Category Archives: upcycling

OAH Blog Post on History of Recycling

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Organization of American Historians asked me to write a brief post on the Process blog about the history of recycling. Here’s the lede:

In the popular imagination, recycling arose out of the modern environmental movement. Some associate recycling with efforts to to divert discards from landfills or with World War II scrap drives when the government mobilized resources for the war effort. But recycling’s history is both older and more complicated than either of those depictions.

Paul Revere recycled, though he did not use that word…

Read the rest, including discussion of curbside programs, wartime scrap drives, and the turn towards upcycling as a sustainable design strategy.

“What We’re Throwing Away” Talk at Chicago Humanities Festival Noon Saturday

zimringpostedOn Saturday, I will be at the Chicago Humanities Festival for my talk “What We’re Throwing Away” from noon-1pm. I’ll have copies of Aluminum Upcycled available for purchase, and will do a signing after the talk.

Sat, Apr 29 | 12 – 1 PM
Venue SIX10
Feinberg Theater
610 S Michigan Ave | Chicago, IL | 60605
  • Members: $12
  • Public: $15
  • Students and Teachers: $10

Carl Zimring wrote the book on garbage. Well, several actually. He has written about environmental racism and scrap recycling and edited the two-volume Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. His most recent work is Aluminum Upcycled, which explores how discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater value, focusing on aluminum and its crucial role in post-WWII design. With an eye to how attitudes about waste shape culture, institutions, and inequalities, Zimring will offer a uniquely well-informed perspective on the past, present, and future of garbage.

Preorder your copy of Aluminum Upcycled through the CHF box office and save 20%.

A book signing will follow this program.

“What We’re Throwing Away” Chicago Humanities Festival Talk Apr. 29

zimringpostedI will be at the Chicago Humanities Festival for my talk “What We’re Throwing Away” April 29 from noon-1pm. I’ll have copies of Aluminum Upcycled available for purchase, and will do a signing after the talk.

Sat, Apr 29 | 12 – 1 PM
Venue SIX10
Feinberg Theater
610 S Michigan Ave | Chicago, IL | 60605
  • Members: $12
  • Public: $15
  • Students and Teachers: $10

Carl Zimring wrote the book on garbage. Well, several actually. He has written about environmental racism and scrap recycling and edited the two-volume Encyclopedia of Consumption and Waste: The Social Science of Garbage. His most recent work is Aluminum Upcycled, which explores how discarded materials are fashioned into goods of greater value, focusing on aluminum and its crucial role in post-WWII design. With an eye to how attitudes about waste shape culture, institutions, and inequalities, Zimring will offer a uniquely well-informed perspective on the past, present, and future of garbage.

Preorder your copy of Aluminum Upcycled through the CHF box office and save 20%.

A book signing will follow this program.

This Week: Aluminum Upcycled at ASEH in Chicago

chicago.green.river

The Chicago River may not be green by the start of the conference, but we will discuss green design strategies March 30.

The American Society for Environmental History meeting is in Chicago (the Drake Hotel, to be precise) this week, and I will discuss my new book Aluminum Upcycled in two sessions on Thursday. (The book will be available at the book exhibit and can also be purchased from Johns Hopkins University Press’s website.)

At 8:30am, Thursday March 30, I will be part of a panel on “Histories of Design and the Environment” with Kjetil Fallan, Rachel S. Gross, and Eun-Joo Ahn. We will all present individual papers, and then Steven Corey will comment and moderate.

Immediately thereafter at 10:30am, I will be part of a Critical Discard Studies and Environmental History roundtable organized by Martin Melosi. I will discuss aspects of the book in both sessions, with a focus on Herman Miller’s furniture design in the first and a broader discussion of where the book fits in the literature in the second.

On the Radio with Mike Nowak Saturday @ 10:15am WCGO-AM 1590 Chicago

radio_pic.jpgWith ASEH bringing me back to Chicago this year, my good friend Mike Nowak has generously invited me back for a return appearance on Chicago’s longest-running environmental radio show on April 1. The Mike Nowak Show airs every Saturday from 10am-noon CT on WCGO-AM 1590 and listeners outside the Chicago metropolitan area can listen live at the link or click through later to hear the show as a podcast.

I’ll be on starting at 10:15, and we will likely talk about my new book Aluminum Upcycled, which I’ll bring to the Chicago Humanities Festival on April 29. Based on past experience, it is quite possible Mike and I will discuss the state of recycling and waste management in Chicago.

Aluminum Upcycled Brooklyn Book Launch Saturday at 1:30pm

zimringpostedI will discuss my book Aluminum Upcycled: Sustainable Design in Historical Perspective (available now) at Pratt’s Sustainability Crash Course in Brooklyn this Saturday afternoon (March 25). 

The Sustainability Crash Course runs from 9am to 5pm with a variety of talks and events at Pratt’s Brooklyn campus (200 Willoughby Avenue near the Clinton-Washington C station and the Classon G station). My book launch will be in Pratt’s Engineering Building at 1:30pm and last about 50 minutes. The event is free, but registration is required.

I will have copies of the book for sale at the event. Johns Hopkins University Press describes this history of sustainable design strategies this way:

Beginning in 1886 with the discovery of how to mass produce aluminum, the book examines the essential part the metal played in early aviation and the world wars, as well as the troubling expansion of aluminum as a material of mass disposal. Recognizing that scrap aluminum was as good as virgin material and much more affordable than newly engineered metal, designers in the postwar era used aluminum to manufacture highly prized artifacts. Zimring takes us on a tour of post-1940s design, examining the use of aluminum in cars, trucks, airplanes, furniture, and musical instruments from 1945 to 2015. 

By viewing upcycling through the lens of one material, Zimring deepens our understanding of the history of recycling in industrial society. He also provides a historical perspective on contemporary sustainable design practices. Along the way, he challenges common assumptions about upcycling’s merits and adds a new dimension to recycling as a form of environmental absolution for the waste-related sins of the modern world. Raising fascinating questions of consumption, environment, and desire,  Upcycling Aluminum is for anyone interested in industrial and environmental history, discard studies, engineering, product design, music history, or antiques.