Carrying Our Trash and Simulating Our Climate


Why does our team focus on using simulations to spark action on climate change?

We are struck by the power of interactive simulations to help us see the long term, system-wide implications of our actions in ways that create new possibilities.

And I first experienced that power as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1980s, in an experiment where 120 of us carried our trash for a week. (Hear the story in the video pasted above). The video was shot at the “Systems Thinking in Action” conference hosted by Pegasus Communications (note — the next conference will be in November in Seattle — check it out).

Sustainability Institute’s founder and my mentor Dana Meadows wrote about her experience carrying her trash as part of the same experiment (she was a professor then at Dartmouth) — read her article here. And through the years, we’ve heard of many other schools, summer camps, conferences, garden clubs (!), and others trying the “Carry Your Trash” experiment. My favorite emerged from some consulting we did for American Public Media and the “Marketplace” radio show — they heard this story and chronicled “Tess’ Trash Challenge.”

What if we all had to carry our carbon dioxide?  The best graphic representation I’ve seen is the Carbon Quilt, at