Garbology by Edward Humes – Book 50

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash by Edward Humes is a book that has changed my life.  Honestly.  I ran across this book at the library and picked it up since it looked interesting.

I have always been into recycling, but this book opened by eyes to the waste that surrounds us, and how recycling is only a teeeeeeeensy piece of a solution.

Here are some of the things I learned from Pulitzer Prize Winner Edward Humes:

  • One out of every 6 large trucks in America is a garbage truck
  • America has 5% of the population, but gives off 25% of the world’s waste
  • Across our lifetime, Americans produce 102 TONS of trash
  • Ancient Greeks were the first to have a dump, as opposed to just throwing the trash out their windows onto the streets
  • There’s a national trash Olympics (but that was nowhere to be found once I googled it)
  • While companies say that switching from glass bottles to plastic bottles is cheaper, they’re not being honest.  It IS cheaper – for them!  Not for the consumer, who ultimately is the person who pays the higher price
  • The fish that are a major part of the food market are eating toxic plastic at 24,000 tons per year (just in the North Pacific).  Gross.  Jason Mraz (who I LOVE) posted this on his website that is worth checking out and is really easy to understand: Oceans of Garbage: Why People are Eating Their Own Trash
  • The UN estimates that 7 million tons of trash ends up in the oceans, 80% of that being plastic
  • Trash Track – We know how we get our products, but what happens once they are trashed?  Trash Track actually follows trash to its destinations, some traveling many, many miles just to be recycled, therefore outweighing the value of that recycling
  • The Army, during WWII, analyzed their trash, found out what soliders ate and threw away, and saved 2.5 million pounds of food per day when they revamped their menus
  • The ChicoBag from birth to present – Shocked by the amount of plastic bags fluttering around a landfill, Andy Keller created this reusable bag that folds up teensy!  I have a brown one I keep in my purse!
  • Plastic bag fact: Tying them into knots helps them from blowing all around on a landfill, garbage truck, etc, and into the oceans, streets, playgrounds. . .

The Zero Waste Home tells Bea Johnson’s story (described in Garbology) as a woman who helped turn her entire family’s trash into something that fits inside a mason jar.  While she does go to extremes, her tips helped me do a little revamping of my own!

My new goals to reduce my carbon footprint? (Linked to my Amazon purchases)

  • Use mesh produce bags in addition to the cloth bags I use for groceries.
  • Cut out paper towels by using cloth napkins and cloth dishrags 
  • My husband and I are going to try to use a shave bar instead of regular shaving cream, since it’s supposed to last much longer – I’ll follow up later on to let you know how this goes!
  • Say no to free gifts – no taking pens, pencils, magnets, etc. from advertisers
  • Use every free piece of paper front and back before recycling
  • Think about my purchases and my trash in order to make myself more aware of what I’m doing
  • Follow Bea’s website to see if I can glean more tips from her that I can easily incorporate into my lifestyle

Those are in addition to the things I already do, like recycle, try to waste less, turn on the fans instead of lowering the AC, doing laundry and the dishwasher loads only when full, and so on.  I’m not going to stop doing the things I enjoy or buying items, but I can do some little things to just reduce the amount of waste I put into this world.

Jason Mraz is trying to lessen his carbon footprint with his organization, Tree is a Four Letter Word (a wordplay on his cd, Love is a Four Letter Word).

What is something you do, or will start to do, to help lessen your carbon footprint?



Addition: I started my own green blog to follow my journey and make me be more conscious of my waste!

28 thoughts on “Garbology by Edward Humes – Book 50

  1. I love how more companies are making use of paper instead of plastic bags and cups, but still so many use layer upon layer of plastic. Over here there’s a big advertising drive to use colder water when washing clothes, and it’s generally good enough. No drying clothes outside at the moment though, so the dryer gets used more. Sounds a good book, and I’m going to have to look at Bea’s site!


    • We also stopped heat drying the dishes in the dishwasher, and just open it up once the wash is done to let them air dry. I’ll still use the dryer, I’m not air drying most of my clothes, but it’s a matter of being more aware and trying to make a difference.

      Where are you from?

      And definitely look at Bea’s tips. Some are a little extreme for me, but some are easy switches!


  2. This looks really interesting, and it’s probably an issue I should pay more attention to. I often feel like I’m not at good at recycling as I should be, but clearly there are other types of trash that weren’t even on my radar screen (paper towels, for example).

    I will have to check out some of the websites you linked to. Great ideas there!


    • Yes, and the book itself is filled with facts and tips, too. It just makes me want to rethink what I am doing. If so many are wasting so much, I can do certain actually easy things to help lessen my waste. I’m not going extreme, like making my own toothpaste, but I can do more to help for sure.


  3. I love these kinds of books. It’s get everyone inspired to act. I have a few of these environmental books myself and have tried to treat our Earth with conscious respect for a long time. I’ve been fascinated by the three R’s (and now 4 including Refuse).

    Every time I say to someone that recycling is actually the last resort that are genuinely surprised. It’s the last resort because you’ve already done the damage – you’ve bought, you’ve used (and most of the time it’s for a short time) and now by tossing in the recycle bin you’ve accepted that it cannot be reused.

    The changes you are making are wonderful. If you are relatively new to this way of conscious living then you will eventually find the right balance for you and your family. You certainly can’t do everything but give up everything you enjoy but finding a good compromise (nobody is perfect). It’s all about being conscious with your choices.

    Thanks so much for the review and I will definitely be putting this one on my TBR.


    • Now I understand the recycling as a last resort thing! You’re 100% right about that, and Humes points that out in the book as well. Recycling has turned into an excuse for Americans to keep buying, because we feel so good when we recycle. The majority of the world just doesn’t have enough recycling facts to know the truth: you’ve done the damage, most recyclables can only be recycled a few times, and many recyclables travel miles and miles to the plant.

      I’d love to hear more about the other books you’ve read! Heather (above) recommended one to me, and I can’t wait to read it.


      • I’ve read a lot of books about climate change and weather as opposed to the books that talk specifics about how to live environmentally conscious. But here are some recommendations:

        Weathermakers by Tim Flannery – the acclaimed scientist made a big impression with this climate change book. This is the one that changed me forever.

        Population Crisis by Dick Smith – a very frank discussion about the issues with a massive population.

        If you haven’t already, you must read The Lorax by Dr Seuss!

        Although I haven’t read them, Peter Singer has written a lot of books about the ethics of food.

        I wish to read Bottled and Sold by Peter Gleick which is about our silly obsession with bottled water. I’ve heard good things about it.

        Two books that have been cemented in history and critical books on environment are Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and The Sacred Balance by David Suzuki.

        Also, there is another side, the idea of simple living which goes hand in hand with conscious choices. Rhonda Hetzel is the woman behind Down To Earth (http://down—to— an internationally acclaimed blog. I own her book of the same name and it’s gorgeous.


        • I taught elementary school, so I practically know The Lorax by heart! 😉

          I’ll have to look into all of those books. I wrote them down, and now will have to find them! Being newly very green conscious, I am very interested in reading more green books and recently added some green blogs to my list of blogs I follow. I actually started a going green blog ( which will help me keep track of my green progress.

          Thanks for the tips!!!!


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