Despite having been immersed in waste-reduction for some time now I was pleasantly surprised that to learn so much from this book. There were some great practical solutions: ideas for composting in apartments, information about take-back programs for hard to recycle items like #5 plastic, and plenty of disposable alternative ideas (similar to what I picked up from No Impact Man and Plastic Free). I am now much too excited about collecting waste items like toothpaste tubes and feta tubs for TerraCycle.
But what I liked best about the book was its tone: upbeat and excited. Korst constantly reinforces the key ideas that you can do this, every little bit really does help, and it’s OK to make compromises. That was really reassuring. I am already ahead of the curve when it comes to the three Rs, but I feel tremendous pressure to do more — and at the same time tremendous social anxiety about doing things like bringing reusable containers to restaurants (although, oddly, I have no qualms about pressing my reusable bags on checkers and my “sippy cup” on baristas).
Another point I appreciated: constant reiteration of the all-too-little-known fact that almost nothing decomposes in a landfill. Your compostables will not compost. Your degradable bag will not degrade. Decades-old newspapers can still be read when unearthed.*
My only disappointment was that Korst and her team (a handful of other garbage-free bloggers from around the country) didn’t have the silver bullet to the meat problem. They can’t go in the compost bin, we haven’t got room to bury them, we don’t want to risk feeding them to the pigs (and we don’t have pigs year-round and they can’t eat bones anyway) . . . so they go in the garbage. Korst and her husband do have a solution that works for them, but it doesn’t work for us: they are vegetarians. Really, though, this wasn’t much of a let-down because there is no silver bullet.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking to reduce (or eliminate) their waste. It’s not the only one out there (the field is growing and I have a lot of reading to do!) but it is accurate, informative, and supportive. Anyone can make a change for the better with this book in hand.
* Korst referred a few times to one of my favorite researchers of all time: “Captain Planet” William Rathje, who, in the seventies, with his Anthropology class, dug up a landfill in the manner of an archaeological excavation of a midden. They (and everyone who read their papers and the ensuing book) were pretty surprised at what they found.