During the inaugural Climate Ride Northeast, we met Climate Rider Ellen Callaway. As a food & product photographer, Ellen Callaway composts everything that comes into the studio. It’s one step she’s taken to be a “smart consumer.” She says, “Composting is like wearing a helmet. I can’t imagine not wearing a bike helmet while I’m riding. Similarly, I feel weird putting food scraps in the trash.”

Artist Ellen Callaway riding through Boston on Climate Ride Bar Harbor to Boston

 

Being a commercial photographer and a member of a mass-production industry, Callaway found reducing waste to be fascinating. She knew she could use her creativity to ignite the same enthusiasm in others. For the past two years, Callaway has been working on “Recycled Beauty,” an inspiring photo project that makes learning about waste diversion and recycling fun & exciting. Callaway says the project has brought her an enormous amount of gratification, “more than I would have ever expected from trash.”

Extended Producer Responsibility at its best! Paper stuffing is recyclable. Bubble wrap glued on paper is NOT recyclable.

 

By carefully and methodically mixing textures, color and a variety of waste materials, Callaway’s photos glamorize trash the way an ad agency might beautify a commodity. Callaway is hoping the project inspires companies to illustrate their sustainable efforts using photography. “Photography is so powerful in advertising,” she states. “I want to help companies turn their sustainable activities into marketable opportunities.” The Ad Club agrees with Callaway—“Recycled Beauty” nabbed a silver medal in this year’s Hatch Awards for marketing excellence.

Callaway hopes to do this work with B Corporations, companies who have been evaluated against rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. B Corp certification helps reduce vague or misleading claims of eco-friendliness, called “greenwashing.”

Callaway elaborates, “Many eco-conscious companies say they are ‘green’. However, their efforts are often communicated through text or stock photography. This is a missed opportunity.” She believes that placing the environment at the forefront of a photography-driven marketing campaign is a way to minimize our impact on the environment while maintaining a strong economy.

A company’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy, for example, provides transparency into the impact of a product on the environment throughout its lifecycle. This becomes more critical as technological advances shorten product lifecycles. Callaway refers to industrial designer Leyla Acaroglu’s discussion of Design for Disassembly—designing products from the start with the recyclability of materials and end of product usefulness in mind. Design-led system changes, such as company-wide composting programs, are another highly marketable way to minimize a company’s carbon footprint.

A single-stream photo taken at a Boston-area E.L. Harvey & Sons Inc. facility conveys the impressive wide spectrum of recyclable materials that some single-stream recycling centers can accommodate, as well as the magnitude of our collective responsibility.

 

Callaway points out that there is a growing population of consumers who will purchase products that are from eco-conscious businesses. “I hope to see that trend become mainstream.”

Callaway selected B Lab, the non-profit behind B Corporations, as the sole beneficiary of her fundraising for Climate Ride. B Lab and Climate Ride, she says, are both organizations that walk the talk. “Climate Ride is not just about raising money to do a fun little bike ride. We biked during the day and every evening there were activities of round table discussions and impressive presentations that all focused around issues concerning the environment.” Callaway said the ride encompassed an enormous physical challenge, lots of mental stimulation and meeting people from all over the country with like-minded appreciation for respecting our environment.

“I can definitely see why people have so many Climate Rides under their belt!” she proclaimed.

To learn more about Ellen’s work, please visit the Callaway Photo Website

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