Happy Earth Day! and other assorted One Man’s Trash affairs

A touch of the finger: get in touch with nature at Fingerspan
Get in touch with nature at Fingerspan

Well by golly, whattaya know, Earth Day has arrived, bringing sixteen months of work—12 months picking up trash, 4 months organizing, analyzing, and preparing it for fancy display—to a close. Or has it just begun?

Why yes, I would like to make prints of this map available for purchase. Would you like one?

This map, printed at 42″ x 66″, will be among the display panels at the exhibition tonight. Others include original infographics by Mark Adams and Jason Killinger of Eyes Habit and photography by Sarah Kaufman. Click, enlarge, and consider whether you’d like a copy of this hand drawn map of the Wissahickon when it becomes available this summer.

Tonight marks at least one beginning, the opening reception of One Man’s Trash, the exhibition of the goofball litter project I’ve conducted in the Wissahickon, Philadelphia’s magical, mystical Northwestern land. It’s at 6pm at the historic Fairmount Water Works, which began operations 200 years ago, 1815, serving to protect Philadelphia’s water supply.

It was a mission and vision that 50-some years later manifested as the Fairmount Park Commission, whose first order of business was to buy up and protect the lands surrounding the Schuylkill River and Wissahickon Creek. There are lots of connections between our waterways, our parks, and specifically the Wissahickon and Schuylkill and Delaware (the three of which are represented in anthropomorphic form in Swann Fountain at Logan Circle).

I’ll be talking a little more about these connections as spring unfolds with a series of events planned to go along with the run of the show, April 22 through June 26. Lots of excellent partners are coming together to make it happen, including Friends of the Wissahickon, Fairmount Water Works, Philadelphia Water Department, Philadelphia Streets Department, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy, and more. And big props and big thank yous to my favorite brewery in the world, Victory Brewing Company, for supporting tonight’s opening. Likewise thanks to Weavers Way for accommodating this working member for the wonderful spread of snacks.

With these events, we’re hoping to generate a deeper consideration for our parks, our water, and the waste we each generate everyday. Hopefully this leads to a better appreciation and stewardship for what we’ve got.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” —The Lorax

Actually no, it IS pretty easy being green.
Actually no, it IS pretty easy being green.

Anyway, some fun dates to choose from.

SATURDAY APRIL 26: The annual Wissahickon Creek cleanup sponsored by the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association and Friends of the Wissahickon.

SATURDAY MAY 9, 10am: As part of the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Love Your Park Week, we’ll clean up the lowest reaches of the Wissahickon Creek, where it empties into the Schuylkill River. In doing so, we’ll explore some vastly underserved land and peek ever slightly into the future. The Fairmount Water Works and Friends of the Wissahickon each have separate cleanups scheduled as well.

THURSDAY MAY 14, 10am: A tour of the Philadelphia Streets Department’s official recycling center, operated by ReCommunity at 29th and Wharton Streets in Grays Ferry.

SUNDAY MAY 31: One Man’s Trash: The Presentation. This slideshow takes place at the Fairmount Water Works, where I’ll talk about the origin, process, and results of the project, then lead a tour of the exhibit.

SATURDAY JUNE 6, 10am: Guided hike in the Wissahickon Valley Park in conjunction with the Fairmount Park Conservancy.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 24: A tour of a Philadelphia Water Department Wastewater treatment plant.

FRIDAY JUNE 26, 5:30pm: One Man’s Trash closing party at Fairmount Water Works.

* * *

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for more info, and thanks for stopping by. Longtime readers might be happy to know that I at least in theory plan for a slight return to more traditional Philly Skyline content this summer, especially as the Comcast Innovation & Technology Center and FMC Tower race up from the ground. Peace.

One Man’s Trash: The Exhibition, coming to a historic Water Works near you

Some good looking balustrades there.
Some good looking balustrades there.

Save the date, friends: Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, 6–8pm. The Wissahickon is coming to the Schuylkill. Just like real life!

Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the Fairmount Water Works‘ mission has long served to protect Philadelphia’s water supply and watersheds—and to foster an informed stewardship of the lands surrounding it. So with great honor and pride, I am happy to announce the exhibition of One Man’s Trash, my yearlong project which, in so many words, served to protect the Wissahickon watershed and foster a better stewardship of the park surrounding it. To merge these ideas, we’re hosting a two month exhibition, April 22–June 26, with an opening party on Earth Day.

This project has been a labor of love. In late 2013, I relocated to Mt Airy for a lot of reasons, none greater than the access to the Wissahickon Valley Park. Though its dramatic scenery could easily be mistaken for some Appalachian hinterland, the Wissahickon’s 1,800 acres are indeed right here in the fifth largest city in the country. And with that comes the inherent big city problem that has always bothered me most about Philadelphia: litter.

So. For all of 2014, I took a trash grabber with me on weekly hikes to pick up all of the litter I could carry. Each hike lasted roughly 2-3 hours and went roughly 4-5 miles, and each one traveled a different section of the park than the previous week’s. This enabled me to learn every corner of the park and its 50 miles of trails. It also allowed me to study how the park interacts with its neighbors—neighborhoods, private residences, institutions. For example, while Mt Airy is spoiled with an abundance of access (there are three trailheads within six blocks of my home), East Falls is all but completely cut off from the park, despite sharing close to two miles of border with it.

Thanks for the neat pile, anyway: remnants of a Natty Ice party along Rex Run.
Thanks for the neat pile, anyway: remnants of a Natty Ice party along Rex Run.

As the project has had many components, so too will the exhibition. All of the litter I’ve removed from the park has been sorted, catalogued, and arranged neatly for display. Aluminum cans, glass bottles, hard plastic bottles, soft plastic bottles, plastic wrappers, plastic bags, SO MUCH PLASTIC, styrofoam, cardboard boxes, paper receipts, discarded clothes, miscellaneous items… it’ll all be here.

The data tallied from all of those items will be here too. Visitors to this site over the past year have probably noticed the project’s 52 weekly reports. All of these reports have been collected in one place and laboriously added up. From this data, the extremely talented Jason Killinger and Mark Adams will design infographics that speak to the city’s consumption—of disposable products and of water—and how its waste is handled.

And, since Devil’s Pool is the Wissahickon at its very best and its very worst—it’s at once a spectacular specimen of Wissahickon schist geology punctuated by a stone aqueduct dating to the City Beautiful 1890s and a party spot whose litter seems to get worse by the year—an entire wall of the show will focus its attention here. Germantown native and resident Sarah Kaufman has photographed Devil’s Pool in use over the past few years; prints from this series will highlight this wall.

With help from Friends of the Wissahickon, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and the Philadelphia Water Department, we’re also planning a series of events that will include talks at the Water Works, tours of municipal facilities, park cleanups, and guided hikes. All told, we’re going to cover some ground, and we’re gonna have a good time doing it. A full menu will be published when it’s ready, but for now, circle Earth Day on your calendar, and come out for the opening night of One Man’s Trash… and Friends!

One Man’s Trash: Week 52 Report

WEEK 52: Allens Lane & Lincoln Drive to Carpenter’s Woods

1 towel
1 winter headband
2 gloves (unrelated)
1 tag

2 cigarette butts
1 box Camel

1 wiffleball
3 tennis balls (1 green, 1 red, 1 nude)

1 fishing bob
1 fabric glasses case(???)

1 24oz cup Dunkin Donuts
1 16oz cup Dunkin Donuts
1 16oz cup
1 20oz cup
1 tub
2 pieces random styrofoam

1 part big box
1 12oz cup Wendy’s
1 receipt Weavers Way
1 wrapper Tootsie Roll frooties
1 wrapper Ricola

1 piece painted pipe
1 24oz can Miller High Life
1 16oz can Colt 45
1 16oz can Steel Reserve
1 12oz can Miller Lite
3 16oz cans Budweiser
1 12oz can Budweiser
1 12oz can Lionhead
1 16oz can Red Bull
1 10oz can Red Bull
1 7oz can Diet Coke
1 12oz can Yuengling Lager
1 24oz can Arizona green tea

1 12oz bottle clear no label
1 16oz bottle Pepsi (old school)
1 12oz bottle Saranac caramel porter
1 7oz bottle Coronita
1 12oz bottle Seagrams calypso colada (seriously)
1 jar Brandy Butter hard sauce

2 plant pots
1 food tub
1 yellow plant thing or other
1 32oz cup Wawa
3 coffee lids
2 soda lids
6 straws
5 wrappers Snickers Christmas bite size
1 wrapper Snickers bite size (not Christmas)
1 32oz bottle Powerade
1 32oz bottle Gatorade
1 16oz bottle Wawa iced tea
3 16oz bottles water Poland Spring
2 16oz bottles water Deer Park
1 16oz bottle water Dasani
1 16oz bottle water no label
1 label bottle water Ice River
1 wrapper SoyJoy
1 wrapper fresh mushrooms container
2 shopping bags
1 wrapper Snickers 4-to-Go
1 wrapper Tastykake mini donuts
1 ziploc bag
1 wrapper Kit Kat
1 wrapper Fruit Smiles
1 wrapper American Heritage string cheese
1 wrapper sweet rice cake
1 wrapper David sunflower seeds
1 wrapper Quaker chewy granola
1 label Prestone power steering fluid
2 pouches Capri Sun
1 bag Wise white cheddar popcorn
1 bag Lays barbecue chips
8 pieces random plastic



1 dog shit pile
9 dog shit bags
6 dogs on leash
12 dogs off leash

– Party spot below Livezey and above Fingerspan under big rock outcrop still filthy.
– Dog shit pile DIRECTLY on step of “nail” side of Fingerspan, middle of the trail. Terrible.
– HOLY CRAP, this is the last trash hike!
– Joined by the esteemed Dave Bower, Philadelphia Parks & Rec volunteer coordinator who has been absolutely instrumental in the carrying out of this project.

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⇦ WEEK 51 • THE END ⇨

One Man’s Trash: Week 51 Report

WEEK 51: Philadelphia University to Carpenter’s Woods
* Winter Solstice

11 golf balls

1 12oz cup 7-Eleven

1 big Master lock
1 CD Box Kingz Distribution
1 roll magnetic tape
1 bike pedal reflector
1 packet oxygen absorber (DO NOT EAT)
1 hair barrette (yellow flower)
1 rubber band

4 cigarette butts

1 32oz cup McDonald’s
2 pieces random styrofoam

1 16oz bottle 7-Up
1 16oz bottle Snapple
1 12oz bottle Heineken
1 16oz Bob Marley’s Mellow Mood Lite (fuckin’ … what?)
1 bottle white wine no label

1 12oz can Tecate
2 12oz cans Rolling Rock
1 16oz can Yuengling Lager
1 12oz can Keystone Light
1 16oz can Miller Lite
1 12oz can Miller Lite
1 12oz can Landshark
1 10oz can Red Bull
1 12oz can Pepsi
1 12oz can Gatorade (Gatorade makes cans?)
1 12oz can Budweiser (pull tab)
1 12oz can Bud Light
1 12oz can Colt 45 (pull tab)
1 12oz can Pepsi
1 16oz can Pabst
2 12oz cans Pabst
1 12oz can Diet Coke
1 12oz can Coors Light
1 12oz can Natural Light

1 gigantic mylar balloon Care Bears
1 mylar balloon Shark Tale
1 blunt wrapper Zig Zag
1 1 liter bottle water Deer Park
1 24oz bottle water Poland Spring
1 16oz bottle water Nestlé Pure Life
1 16oz bottle water Fresh Grocer
1 16oz bottle water Aquafina
1 16oz bottle water Poland Spring
1 16oz bottle water Dasani
1 16oz bottle water no label
2 wrappers Quaker chewy granola
1 bag Sour Patch Kids
1 bag Fritos chili cheese
1 blue Solo cup
1 16oz bottle Wawa green tea
1 42oz(!!!) bottle Arizona green tea
3 20oz bottles Gatorade
1 sport water bottle Nantahala Outdoor Center
1 straw
1 coffee lid
2 zip ties
1 blunt wrapper Palma
1 pouch Capri Sun
1 pouch Power Bar energy gel
1 bag Herr’s sour cream & onion chips
1 15oz tub Maggio ricotta cheese
1 16oz bottle Wawa iced tea
1 16oz bottle Fanta
1 8oz bottle milk(?) no label
2 wrapper corners


0 dog shit piles
5 dog shit bags
6 dogs on leash
5 dogs off leash

– The deck of Henry Avenue bridge needs its own clean up. Couldn’t Phila U do this?
– Area just below Lovers Leap is filthy from people throwing trash down.
– Lots of twisted junky old creek plastic in Golf Course Run.
– The bank of Walnut Lane approaching the bridge is filthy from people
throwing stuff out their windows.
– Could use cleanup day under and alongside Walnut Lane Bridge (Roxborough side).
– Walnut Lane golf course’s fourth fairway and hole run parallel to Magdalena Trail/Yellow Trail.
– Party spot on sharp ridge above Kitchens Lane curve, has bed sheet, needs cleanup.
– Phone died while taking a panorama of the completely empty Doggy Beach.
– With no people or dogs at Doggy Beach, water along sharp bend of Creek was completely still, Kitchens Lane Bridge reflecting in it like a mirror.
– Nice sunny day, 12 big horses and 1 Lil Sebastian hanging outside at Monastery Stables.
– Cold but lovely sunny day for the winter solstice.
– Heavy vibes hanging over the country after the cop killings in NYC after the non-indictment of the cop for Eric Garner’s death.
– Unused kiosk just above Climbers Rock along interceptor sewer aqueduct would make for a nice art installation.
– Mini parking area atto Climbers Rock needs a cleanup.

* * *

⇦ WEEK 50WEEK 52 ⇨

One Man’s Trash: Week 50 Report

WEEK 50: Ridge Avenue to Saylor Grove

1 fabric bag The Kooples
1 part bike bar thing Diamondback
1 rubber flip phone cover (circa 2005?)
1 pair pliers
1 piece random ceramic
1 heel of shoe sole
1 hubcap Toyota
2 Halloween decorations (silver skulls)

1 large piece random styrofoam

1 bag peanut M&Ms

2 pieces yellow metal bracket
3 12oz cans Budweiser (1 pull tab)
1 12oz can Colt 45 (pull tab)
1 12oz can Miller High Life (pull tab)
2 16oz cans Monster Energy
1 12oz can Sprite (old school, partially crushed)
1 12oz can caffeine free Pepsi
1 12oz can Pabst

1 12oz bottle Yards Philly Pale Ale
1 16oz bottle Pepsi
1 16oz bottle Snapple
1 12oz bottle Citrate Magnesium (super old school)

1 microwaveable food tub
1 16oz iced coffee cup Starbucks
1 20oz cup Olive Garden
1 16oz cup Greenware
1 24oz bottle water Deer Park
1 16oz bottle water Dasani
1 16oz bottle water Simplify
2 16oz bottles water no label
1 250ml bottle mouth rinse CareOne
1 20oz bottle Arizona iced tea
1 old school medicine bottle (red)
1 bag Ruffles cheddar sour cream chips
1 wrapper Hostess cupcakes
1 wrapper Trojan condom
1 bag ShopRite sweet chili pita chips
1 wrapper Kit Kat bite size
2 grocery bags
1 straw
1 bottle cap
1 mangled mylar balloon
4 pieces random plastic

1 can Marlboro snus

1 dog shit pile
4 dog shit bags
0 dogs on leash
0 dogs off leash

– The area from Ridge Avenue to the switchback just above the SEPTA bridge is a filthy mess, above switchback on trail much less so.
– What is enormous apartment complex at schoolhouse and Gypsy called? And what is with the razor wire???
– Lots of oyster shells on side of trail.
– Lots of party trash on bank closest to apartment complex, broken glass, pieces of slate roof, etc.
– Area under Henry Avenue bridge is predictably filthy.
– Access to Phila U, like Chestnut Hill College, is terrible. Their campus meets the Wissahickon with a parking lot, and the really nice landscaping they did as stormwater management on campus runs under a superstructure via a small culvert. Derp.
– It would be really easy to have a trail follow the Textile Run from East Falls Trail up to the campus.
– Didn’t see a single person or dog on trail.
– Hike truncated on account of heavy rain and goddamn flu.

* * *

⇦ WEEK 49WEEK 51 ⇨