Ed Humes, author of Garbology, picks recyclables out of the trash. Photo by Sean Teegarden
For an author there’s perhaps no greater satisfaction than seeing an entire community take action based on something he or she wrote. And that’s exactly what’s happening throughout the Palos Verdes Peninsula with a book by Ed Humes called “Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash.”
Events are planned throughout the month leading up to appearances by Humes on Sept 27 and 28 at both peninsula high schools, Marymount College and the Palos Verdes main library. The program, known as One Book, One Peninsula, is a joint effort by the Palos Verdes Library District, Palos Verdes Arts Center and the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
“It’s very gratifying,” Humes said from his home in Seal Beach. “It’s been an amazing experience. They are really embracing the book and taking it a step forward, because at the end of the day a book or an article is just a collection of words. It’s what people do with them that matters.”
During the month of September events include short films about plastic waste geared toward middle and high school students at the Peninsula Center Library, a craft project where students make jewelry out of soda can tops, a coastal cleanup day and a “reduce and reuse” festival at Marymount College.
As a way to raise awareness of the program, former Peninsula High student Alan Wang created a six-foot diameter ball out of PVC pipe that’s getting filled with plastic water bottles as it makes its way to various places around the community, including currently at the South Coast Botanic Garden.
Katherine Gould, director of the Palos Verdes Library District, said the giant ball – dubbed the “Garball” – has been helpful to create buzz.
“The idea is to find a book that has general interest and encourage as many people as possible to read it and discuss it as a way of building community,” Gould said. “For somebody who’s in the book business it’s really fun to see people get excited about reading. It’s often a solitary activity, which can be a good thing, but it’s also nice to have that shared experience and be able to spark conversations with people based on what they’re reading.”
In the book, Humes tracks the estimated 1.3 tons of trash the average American generates per year. In the Los Angeles area, Humes visited Puente Hills Landfill where the vast majority of the county’s waste ends up and talks about the defunct Palos Verdes Landfill and the legacy of waste. Humes also describes the possible answers, describing methods by one family to reduce their waste down to almost nothing.
“One environmental problem that kept coming up over and over again from climate change to ocean pollution was waste. Everything boiled down to how grossly wasteful we are in everything we do,” Humes said. “Garbage is so embedded in our daily lives. We’re so good at having it rolled to the curb and disappear like magic, but it’s a massive problem and an environmental drag. My real goal was to make that more visceral that there are consequences to each of our choices and we should at least be aware of it.”
As an example, he noted that the average American produces more than 102 tons of trash in their lifetime.
“That means we could have one grave for our bodies but 1,100 for our trash,” Humes said.