Part of the reason I’ve been reading about trash and sustainability lately has been because of some of the material I’ve been covering with my daughter now that we’re homeschooling. I’m doing my best to raise a responsible kid who cares about the planet and who isn’t going to junk it up, to the best of her abilities. And it’s on me to provide a good example of what that looks like. I recently signed up for TerraCycle and became aware of some of their local drop-off points for certain items (link is for the US, but you can switch it to match your country, they’re everywhere!), and I learned that their founder has written several books. Why yes, I DID want to read them! Luckily, my library had a copy of Outsmart Waste: The Modern Idea of Garbage and How to Think Our Way Out of It by Tom Szaky (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2014). At 168 pages, it’s a quick read and one that will inspire you, however much you’re already doing, to do more.
Tom Szaky started out creating worm tea fertilizer in recycled soda bottles, but his business soon expanded into recycling those items that you usually just throw away because your local recycling company won’t take them: toothpaste tubes, juice pouches, toothbrushes, potato chip bags. Dirty diapers. Cigarette butts. There’s a use for everything out there, if only we look hard enough to find it. We don’t have to be messing up our planet the way we are; the fact that we are is a choice, mostly driven by economics. Tom Szaky wants you to understand this, and he wants you to work with him to change this.
Changing the way we think about garbage is the first step, and Outsmart Waste will set you on that path. If we can shake up our mindset in order to mimic nature just a little bit more, we could see some real change. Things could improve. That may mean a shifting of priorities, possibly retraining for some of us, but in order to assure a healthy, sustainable future, it’s eventually going to be necessary. Why not make this shift when we’re doing it by choice, rather than be forced by a ticking clock?
This is a quick read, and a brilliant book that’s capable of shifting mindsets. I’m not sure if it’s possible to read this without drastically reconsidering everything about how you live. We can all do better, and Tom Szaky is here to cheer us on.