Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home, a 2008 documentary film by Andrew Nisker, at long last made its U.S. television debut last night on the Sundance Channel. Did anyone catch it?

Global screenings of the award-winning documentary have generated a good amount of positive buzz, so it’s only fitting that it premiered as part of Sundance’s stellar eco-themed lineup, The Green.

Here’s the premise in case you missed it (it re-airs on Sunday night at 11 p.m.): Glen and Michelle McDonald, a normal Toronto couple with three children (one of them in diapers) and a cat are asked by Nisker (he's a friend) to stockpile all household garbage that they generate for a span of three months in their garage. Nothing is landfilled or recycled. It is garaged. As you can imagine, three months of trash from an active family of five sitting in an average-sized garage isn’t a pretty sight. I didn’t catch the whole film, but the footage that I did see of the garage left me gagging and wincing in my own living room.

Of course, the film is more than a careful study of heaps and heaps of festering, maggot-infested trash sitting idle in someone’s garage. Nisker explores what exactly happens to trash after it leaves the home (in the case of the McDonalds, it’s actually sent to Michigan) in hopes of reminding us that even after we throw something out it doesn’t magically disappear into the ether. It’s fascinating, cringe-y, and at times funny stuff and Nisker doesn’t stop there. He ties in all sorts of environmental quandaries beyond household rubbish — coal energy, car-borne air pollution, etc. — to his central theme: almost every action we make at home has a direct impact on the Earth.

Check out the trailer for Garbage! and the film in its entirety when it comes on Sundance again. Or you can just buy a DVD online. The Garbage! website also hosts an active online community of folks who have been impacted by the film and want to make revolutionary changes in their own homes. I'll certainly never look at my trash the same way again.

Photo: sekihan

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Trash TV
The horrifying/fascinating Canadian documentary Garbage! The Revolution Starts at Home makes its U.S. television debut.