'Garbology' Students Share Their Trashy Tips

I’m getting ready to visit the College of Wooster, where the freshmen class is reading Garbology. I’m already so inspired by the ways students there are challenging themselves to be less trashy. Check out this great video, where a Wooster student named MacKenzie explains how she made her love of coffee less wasteful with reusable mugs and a reusable capsule for her single-cup coffee maker. This even saves her money!

“I’m still getting my morning coffee,” she says, “and I’m creating a lot less waste.”

Robert, meanwhile, says he is avoiding all food packaged in plastic. Emma has ended her addiction to plastic water bottles. I can’t wait to see what other ideas and questions the Wooster students come up with when I visit their Ohio campus on September 26-27.

I love it when Garbology readers reach out to share ways they are being less wasteful — everything from participating in beach cleanups, to composting table scraps, to buying used things whenever possible. One Purdue University Northwest student told me how she created a Bag Monster costume out of hundreds of plastic bags. She it wears it on campus and at community events to raise awareness about the dire effect plastic waste is having on the world’s oceans.

So I’ve started keeping a list of great suggestions from readers who reuse, reduce, recycle, and refuse unwanted items. I’ll be posting the list on my site later this fall and I welcome your trashy suggestions and photos, too. Send me a message at and I’ll add your suggestions to the list!

Check one off the bucket list

The coolest thing I did this summer: During a family vacation in Hawaii,  daughter Gaby, son Eben and I saw the spectacular sunrise from the 10,000-foot-high crater rim of the Haleakala volcano, then bicycled 23 miles downhill. Nature's roller coaster, with a stop halfway down for macadamia pancakes!

Two of coolest things I'll be doing this fall: Meeting with students and talking trash in October with the freshman of Rowan University in New Jersey, just across the river from my hometown of Philadelphia, and at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Both schools have adopted Garbology as their freshmen reads.

5 Ways to Make Campus Reads Cool

I've been traveling this fall to speak at colleges where Garbology is this year's campus read or part of the freshmen "First Year Experience," and is being read in English, geography, anthropology, ecology, psychology, sociology, philosophy and sustainability classes. What an inspiration to find my book used as a catalyst for discussions about waste, recycling, and the economic and environmental opportunities inside an empty trash can.

Here are five cool things schools are doing to craft successful campus reads, bringing Garbology alive for students and engaging them in conversations about waste:

     1. Sponsor a trash art contest like the University of New Mexico.

2.  Challenge Students to "Change One Thing" like Washington State University.

3. Have students carry all their trash for a week on their backs, then weigh in for the winner. Marymount California University made this a class project. The school also put the kibosh on disposable plastic water bottles and foam takeout containers as part of a campus-wide sustainability push.

4. Create cool lending library displays  — another great UNM idea.

5. Have students do a Dumpster Dive trash audit. Portland State University students were horrified by the legion of unrecycled coffee cups behind the science building. 

P.S. — 

Penguin Books has published an amazing Garbology Teachers Guide and resource compendium for classroom use and campus reads.

Orlando is More Than a Big Theme Park

I'm just back from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the second biggest university in the country — and home of thelargest freshman class, which you can see pictured above. I had the great pleasure of talking trash at their convocation, where every incoming freshman received a copy of Garbology as part of the program.

Portland Talks Garbology

The City of Portland is a world leader on sustainability and green policies — not to mention a beautiful, livable community. But there's one area where it falls short on the environmental front: garbage.

Portlanders make more trash than the average American. And though they are avid recyclers, they also send 50+ big-rig diesel trucks a day filled with trash to someone else's back-yard 150 miles away. Local leaders and environmentalists realize the problem and are determined to better.

This past week I returned from a series of cool "Let's Talk Trash" events in the city. I was happy to share the stories behind  Garbology at events hosted by OregonMetro and the Portland City Club. Here's the audio from the City Club discussion.

Wine, trash, talk: Events Round-up

Whittier Meet the Authors and BookFaire: This Saturday, March 15, I'll be talking trash, wine and all things non-fiction, as well as signing copies of my biography of wine mogul Jess Jackson, A Man and His Mountain, and Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash. And yes, I worked on both of these diametrically different books at the same time! Come find out how and why.

Later this month (air time to come), I'll be talking wine and A Man and His Mountain on American Public Media's Splendid Table.

On Sunday April 13, I'll be at the LA Times Festival of Books at USC.  My panel, "Nonfiction: Exploring a Singular Pursuit," will be at the Taper Forum at 2 pm, with authors Tom Bissell, Dana Goodyear and Greg Sestero and moderator Elizabeth Taylor.

Next up is the very cool Bay Gourmet Event on the evening of April 21 for A Man and His Mountain at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, where I'll be "in conversation" with the most powerful woman in the wine industry, Barbara Banke, chairwoman of Jackson Family Wines (and wife of the late winemaking legend, Jess Jackson, the subject of my book).

I'll be in Lake Como, Italy, June 22-29, for my second tour of duty at the Abroad Writers Conference, where I'll be leading an intensive nonfiction workshop geared to professional and published writers. It's not too late to sign up now!

And in August I'm off to Orlando to speak at the convocation at University of Central Florida, where the freshmen are kicking of their First Year Experience with Garbology as their campus common read. I was recently at the FYE conference in San Diego, where I spoke to college representatives from all over the nation on Garbology.