Marc Jensen

Marc Jensen sifts through a large dumpster, searching for easily recycled goods. 

Editor's note: Andrew Sartain is a former opinion columnist for The Daily.


Marc Jensen spends his free time digging through other people’s trash. 

Jensen, an accordion player who prefers to sit on a bright blue bouncing ball rather than an office chair, works at OU’s Lean Institute and is an adjunct music professor.

Jensen is currently awaiting the release of his book, titled "Lean Waste Stream: Reducing Material Use and Garbage Using Lean Principles," on Sept. 23. The book was written as a teaching tool for a class that Jensen is putting together that will focus on garbage and material use and how the material stream works. 

The primary goal of the institute is to offer Lean training — teaching people to reduce waste and increase efficiency. This tool set is paired with Six Sigma, which, according to the institute’s website, "is a highly disciplined approach to decision-making that revolves around collecting data." 

Jensen has his Lean Six Sigma green belt and trains others who have prospects of earning a belt of their own. Disappointingly to some of his trainees, Jensen doesn’t actually give out real colored belts. However, he’s not opposed to the idea.

“When people ask me for an actual braided belt, I tell them if they can break a brick in two, I’d be more than happy to purchase one,” said Jensen.

It’s a spin-off class to one he taught a few years back called Lean and Green during his, perhaps, more radical days.

“I’ve mellowed out a bit since then,” Jensen said.

During his radical days, Jensen gathered shipping labels from cardboard boxes that had been thrown in the trash instead of recycled. He then mailed a letter to each of the offenders informing them that throwing something in the trash doesn’t mean it disappears. 

“That’s something I talk about a lot in my new book,” Jensen said. “People have this idea that when they throw something away it’s gone. They don’t realize that it continues to exist.”

Jensen views himself as an archaeologist of sorts whose excavating sites just happen to be dumpsters filled with trash that most people wouldn’t touch. Jensen doesn’t think garbage is repulsive; he sees it as an open book he can read about a person’s life.

Since he started dumpster diving, he’s even had a few students ask to go with him on digs.

“I remember just sitting in his office one day when he asked if I wanted to go search through garbage,” said Andrew Sartain, an OU graduate who is now the president of his own environmental company, Earth Rebirth.

While Jensen has dedicated his recent years to Lean training and environmental advocacy, his background is a doctorate in music composition from the University of Minnesota.

What led him to the Lean Institute was advice from one of his former teachers.

“She told me ‘Just go where you want to be and start doing what you want to do, and a job will happen,'” Jensen said. 

In his position, Jenson mentors students passionate about improving the environment — students like Sartain.

“Marc is definitely a very hands-on professor,” Sartain said. “He’s a role model and is definitely one of the top three professors at OU who has helped support Earth Rebirth the most.”

As for the future, Jensen keeps a spread sheet of how many pounds of garbage he puts out a day, multiplies it by the number of days he’s been alive, then compares it to the amount of scrap metal he has collected. At present, Jensen has generated 59,000 pounds of trash and redeemed 42,000.

Jensen’s end goal is to have the two numbers cancel each other out, and for his carbon footprint to be completely neutral.

Meghan Whiting is a senior studying journalism/professional writing with a minor in anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. She currently works as a campus reporter at The Daily.

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