Hari Perisic ’17 is a first-year student who took Assistant Professor of History Dr. Sara Egge’s CentreTerm course this January; below are some of his thoughts on the eye-opening and thought-provoking course.
When I signed up to take Talking Trash: Garbage in U.S. History, I was under the impression that the class would be about the evolution of dirty speech and attitudes toward it through the history of the United States. When I arrived the first day and received the syllabus, I was surprised that we would literally be talking about garbage.
The first day, Dr. Sara Egge gave us the syllabus and a Wal-Mart shopping bag. She told us that we need to take this bag around with us at all times, except during our field trips, and whatever we could not recycle, reuse or compost had to go into our bags. My reaction was, “Well, this is weird.” Along with that we had to write 21 journal entries, one for each day of the course, about how we felt about trash and gauging our progress in reducing, reusing and recycling.
Our schedule was jam-packed with field trips and papers, but after each day I began to feel as though I was learning something meaningful. Our first field trip was to Frankfort, Ky., to visit the Division of Waste (DWM) management and learn what exactly happens to Kentucky’s waste. We also met with Senator Chris Girdler (pictured above), which was an interesting experience as well.
The next stop on our field trip was Louisville, Ky., where I met Scott, a worker at the DWM there. He was the driver of my group and took us to the different sites around Louisville. We learned from him exactly where waste goes. We visited “brownfield sites” and learned about the science of landfills. Brownfield sites are places that have contamination or places that have perceived contamination, bringing down the property value. Landfills are very expensive, take a long time to construct and have a lot of regulations that must be followed. Nevertheless, a typical landfill in Louisville takes 18-24 months to reach maximum capacity. These were among the many informative and eye-opening trips and things we learned during this CentreTerm course that exceeded my expectations.
Since I am a first-year, I do not have a declared major, but I am pretty sure that I want to pursue something within the economic realm. I had absolutely no idea that there was so much opportunity for work in the area of developmental economics. The development of brownfield sites would be one example. After one of our field trips, we met with a woman who has made a career in this field. She explained that these sites bring down the value of the properties around them because, typically, they are big abandoned lots and frighten away developers, residents and industries because of the dangers of pollution.
For our final project we had to pick a topic, interview people and present to the class. My partner, Peter Nelson II, and I decided to investigate how Centre recycles clothing compared to how the community of Danville does. Something that concerned me was the large difference between the Salvation Army and the Goodwill industries. The Goodwill company is profit based and will throw away any clothing it cannot sell. The Salvation Army will send the clothing it cannot sell to an organization that either sends it to people across the world after natural disasters or recycles the materials.
I came into this class not really knowing what to expect from a class all about trash, but I left not only with a clearer picture of the huge problem of waste but also feeling like I need to live a more sustainable lifestyle.
Ultimately, this is the kind of course that actually affects one’s day-to-day activities after the class is over. And whether my classmates and I were tree-huggers or wasteful consumers, we all got something out of it.
By Hari Perišić ’17