Capturing Waste

Name: Allison DeLong

Type of Project: Artistic and Creative Endeavor


  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

For my STEP project, I wanted to gain a new skill and explore a long-held passion of mine by purchasing a used DSLR camera and lens. I also wanted to explore not only perceptions of waste through brief and informal interviews, but also how different types of establishments (apartments, retail stores, restaurants, municipal locations, etc.) handle and dispose of waste through capturing images of their behind-the-scenes waste handling.


  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Through the course of my STEP project, I gained more confidence in myself and my ability to learn a new skill, practice it, and get better at it. When you don’t attempt new things, you start to lose confidence in your ability to pick up new tasks or skills because you haven’t done so in a while, so it was good to get a refresh and replenishment of that confidence.

I would also say that one thing that happened as a result of this project was my sustainability bubble that I get trapped in sometimes, whether it be through my major classes, my involvement in internships, or my involvement in student organizations, was popped and I was brought back to reality of how the rest of the world handles waste and even just how they view it. It is easy to become surrounded by likeminded people and forget that not everyone has the same beliefs and values when it comes to any particular subject – for me it was treatment of the environment and waste recycling and reduction. This is in part why I did this – to have my eyes opened to what other people and places do and how they view waste (and in turn handle it). I learned that outside of an environmentally conscious circle, even though attitudes are beginning to lean more environmentally-centric, people don’t think much about waste and its implications and don’t make reducing it or recycling it a priority. Through this I also learned that there is much room for improvement with regards to how society views waste, which can lead to changes in how actors (whether they be individuals or groups) in our society handle waste.


  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

The entire project overall led to these changes that I discussed in #2, especially the “popping of my bubble”, however for the first change I discussed, the increase of my confidence in my own abilities, came from the beginning of my project through learning how to use the DSLR camera. I was originally going to take a class through the store that I purchased the camera, but the person who had been putting on the class moved away before I was able to sign up for it and take it. Therefore, I had to teach myself how to use a DSLR because I was unable to find another class in Columbus at the time. Through reading online articles about the mechanics of photography and specifically that of a DSLR, and through consistent practice, I was able to hone my photography skills and I got the hang of using the camera and taking professional looking shots.

Through picking up this new skill, as I already mentioned, I increased my confidence in my ability to learn new skills and I now have more confidence that I can learn new skills in the future, rather than feeling like I won’t be able to get the hang of or even “master” something new. Through school, there is a lot of learning and memorizing new information, but not much of learning new tangible skills. Being able to learn new skills is important in life, whether it be in your career or personal life. I know that I am competent, and that with persistence, I am confident that I can learn new skills.

With the second change described in #2 – popping my environmental bubble ­­­­– this was gained mostly through the latter part of the project of actually talking to people and seeing how waste was handled. I only went to Grandview, so this poses an element of bias, the same way only looking and talking to people in Columbus overall would pose an element of bias, as people and businesses and governments in different cities, maybe larger than Columbus or maybe smaller, would likely have different attitudes toward waste and whether they are concerned with reducing their environmental impact. I have been to Traverse City, Michigan a few times before and have found many attempts at reducing waste, at least by the city’s effort. I’m sure if I were to conduct this project there, I would find different results, just like I might find different results if I went to a different suburb of Columbus or even Downtown.

This project has affected me in that it has made me realize (or has reminded me) that not everyone has the same attitudes toward the environment that I and the people that I surround myself with have. I know that some people actually do care about the environment and don’t want to harm it, but don’t necessarily incorporate it into their daily lives or have knowledge that extends further than “don’t cut down forests” and “don’t pollute the water and air”. When I asked people whether they thought America has a waste problem, many people just didn’t know because they don’t know anything about waste in America. When I asked what could be done to solve this issue, they all mostly knew that we as a society should recycle more, but that was as deep as their knowledge typically went. Most didn’t think about the problem as a system like I and my friends have learned to think about it through the classes we have taken – that you need to start by reducing waste in order to curb the problem at the end – where you decide whether you should or can recycle. Through this project I have learned that there is much progress to be made with these attitudes and actions, but also that I may want to help actively push that progress along in some way.


  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

These changes are valuable to me because it’s a nice reminder of reality – that not everyone prioritizes sound environmental conduct like they should, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t care – it might just mean that they are ignorant to the facts of the situation or they aren’t educated about their options. For instance, a business or household may not be aware of local recycling options, or they may be ill informed about the economic feasibility of recycling and reducing waste. Personal implications of this for me are that I might want to become involved in helping people become more aware of recycling options and their ability to reduce waste as well as pushing for businesses and municipalities to make reducing their contribution to the local landfill more of a priority. My course of study has really revolved around the environment and sustainable action, as well as the business and economic implications of that kind of conduct. Through this project, I have decided that at some point in my career, I want to help impact how much waste is diverted from a landfill or even created to begin with. I have always been drawn to waste and have done an internship that revolved around educating the tailgaters at OSU football games what they are able to recycle and physically worked to help increase the waste diversion rate from the tailgate parking lots.

Another way these changes are significant to me are the increased confidence in my abilities to pick up a new task or skill, which will follow me far in my personal and professional lives. This will help me to be more willing to take on new or different tasks in a job and not be afraid try something new because I am worried about failing (which is sometimes inevitable anyway). Without taking on new things, it is difficult to grow personally or in a career, so to have this new confidence, I will be more willing to say yes to opportunities rather than no because I am afraid I won’t be able to do it.

Here is the link to my tumblr blog, further detailing my project, including pictures and quotes from my interviews:


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