Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
- Elizabeth Royte's trip to the Gowanus Canal was one of the factors that
compelled her to embark on her strange journey. What compelled you to pick up
Garbage Land and join her on her journey? Did you ever wonder what
actually happened to the things you threw away?
- Garbage Land is a first-person narrative in which Elizabeth Royte
guides readers through the hidden world of garbage. What does this
first-person point of view add to the book? Do you think this book would have
been as effective if it had been written from an omniscient narrator's point
- On page 141, the author notes that trying to be environmentally
responsible isn't always easy. Indeed, she writes that her publisher couldn't
justify the added cost of printing the book on recycled paper stock. How can
we reconcile the moral arguments for recycling with the economic arguments
- Garbage Land features a bevy of interesting characters, many of
whom suggest innovative ways to reduce our garbage footprint. For example,
Christina Datz-Romero is a proponent of desktop worm composter. Are you likely
to use one of these innovative methods? If so, which ones?
- Elizabeth Royte writes about trailing sanitation workers, visiting waste
transfer stations, and exploring landfills. How did getting an inside look at
these three parts of the disposal process broaden your understanding of the
costs of consumption? What was most surprising about the author's visits?
- Less than 27 percent of garbage is recycled and composted. But in some
citiesSan Francisco, for examplethe rate is much higher. What do you think
about the measures that the San Francisco government has taken to inch toward
the "dream of zero waste"? Do you think they'd be effective in your city or
- The author discusses recycling and reducing consumption: which approach to
minimizing garbage does she think is more effective? Do you agree?
- Have you noticed a change in the waste stream in your lifetime? Please
explain your answer.
- In Garbage Land, a former Sanitation Commissioner controversially
claims, "In the end, the garbage will win." Does the author seem to agree with
this sentiment? Do you?
- How can we, as a society, reduce our garbage footprint? Has this book made
you decide to change your behavior?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Back Bay Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.