Book Review: Garbology by Edward Humes

Book review of Garbology by Edward Humes

In the epilogue of Garbology Edward Humes writes:

“I’m going to suggest five things anyone can do to be less wasteful. Try them out. Then suggest five of your own. E-mail them to or post them on Twitter @EdwardHumes and we’ll start a conversation about figuring out the best strategy for making America less trashy and a bit richer in the process.”

Then he gives his five as:

  1. Refuse (a sentiment from a person featured in the book that boils down to saying no to buying things that aren’t really necessary)
  2.  Go Used and Refurbished
  3.  Stop Buying Bottled Water
  4. No More Plastic Grocery Bags
  5.  Focus on Cost Ownership

Since Humes ends his book with a personal challenge to the reader, I thought it’d be fun to post my five rather than write a more formal review.

Though, just to be clear, this book is well worth the read for any curious about the history of waste management (and sometimes the lack there of) in America. It’s full of inspiring and sometimes quirky stories: landfill workers and trash Olympics, ocean trash researchers, the San Francisco dump’s artist residency program, and more. It’s a book that challenges and changes perceptions of trash and the US waste industry.

Garbology Top.jpg

In the spirit of that here are my five, albeit more NYC specific, ideas for creating less waste.

  1. Use your Library- I read Garbology from the library. If you want to buy a book, buy used. You can find used books in amazing quality both in store and online. To all the college students out there, you’d be surprised what your city, town, or county libraries might carry even if the class list is locked down at your campus one. This trick saved me a lot of money in undergrad!
  2. Compost- Sounds silly coming from the city, but it feels easier to do here than on your own because all you really need to do is collect the waste and drop it off at the Greenmarkets. Not only will the Greenmarkets collect it, but they’ll give you everything you need to store it in between the weekly markets. The compost used in my neighborhood goes right back into it, helping resoil Highbridge Park. If you’re wondering where yours goes simply ask. Everyone I’ve met involved in the composting wing of Greenmarket has been incredibly knowledgeable and open to sharing (albeit a little bit fierce about policy). Not only does composting help the earth, but it stops your trash from smelling when all the products that would normally decay are sitting in your freezer or an air tight bin.
  3. Turn off and unplug- This is more of an energy waste idea, but waste is waste. Shutdown your computer when you’re done using it, unplug appliances that don’t need to be running all the time like the microwave, toaster, keurig, etc. Also included in this, turn off lights when you’re not in the room.
  4. Donate- There are so many charity services and such a wide variety of goods are needed, from clothes, to instruments, to sports equipment, to extra pieces of fabric, that there’s really no excuse for throwing out items that are still usable.
  5. Cook your own food- Not only is it largely healthier and more cost-effective, but cooking from home stops a lot of trash flow. While many services in cities use bikes to make their deliveries, they still come with an absurd amount of packing, often styrofoam or plastic, and asking for the “green” utensil-less option still leaves you with the bags, tupperware, and whatever extra packaging the restaurant might sneak in.

Give these a try, then give Garbology a read and make a list of your own to share!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: