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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers
The New Press 2005
ISBN: 978156584879

Garbage. Garbage. Garbage. It's never far away.  It has been pouring rain since I woke up this morning.  It is now 10:30pm, the rain is still coming down and the wind is still blowing.  In the large lot outside my apartment window, there is garbage roaming around freely, propelled by the wind. On this street,  the night before garbage pick-up everyone in the surrounding buildings places their garbage bags in the lot and the next morning the owner of the lot will take the garbage out to the curb.  This is a somewhat flawed method for getting rid of all of our garbage.  Sometimes bags rip open, and their contents are strewn about and dispersed throughout the area.  Hence the cigarette packs, potato chip bags, Pepsi bottles and other trash items finding new homes in the lot and nearby yards.  I find myself inspired now and then, so I venture out into the lot on nice sunny days with an industrial sized garbage bag and a pair of work gloves and I pick up trash for a few hours.  The lot will look fairly decent for a few days, and then garbage night comes around again and the cycle starts over.  This is the process that was going through my head while I was reading "Gone Tomorrow" and again, tonight when I sat down to write this post. 

Why aren't there more books written about garbage?  Elizabeth Royte's, Garbage Land was the first book that I read on the subject and I am aware of a few others that are among the masses of books that I hope to read someday, most notably, High Tech Trash by  Elizabeth Grossman. It seems like such an important subject, if anyone can recommend  any books to me, I would be grateful. 

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers starts off with a brief history of trash removal and leads up to our current predicament.  The facts are sobering, very upsetting and layed out with many footnotes to back them up.  We have been heading down a dangerous path for a very long time now and our over consumption is coming to an end whether we are prepared for it or not.  We can swim in garbage and filth and waste or we can wake up and take some action to save what is not already "trashed". Recycling alone won't be enough; that is one of the main things that I took away from this book.  We need deeper answers. Heather Rogers has written an alarming and critical book, read it and pass it on


  1. At work I have to take out the trash. 90% of it is used paper towels that people have dried their hands off with in the bathrooms. Does anyone else think it is a total waste to pack a ton of wet paper into a 30 gallon plastic bag and throw it into a landfill??? My first thought was to suggest electric hand blowers. This would cut down on the waste of paper but still cost the environment because of the energy consumption of the hand driers. Which is better??? The feeling I get everyday throwing the trash away is awful, so I guess I would vote for the 'hot air'. :)

  2. In response to the above post, I agree that the air dryers are the better of two options (though there might be a third or even fourth option). I actually had this same thought a couple of days ago. As someone who has to hear about complaints made about paper towels (waste)littering the floor , I am reminded about how mindless our daily operations using not just a small piece of paper towel or even one--I see many persons using multiple towels to dry there hands. Not too mention, business who are trying to penny-pinch. However, are the paper towels really cheaper than replacing one machine with another, which does not require product replacement. Electricity is already in use in most businesses and many of the automatic hand-dryers are sensor operated. So, most likely usage is just a few seconds per person vs. a few paper towels per person. All this said, I have tried a couple things (both only lasting for a short period)to try and reduce my own impact by changing my behavior. The first was not drying my hands or drying on the cloth of my pants. The second, the better alternative, was bringing my own small, lightweight towel/cloth along with me. The reason this method was short-lived was because I kept forgetting to bring the towel, especially after it went through the wash.

    My main comment about, Gone Tomorrow, and garbage is that it is time to stop waving the recycling flag so proudly and replace it with activism and action in reusing. This of course takes more effort than "tossing" a thing into a designated container--something most of us learn at a young age. I think it if at an individual level people begin to look at an item or object more mindfully and with more imagination this will make a huge impact. Also, when designers (as many already are, evidence of a lot of "green design") and manufacturers make products with less packaging, safer materials, and more biodegradable content this is where the real change will begin. Lastly, businesses need to make better and wiser choices about which products to sell , which will lead back to the consumer and all of us to make conscientious decisions about what we buy and how what the reuse-value of the product is. It is imperative that we begin considering re-use value of products!

  3. Possibly of greater importance, but farther from fruition is the value of reducing. Let us also factor in the overall excess of production and material possession, which eventually becomes waste, with toxic and congestive ramifications for living communities, habitats and the land.