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During Earth Week, April 20-23, the students of Jim Feldman, an assistant professor of environmental studies and history and the acting director of the environmental studies program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, conducted an audit of the University’s solid waste stream.

Feldman shares what he and his students learned from studying trash:

First of all, what attracted you to the field of  environmental studies? Were you the kid always going after people who litter?

Environmental studies allowed me to combine two long-standing interests — nature and social action. I’ve always enjoyed being outside. When I was a child, I attended a summer camp in northern Wisconsin and returned to that camp to lead wilderness canoeing and hiking trips for many years as a young adult.

Those were some of the most formative experiences of my life, and I knew that I wanted a career that would let me continue to think about — and be in — nature. At the same time, I always knew that I wanted to try to make a difference in the world. I get to do that in two ways, by teaching about subjects that I care about and also through my research on wilderness and national park service policy.

“Going green” is such a catch phase these days. How do you get people to even care anymore?

You get people to care by getting them to realize that this stuff affects them personally. The food that we eat, the air that we breathe, the trash that we throw away — all of these things affect us at a personal level. When people start to pay attention to things at a personal level — to realize their own connections to the world around them — then they start to care. And then they start to take action.

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