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Book Review: Trash Talk by Dave and Lillian Brummet

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Going green is hot right now. There are a lot of books on the market about it. There are also a lot of books about frugal living. Trash Talk is an e-book that combines the two concepts. What separates it from the rest of the genre is that authors Dave and Lillian Brummet tackle recycling also from a systems perspective. Instead of either guilting the reader into green action ("think of the baby polar bears!") or appealing to the reader's financial self-interest, the authors provide practical tips coupled with the environmental impact of making vs. not making the choice to make a positive impact on the environment. Also, the system is described, from production of the object to its retail usage to your use of it in your home to the landfill.

The first part of the book is organized by object (e.g., dryer sheets, soap, oven racks). The later sections are lifestyle tips, such as picking up trash when you go for a walk, choosing vegetarian meals, and improving indoor air. Some of the tips are obvious. I think by now that we all know to recycle aluminum cans and reuse plastic grocery bags. However, you may not realize that thrift stores and food banks need donations of plastic grocery bags for their clients. And did you know that grocery produce bags are usually printed with water-soluble inks and therefore, you should not reuse them for food? Each chapter concludes with a list of benefits and tips. These final hints range from financial, convenience, and global considerations.

For example, the Brummets tell us that if we follow our dentist's recommendations to change our toothbrush four times a year, this will result in 100 million pounds of trash in our landfill annually. They advise purchasing toothbrushes made from recycled materials, or those that simply use replacement heads, much like a razor. Unfortunately, no specific products are mentioned, so you're on your own as far as finding a reliable green supplier.

The book has some weaknesses. For example, some chapters cite recent research on the degrading lifecycle of man-made materials, while other chapters cite more dated studies, or no research at all. Also, some of the tips are self-evident. But even I, who have been recycling since the early '80s and was raised by Depression-era parents who encouraged thrifty living, picked up a few new tips.

Given that something so simple as reusing glass jars for food storage is a no-brainer, you'd think we'd have less garbage in our landfills and less pollution in our communities. However, perhaps the issue is more of consumer motivation rather than knowledge. And it's hard to get worked up over a landfill that is not in your neighborhood. In that sense, this book is preaching to the choir. But all in all, a good beginner's guide to green living.

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