Waste Worlds: Tracing Cycles, Resources, and Cultural Habits


Instructor: Tei Carpenter
Course number: ENVB 0412 N

Fulfills requirement: Environmental Policy, Management, and Finance (EPMF)
                                        OR Tools (T)
Day: Wednesday
Dates: October 16, 23, 30, November 6 (Module 2, 4 evening sessions)*
Time: 6:10 – 8:10 PM
Field trip: Saturday, October 1910:00 AM – 12:00 PM at Freshkills Park on Staten Island**

*Evening sessions available via distance learning

**Students are responsible for transportation to and from Staten Island; the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation will provide transportation between the ferry terminal on Staten Island and the park.

Course Description

Waste is all around us—in overflowing garbage bins, accumulating in landfills and seeping into waterways—yet it is often overlooked as a site of inquiry. In today’s context of climate change and a time when material resources are becoming increasingly finite, this course will explore the importance of waste as a global system and unit of value. Through three thematic approaches to the topic titled Cycles, Resources, and Cultural Habits, students will gain an awareness of the topic as a transdisciplinary issue. In the Cycles session, students will trace the input and output cycles of waste as a system that are typically hidden from view, by investigating the circulation of global waste streams through readings and visualizations. The second theme of Resources will introduce students to new, innovative, and sometimes surprising approaches to material reuse and reformation of waste through readings, case studies and a guest lecture. Finally, the Cultural Habits session will combine readings with debate to consider strategies to address the problem of discard and accumulation along with its behavioral challenges.

About the Instructor

Tei Carpenter, American Institute of Architects (AIA) Associate member, is an architectural designer, educator, and founder of award-winning New York City–based design studio Agency—Agency, which was recently honored with the 2018 New Practices New York award by the AIA. Carpenter’s design and research has been supported by a number of organizations including the New York State Council on the Arts and BMW Mini. In 2019, Agency—Agency was included in the 100 best international architecture firms that represent a “radical cultural shift in architecture” by Domus magazine.

Carpenter is Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) where she is the director of the Waste Initiative, an applied research and design platform. She holds a BA in Philosophy from Brown University and an Master of Architecture degree from Princeton University, where she was awarded the Howard Crosby Butler Traveling Fellowship in Architecture.