This is my favorite book we’ve read this entire semester. Perhaps because it was as interesting as Eating Animals but without stressing me out. Instead it inspired me to try and reduce waste in my life. The dorm life still will get in the way, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take the first few steps. I liked that it covered so many various angles on waste: the trash industry, this history of waste, plastics, today and the future of trash.
But I felt like a little too much time was spent on plastic, but I understand this is one of the biggest concerns and contribution to our discarding lifestyle. Still, it felt over emphasized. A book on just plastic could have been a separate project, but a few parts could have been cut from this one and reader’s still would have recognized the importance.
My other critique would be the national and urban focus of the book. Governments at all levels were making some breakthroughs and facing issues, but only national and city governments were critiqued. The same seemed true for citizens of urban areas being scrutinized for their habits, more than rural or sub-rural communities. We’ve talked about how urban, technology, and civilization seem to oppose rural, natural, and wilderness, but this isn’t completely true. I thought that this book perpetuated a stereotype and let rural people off the hook. Speaking as a person who grew up next to farm and a forest, we have our waste problems too. I felt proud of us in some ways, like we almost never throw away food waste, we don’t buy many electronics (we aren’t really cellphone people), and in general we don’t by a lot of clothes or things. However, I didn’t realize how much packaging for food we have, and until this book, I didn’t think we could change that. However, by focusing on city people who can walk to local markets, find bulk food stores, etc. I feel like this book didn’t tell me how to live, miles from a small town, with not as many shopping choices without driving for hours, and still reduce packaging. Unique and new problem faced when not living in a city weren’t really acknowledged which made me sad because I don’t want to live in a big city in the future.
The greatest part of the book was the end when it talked about some people trying to find solutions to the waste problem. The author teases about the Johnson family early in the book and spent the whole book waiting to hear about them. Best of all and the wonder of the internet age is, almost immediately after reading about them, I could look at the Chicobag website, Bea Johnson’s blog, and expand the books message beyond the page. I think I found these possible solution the best because until most environmental problems I felt I could help in little ways (sadly that might have to do with vast amount of trash each person produces). After you understand the problem, where it’s at now, and what could be the future, it’s easy to jump on board. For some strange reason I didn’t feel guilt for learning I was part of the problem, I don’t know if it’s the way the author writes or the fact that I still might be a little disconnected from the problem, but it’s easier to think about how you can help when you don’t feel negatively or embarrassed.