By Adam Minter
Review by Terri Schlichenmeyer
This will probably be the last summer for your outdoor twinkle lights.
You’ve noticed that the bulbs are half burned-out, and you’d really rather have new lights anyhow. They’re energy-efficient, and they look nicer.
You’re going to recycle those old twinklers because it’s the right thing to do. But where do they go after you’ve put them in the bin? Read Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter, and you might be surprised to find out.
For most of his life, Adam Minter has been intrigued by junk. You could almost say it’s genetic. His father and grandmother owned a Minneapolis junkyard, and since he’s already a journalist working in China, trash is relatively easy to investigate.
China, you see, is where a lot of America’s scrap–cell phones, electric motors, plastic, construction debris and twinkle lights–ends up. Says Minter, it’s “the most logical [and greenest] endpoint…”
When you put something in the recycling bin, you’re really, in some respects, throwing away money. Yesterday’s newspaper, an empty detergent bottle, your old computer and that junker in your garage will eventually all be bought, sold, and either picked apart here in America or shipped overseas to be processed and metals reclaimed.
Says Minter, “… the richer you are, and the more educated you are, the more stuff you will throw away.”
And throw away we do: Minter says that in 2012, U.S. scrap workers “were responsible for transforming 135 million metric tons of recyclable waste into raw materials that could be made into new stuff.” Exporting other trash for processing saves low-grade scrap from being dumped in a landfill. Together, that lessens environmental costs.
As for financial costs, Minter says it’s often cheaper for U.S. scrappers to send materials overseas than across the country. Despite that, safety is often iffy there. Overseas facilities offer employees better-than-farming wages and opportunities for family businesses. Besides, “The developing world can usually find a use for what Americans can’t recycle profitably,” sometimes returning to us a re-recycled item, ready to use again.
Says Minter, “Round and round it goes.”
Junkyard Planet is a good book–and it’s not.
Because it takes a lively look at the symbiosis between American and Chinese trash trade, there’s a lot of back-and-forth across the ocean here, resulting in what feels like a good amount of repetition. The facts that are highlighted in this book are quite shocking, but Minter throws them around like confetti. After a while, it’s hard to be impressed by them anymore.
And yet, there’s something to be said about a book that offers solid, deep scrutiny of an unseen, big-bucks industry that makes something good from an out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality.
Overall, though it takes time to absorb, I think that if you’ve ever thrown something away and figured it would magically disappear forever, this book will disabuse you of that notion. For you, or anyone who wants to know where America’s recyclables go, Junkyard Planet will show you the light.
Looking to integrate sustainability into your daily life? There’s no place like home to begin your green journey. Take a look at these green home products.
Enzymes Cleaning Kit
Want a clean home without the chemicals? Naturally It’s Clean has packaged a kit containing seven vegetable-based enzyme cleaners for cleaning your home without using any toxic chemicals. This kit comes with a tub and tile cleaner, mildew cleaner, kitchen cleaner, glass cleaner, laundry pre-treater, floor cleaner, and stain eraser packet. $36
Reusable Food Wrap
Abeego is an all-natural and reusable beeswax food wrap that keeps food fresh. Abeego products, such as the Abeego Big Pocket, can be easily shaped around food for safe storage. Made from hemp and certified organic cotton that’s been infused with pure beeswax, certified organic jojoba oil, and tree resin, the Abeego Big Pocket is an affordable and earth-friendly replacement for disposable plastic wraps and bags. $16
Natural Fiber Cleaning Brush
This tough, everyday brush is the perfect all-purpose tool for your home cleaning. Made of untreated sustainable beechwood and natural fiber bristles, it is designed for scrubbing those difficult corners of your home. Choose between three different bristle types of this completely biodegradable brush. $12
This hook, made by selecting and tumbling New England river stones, adds serene strength to your home. This unique hook not only holds up your belongings, but also gives back to its first home. For every stone selected, another rough stone is added to the water. $59
Root Wood Bowl
This root wood bowl has been transported from the mountains of Eastern Asia and transformed from Shan Mu fir tree stumps into your new favorite home décor piece. Removing this excess wood after sustainable logging operations leave it behind allows newly planted seedlings to flourish. $48
Ceramic Kitchen Compost Crock
Your lawn and garden need healthy food too – and your leftovers work perfectly. This Ceramic Kitchen Compost Crock is an attractive solution for countertop kitchen composting. This product features an interior that won’t stain or absorb odor and it holds up to one gallon of kitchen scraps. $25
By Connor Murphy
At first glance, Phoenix’s Creative Living Fellowship might seem like any other church. The space is humble, the congregation no more than three hundred: a seemingly ordinary church. However, a second look reveals the church to be anything but ordinary. Led by Rev. Michele Whittington (who insists Rev. Michele is just fine), the Creative Living Fellowship has transformed their church into a sustainable community.
In May, the church became the first and only church in Arizona to successfully complete the rigorous GreenFaith Certification Program. This moment marked the end of a journey that had begun many years prior. The church moved into its current home, just north of Maryland and Seventh Street in Central Phoenix, in 2006. According to Rev. Michele, the community felt ready for the next challenge after a few years in their new space. That challenge came quite by chance in a 20-minute documentary from the organization GreenFaith. GreenFaith is a non-denominational organization devoted to increasing environmental awareness and sustainable practices in churches around the world. The church’s property manager, Bill Kremer, received a video explaining the organization’s vision. He decided to share it with Rev. Michele. “From the moment I saw the video,” she said, “I knew this was our next step.” Read more
By Elizabeth Allen
For the picky pescetarian, Cuttlefish at Gainey Ranch creates an atmosphere with a subtle message of sustainability. Scottsdale’s Cuttlefish Italian Cuisine is the only restaurant in Arizona with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch certification. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends certain species of seafood according to region to suppliers and consumers alike in order to tackle the world’s overfishing problem. Restaurants that have committed to serving only seafood listed in the region’s “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” are Seafood Watch Restaurant Partners. The program currently works with more than 200 restaurants across the country to ensure the seafood served is from a sustainable, farm-raised, or low-impact fishery.
By Ryan Hixson
You don’t need to travel far this summer to discover places that are out of this world. A
trip to a local museum can take you thousands of years back in time or catapult you into the future. These educational and entertaining retreats capture the imagination. Whether you are interested in transportation, architecture, or history, there are about 180 different destinations to choose from throughout the state. Here are a few to get you started.
By Maurisa Jones
Enrich your soul, revive your spirit and experience the power of healing through Spirit Over Soul, a rare four-day retreat experience at L’Auberge de Sedona, 301 Little Lane, Sedona Ariz. Hosted by Coral Productions July 24-27, the event is designed to help people connect with their inner selves and also gives them the opportunity to spend more intimate time with Coral Menasherov-Shaeffler, a world-renowned clairvoyant, healer and soul-seer. Coral has invited additional therapists to the retreat to give participants more insight. Read more