Summer Reading 2018

Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, Edward Humes

The following prompts are asking you to make an argument based upon your reading and analysis of Garbology by Edward Humes.  Choose one of these prompts for your essay. Your essay should use appropriate citation and be approximately 3-4 double-spaced pages (800 to 1,200 words). Information on how to cite sources in MLA, APA, or Chicago style can be found on Purdue’s Online Writing Lab ( You should be prepared to turn your essay in to your FYS professor on the first day of classes.   

Garbage Selfie

Track your own disposal of waste for a period of time (3-10 days) and create a digital, visual representation of your trash. Jenny Odell’s YouTube tutorial ( on creating a “garbage selfie” provides one example of how to create a graphic of an individual’s trash accumulation. Alternatively, you could create a collage of trash pics using an app such as Pic Collage, or make an infographic that reflects the information you gathered using a program such as Picktochart (

Reflecting on what and how much you threw away, compose an essay that critically responds to Humes assertion that “trash is nothing less than the ultimate lens on our lives, our priorities, our failings, our secrets and our hubris” (7). How does your garbage visualization reflect your life, priorities, failings, secrets, and/or hubris? What patterns of your waste habits, if any, would you change? What would a garbage archaeologist, like those discussed in Chapter 8, think of your life and culture based on your waste habits?

 Garbage Where You Live

Investigate waste management and recycling in your local community. You might consider looking at local government websites, your local trash/recycling collector, articles in the local newspaper, or websites for environmental advocacy groups in your area. How is trash managed in your local community? Are there any efforts being made to reduce or manage waste in a more sustainable way? What could your community do better? How does your community compare to the organizations and communities that Humes discusses in Garbology?

 Waste Elimination Challenge

Try to eliminate one type of waste for you and/or your family (e.g., paper towels, plastic-packaged food, bottled water). How does this change affect your daily life in terms of cost and convenience? Do you think it is practical or possible for yourself or others to emulate Bea Johnson’s zero-waste model in chapter 12 of Garbology? What are some of the challenges to producing no waste? What steps do you recommend that an environmentally conscious person take to reduce waste? What big-picture changes need to occur on a policy, economic, or cultural level to supplement individual efforts?

Fall Forum Essay Contest

The Writing Center is organizing an essay contest! Those students who submit the strongest essays will be invited to attend a reception with Edward Humes. Submissions need to be Word or PDF documents, with the student’s last name as the document title, and a full name at the top of the essay. To submit your essay, please use the following Select Survey Form