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.

The Troll Toll

When FindTheBest.com received a threatening letter from a "patent troll," the Internet startup faced a no-win choice: capitulate and pay to license a dubious patent claiming ownership of the ancient art of matchmaking, or pay exorbitant legal costs to fight. 

Find out what happened next, and how Congress is dropping the ball on reining in ridiculous patents and trollish lawsuits, in my new article, Trolling for Dollars.

Solar Wars: The Battle For Your Rooftop

For Cynthia Cantero, putting solar panels atop her Oahu, Hawaii, home seemed like a no-brainer. In a state where most electricity is generated by burning pricey imported oil and where electricity rates are three times the U.S. average, she considered making her own power "a godsend."

Then her state's dominant utility pulled the plug on Cantero, and pushed the 54-year-old cancer patient and mother of five toward bankruptcy.

Read more about Cantero's all-too-common plight, and a nationwide campaign to derail home-grown solar energy in favor of utility-scale renewables, in my latest Sierra Magazine article, Throwing Shade.

(Sierra Magazine illustration by Thomas James)

Writers Abroad, Writers Renewed

Teaching at the Abroad Writers Conference this winter at Lismore Castle, Ireland (and coming up again in late June at Lake Como, Italy), reminds me of just how powerful and energizing the simple act of getting away from the familiar can be. Surrounded by talented faculty and authors both aspiring and accomplished, living for a week in Ireland's oldest castle, did as much for my own writing as for any of our workshop participants. The entire experience was inspiring — great colleagues, new friends both Irish and American, and living in Sir Walter Raleigh's art-filled, sumptuous castle. How cool is that?

I can't wait for my next nonfiction workshop at the upcoming Abroad Writers Conference June 21-28 at the sublime Lake Como, Italy (photos below). Why not join us?