One Thing – the simple act of picking up after ourselves.