Sunday, April 22, 2018

Earth Day 2018 thoughts:
Edward Humes' "Garbology"

Nearly three years ago, in May 2015, I read Edward Humes' Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash while waiting long hours in the York County Judicial Center to see if I would be selected to sit as a juror in a murder trial. (I was not.)

Humes' book has stuck with me. Even before reading it, I have been trying over the past 15 years to make incremental and sustained personal improvements when it comes to recycling, the amount of waste I generate and the sustainability of things that I purchase. The book offered some good ideas and some sobering facts to chew on.

I took some notes and marked some passages while reading Garbology three years ago, and I want to share them for Earth Day 2018, as I also challenge myself to set the bar higher when it comes to being a better shepherd of the only Earth and environment that we have.

  • The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 released the equivalent of 2.5 supertankers of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. By contrast, the Pacific Garbage Patch contains enough plastic to fill 630 oil supertankers.
  • Parkinson's Law is that work expands to fill whatever time is available for its completion. Parkinson's Law of Garbage states, roughly, that the larger of a trashcan you are given, the more trash you will produce.
  • Separating out compostables from the other trash and recycling is mandatory in San Francisco. What if more places enacted this as law?
  • The average American throws 500 plastic bags into the trash each year. Breaking the plastic-bag habit is a first step in moving into less-wasteful-more-reusable consumer habits and behavior. Remove plastic bags completely from your lifestyle and then move on to dealing with other "disposables" that you don't truly need.
  • "Bags are kind of like the gateway drug to all the the plastics," says Andy Keller of ChicoBag, "and if we can kick that habit, all the rest of our single-use habits will start to fall like dominoes."
  • We need to drastically reduce our use of paper towels. [This is one I really struggle with, but am trying to challenge myself on.]
  • Eighteen million barrels of oil are used each year solely to haul plastic bottles filled with tap water around the United States. Read that again.
  • Humes writes: "It takes eight grams of oil to make a single plastic ketchup bottle, which will not be recycled because the ketchup residue inside is 'contamination' and recyclers want clean plastic. Dirty plastic is just too hard to recycle, too costly. Failing at the birth of the age of plastic to think this through, to consider the life cycle of substances that do not occur in nature and that are, for all intents and purposes, immortal, is like failing to think through what to do with nuclear waste at the birth of nuclear power ... which is exactly what we did."
  • Bea Johnson, an advocate of Zero Waste, offers these tips: Buy in bulk to eliminate how much packaging you're purchasing; use microfiber cloths instead of paper towels; use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins.
  • We need to stop managing waste and start wasting less in the first place.

If you're interested in more reading about Earth Day topics, pick up a copy of Garbology and/or see the links at the bottom of my 2016 Earth Day post.

1 comment:

  1. I can't thank you enough for lending me that book. I know I have a long way to go but it really does open your eyes.