Closing a Loop

Summer is migratory season for academics.  Two, Alexandra Filindra and Steven H. Corey, just migrated to Chicago where she is teaching political science at UIC and he is the new chair of the Department of Humanities, History, and Social Sciences at Columbia College.

Steve also studies urban environmental history, with an emphasis on waste management. He was, for example, research curator of the “Garbage! The History and Politics of Trash in New York City” exhibition at the New York Public Library and is co-editor of the American Urban Reader: History and Theory which incorporates environmental analysis extensively in its survey of American cities. Alexandra and Steve moved from New Jersey and Rhode Island (respectively) with their possessions transported in dozens of boxes. Now that they have unpacked, they have kindly given us many of those boxes. (A much-appreciated gift, as over the years, we have donated our old moving boxes to friends in need.) What will we do with these boxes? Cart our possessions…right back to the Northeast.
Boxes between their jobs as storage.Boxes between their jobs as storage.Storage awaiting transportation back East.Storage awaiting transportation back East.

Those of us interested in minimizing waste often talk about trying to close loops of material flows in order to avoid tossing wasted material into landfills, waterways, or vulnerable communities. We consider public policy to encourage or require the design and use of objects to minimize waste, producers developing voluntary manufacturing standards to close loops, or (as in my first book) discuss how informal markets develop to reclaim wasted material from open loop disposal practices.

In this instance, the notion of a loop not only is about extending the working lives of the materials beyond one use but also has a spatial meaning. The boxes will complete an almost-perfect geographical loop between the New York and Chicago metro areas, allowing Steve and I to claim the repurposing of these boxes as a modest application of our work on waste.

Alternately, it is possible that the process of packing is making me loopy. That would certainly explain the existence of this post.

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