ABC's Sam Champion Touts Living With Filth, Worm Composting

Extreme environmentalist and "Good Morning America" weatherman Sam Champion on Thursday admiringly recounted the story of a Los Angeles resident, Dave Chameides, who has been living with his garbage for the last year. The liberal meteorologist also extoled the benefits of Chameides' unorthodox methods of disposing waste, including the worm composting program he has set up in the basement of his home. At the same time, Champion, who in 2007 highlighted a toilet paper-shunning environmentalist, attacked the "throwaway society of America. He complained, "We're the most wasteful [society] in the world." [audio excerpt here]

Chameides decided that for 365 days, no trash would be thrown away. In order to keep paper from piling up, he began worm composting. The Los Angeles man explained to Champion, who was taking a tour of his garbage-filled basement, "This is an in-home worm composting bin. All of my food scraps and paper and things like that go in here and the worms eat 'em up." Champion replied, "The worms are not for the squeamish," but enthused that they "do the trick."

The ABC weatherman closed the segment by actually encouraging viewers to start worm composting themselves. Demonstrating how it could be done, he explained, "And you put your waste right in the top here. It can be just anything, like your egg waste, your banana peels, your newspaper waste. And these are the red worms that go on top of it."

A look at Chameides' website showcases the "rules" for those who would also like to live with filth. He instructs, "Any waste, which for health reasons (dog poop, medical waste from doctors visits, etc.) cannot be saved, will at least be noted and examined regarding the impact of its creation and disposal." (The GMA piece featured Chameides explaining how he keeps his basement of refuse to a smaller level by not using plastic bags and bottled water.)

As noted earlier, this isn't the first time that Champion has promoted environmentalists who take extreme actions. Twice in 2007, the ABC personality featured Colin Beavan, a New Yorker who decided to try and live for a year without having an impact on the Earth. This included forgoing toilet paper.

And on April 20, 2007, Earth Day, co-host Diane Sawyer sounded a theme similar to Champion's. She narrated a lecturing segment about wasteful Americans. Here are a few of her comments:

DIANE SAWYER: Well, think of Americans with all our waste.

SAWYER: Toss in some other emblems of consumption, American style. Like all those cell phones in your life, TVs and computers and cars.

SAWYER: And let's be honest with each other about the way Americans squander water.

A transcript of Champion's February 5 segment, which aired at 7:40am, follows:

CHRIS CUOMO: He is the gift. That is how we call Sam Champion. And he has a gift for all of us this morning about garbage. As you know, he is on the trail of trash. He is going to take us to a man's home who has saved his garbage for 12 months in his basement. He wants to teach us what we can do, how little we can use. And, Sam, is taking us through.

7:40

SAM CHAMPION: And now our series, "American Trash: Living With Garbage." Yesterday, we showed you how our out-of-sight trash and garbage can be found just sitting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and never goes away. Today, one man set out to show us just how much trash we each produce in one year. Along the way, though, that experiment changed, as he became more aware of his garbage habits. America is a throwaway society. We're the most wasteful in the world. Nearly five pounds of trash a day for the average American. That's nearly 1,700 pounds a year. So, how do we become a less-than-average American polluter?

ABC GRAPHIC: American Trash: Imagine Living With Garbage

DAVE CHAMEIDES: I am very efficient with my waste.

CHAMPION: Meet Dave Chameides. A trash truck hasn't stopped by his L.A. home for exactly a year.

CHAMEIDES: I made a decision that for one year, I would not throw anything away. And instead, I would keep everything in the basement.

CHAMPION: The basement is ground zero for Dave's stash of trash. But, a whole year's garbage in the basement? I had to see it myself. [Taking a tour of Dave's trash filled basement.] I'll let you lead. Surprisingly, this is it. Dave's trash for the past 12 months. All tucked into just ten square feet of space. It's much less garbage than what the average person makes. And that's because, soon after he started the experiment, Dave realized it was actually easy to cut back on the trash.

CHAMEIDES: The trails down the stairs are all the bottles. If I drank bottled water like most people do, which I won't, the whole basement would be full of it right now.

CHAMPION: Each American, on average, will use over 15,000 plastic bottles in a lifetime. And about 80 percent of them end up in landfills, where it takes 1,000 years to decompose. So, what did end up in Dave's basement? 64 plastic bottles. 153 glass bottles. And just two aluminum cans.

CHAMEIDES: This is the bag of bags. It's all the plastic bags from the year. You'll notice there are no plastic shopping bags in there because I basically will not use plastic shopping bags.

CHAMPION: We all know the plastic bag is an eco-enemy. But we'll all use over 18,000 of them in our lifetimes. Tossed in a landfill, they'll linger for centuries, barely decomposing. Dave's plastic pile was for packaging only. His total, a mere four pounds. Cardboard boxes, 19 pounds of them. E-waste, 12 pounds.

CHAMEIDES: This is a box of paper. It's, uh, 50 pounds-ish or something like that.

CHAMPION: Far less than the 650 pounds of paper we average Americans use. And he got some help getting rid of it from a secret weapon.

CHAMEIDES: This is an in-home worm composting bin. All of my food scraps and paper and things like that go in here and the worms eat 'em up.

CHAMPION: The worms are not for the squeamish. But they do the trick, eating a couple of pounds of paper a month. Plus, all of Dave's food leftovers. [looking at the worm compost.] Yeah, I see some right there on top. After the one-year experiment, Dave racked up about 30 pounds of trash, not counting the recyclables, accumulating in one year, what the average American would produce in just a week. I think I'm catching on to this, Dave. And that is that you don't keep a lot of waste if you don't generate a lot of waste.

CHAMEIDES: That's exactly it. And what I try to tell people, if they just think along the lines of consume less, conserve more, you've kind of hit it on the head. When you're going to buy something, look at it and think, where did this come from, what am I going to do with it and where is it going to go?

CHAMPION: It was surprising to me, just how much, if you think about it before you buy it, how much less you'll throw away. Now, if you're into composting or think you want to get into it, this is something you can set up in your home. And you put your waste right in the top here. It can be just anything, like your egg waste, your banana peels, your newspaper waste. And these are the red worms that go on top of it. If you're interested in- this one is called the worm factory. We'll link you to it on our website, ABCNews.com. But, again, the biggest thing that we learned out of this whole thing was about to be a huge stack of trash was cut short, just by realizing, wait, I'm going to throw that away. So, why am I buying it like that? Tomorrow, we're going to look at where we've been storing our trash for years. How we've been playing on top of it. Living on it. And is it a good idea to go to landfills and can recycling help?

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org