By. Diana Dehm, Founder of Trash On Your Back® and host of Sustainability News & Entertainment Radio


“Carry your Trash On Your Back® for one week and I guarantee you’ll laugh, meet new friends, and change the way you consume. Join us in this grass roots effort to discover a better way to play.”

— Scott Jenkins, Chairman, Green Sports Alliance, & Stadium General Manager, Atlanta Falcons / AMB Sports & Entertainment Group


Consider the following statistics:

  • The United States generates 1.3 billion pounds of trash per day and spends $12 billion dollars per year on waste management alone.
  • 40% of the food grown in this country is wasted – that’s 20 pounds of food per year per person monthly.
  • After recycling, about 80% of our nation’s garbage goes to landfill.
  • The National Academy of Sciences estimated 14 billion pounds of trash is being dumped in the ocean every year from boats and ships, a third coming from the United States.


Although these numbers are sobering, there are actions we all can take to reduce the pressure trash places on the natural environment and our communities.  One of these is a fun, educational, and eye-opening activity called the Trash On Your Back® Challenge.


How the Challenge Began

In 1989, Andrew Jones (Co-Director Climate Interactive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and several of his friends at Dartmouth College decided to carry their trash with them for a week. This experience gave them perspective on what their personal trash impact was and challenged their perceptions about how much trash they thought they produced.  As a result, they began to make different choices so they would not have to carry their trash around.


This spontaneous experiment inspired Diana Dehm, host of Sustainability News & Entertainment Radio, to organize a formal challenge in the form of the Trash On Your Back® Challenge.  The Challenge is a fun, high-visibility 3-5 day campaign that raises awareness around an individual’s trash impact.  Participants carry all of the trash they produce during the 3-5 day period on their back, wherever they go.  Adults and children alike are encouraged to take the Trash On Your Back® Challenge any time during the year, as well as join the annual Earth Day Week Challenge, which occurs from April 18th – 22th in 2016.


Impact on Waste Reduction

The Trash On Your Back® Challenge has proved to be much more than a light-hearted way to show how much waste we generate.  Consider this: the average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash per dayIn 2014, Trash On Your Back® 5-Day Challenge participants knocked their average down to 0.8 lbs per day. Collectively, they reduced their trash by 82% in less than a week through making good choices and not wanting to carry a heavy bag of trash!


Thousands of people around the world have taken part in the Trash On Your Back® 3-5-Day Challenge and even more are expected to participate in 2016. The Challenge has been implemented in 26 States and 7 countries.  A few of the past participants include:


  • Climate Interactive Executive Director at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Senior Counsel at the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • President/CEO & COO of the Green Schools National Network
  • Co-Founder of the Green Sport Alliance
  • Senior Vice President of NFL Green
  • Vice President of Waste Management


Inspiration from Past Participants

No one is more qualified to share the personal impact the Trash On Your Back® Challenge has had on their perspective of waste reduction than a couple of the past participants: Matt Bogoshian, Former Senior Policy Counsel at the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Jim McGrath, Former President/CEO of the Green Schools National Network.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 5.48.29 PM

“I first took the Trash on Your Back Challenge® in 2012 and wow, what a blast! Not only was it just fun to do but once I took the leap, packed my bag around for a week and got a few “looks”, it gave me an easy way to talk to people about what I was learning and how they could do it too. I made lots of friends! The funny thing is, I always thought I did okay myself at reducing, reusing, and recycling but when I had to actually carry around my own trash and then later measure how I did compared to the average, I realized that I could do way better. So I learned a few lessons the first time and took the challenge again in 2013. This time I did better but I still have a long way to go. The good news is, in 2013 there were way more people taking the Challenge; schools, towns and even pro sports teams are starting to get in the act! The other cool thing about the Trash on Your Back Challenge® is that anyone can be a part of it, it’s free, and you can choose how you decide to manage yourself and your own personal trash during the challenge and thereafter. It’s just a simple open source idea that each of us can use to prevent pollution and have some fun along the way.”

— Matt Bogoshian, Former Senior Policy Counsel at the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, US EPA

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 5.48.46 PM

— Jim McGrath, Former President/CEO, Green Schools National Network 
“The Trash on Your Back® 5 Day Challenge experience brought to real life how much trash each person in our country produces on a daily basis. This experience definitely changed my lifestyle as far as being aware of everything I use and recycle. The Growth of The Sustainability News & Entertainment Radio Trash on Your Back® 5 Day Challenge has been phenomenal and has expanded to all corners of the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, Jamaica, Uganda, and includes other countries. During the past year, my spouse Margo and I participated while in California attending college activities at UC Davis Campus, and meeting with sponsors for our upcoming Green Schools National Conference which is being held in Sacramento, California, March 27-29, 2014. The response and interest was phenomenal from the college students to the corporations we met with. We carried our trash everywhere, in and out of restaurants, public parks, etc. We look forward to participating again in 2014 and will highlight the Trash on Your Back® 5 Day Challenge at our conference to increase awareness with our goal of all conference attendees participating.”


Take part in the Trash On Your Back® Challenge and learn what your personal trash impact is so you can make zero-waste choices!  Visit for more information and to sign up for the Challenge.


About Diana Dehm:

Diana Dehm is a curious social entrepreneur with a big vision and passion for connecting people from around the world to create our sustainable planet in the most non-traditional ways.  Prior to launching her sustainability innovation consulting practice in 2009, Ms. Dehm was a VP for two environmental firms where she led global strategic programs for Fortune 500 companies focused on corporate responsibility, which developed into helping organizations innovate their product designs, brands, media outreach, and services sustainably. She was asked to start a radio show in 2010 when the economy fell out. Ms. Dehm thought the world needed a little hope and a little humor with optional solutions…that was when Sustainability News & Entertainment Radio was born.

Since that time, Ms. Dehm has uncovered solutions for the planet and interviewed amazing guests from around the world. She also founded, created, designed, and implemented the internationally recognized Trash On Your Back® 5 Day Challenge, a zero waste citizen engagement program, and supported development of “The Plastic Ocean Project“.  Ms. Dehm believes that there is no such thing as a crazy idea, and people are at the heart of making the sustainable changes we need on the planet, in support of the kids of tomorrow.