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The Green Life: Media Lounge

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November 01, 2005

Media Lounge

Dive into a pile of books and films about garbage

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of TrashGARBAGE LAND
a book by Elizabeth Royte
"Refuse reflects truth," writes Brooklyn based journalist Elizabeth Royte. "We underestimate how much booze we drink; we overestimate our leafy greens." To uncover the truth about her own consumption patterns—and what really happens to the waste she makes—Royte literally got her hands dirty, spending almost a year sorting and weighing her household trash, then following it to its final destinations. Few would want to ride on a garbage truck, much less paddle around a landfill or subject their senses to the "back end of New York"—the city's sewage-processing system—but we should all be grateful that Royte made the at-times-pungent journey. As the author came to realize, keeping trash out of view just makes it easier for us to produce more of it.
Let's Talk: Discuss this selection with your friends and neighbors.

Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of GarbageGONE TOMORROW
a book by Heather Rogers
Since all things die or wear out, garbage can seem natural and inevitable. Heather Rogers's social history of trash upends that and other misconceptions. The author shows how cold war–era inducements to produce and consume more combined with a cultural preoccupation with cleanliness (which translated into single-use servings and loads of packaging) to create the mess we're in.

Paper or Plastic: Searching for Solutions to an Overpackaged WorldPAPER OR PLASTIC
a book by Daniel Imhoff
The author isn't focused on the classic shopping-bag choice. He wants readers to reevaluate the role packaging plays in our lives and the toll it takes on the environment. Daniel Imhoff packs his book with thoughtful analysis, innovative solutions, and surprising facts—for example, 10 percent of all lumber cut in the United States is used to make shipping pallets.

The Gleaners and ITHE GLEANERS AND I
a film by Agnès Varda
The time-honored practice of gleaning—picking up the remains of a crop after the harvest—is defended by the French as an idealistic, if idiosyncratic, part of their culture. When scavenging goes beyond the fields and into the city, things get more complicated. Filmmaker Agnès Varda gathered elegant images and provocative dialogue for this tribute to today's gleaners, who are as likely to search for battered furniture as they are for misshapen potatoes.

Mongo: Adventures in TrashMONGO
a book by Ted Botha
Scavengers in New York City have to be stealthier than their French counterparts, since anything thrown away becomes city property once it hits the street. Illegality discourages none of Ted Botha's colorful subjects—not the humble can collector, the anarchists living off free food, or the part-time treasure hunter who once found a tricorn hat from the Revolutionary War in a pile of old landfill.

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