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For just about any “green” company, getting people interested in environmental issues is often an integral part of the underlying business model. TerraCycle is no different. We recycle waste that most people instinctively throw away, like old toothbrushes, drink pouches and cigarette butts. If we don’t attract an audience of motivated, eco-conscious individuals capable of looking beyond the garbage can, those traditionally non-recyclable waste streams will continue to be destined for the landfill.

Changing the way people see the waste they interact with every day is a huge challenge, especially because our wasteful habits have become intrinsically linked to our obsession with consumption; it’s easier to buy something disposable, use it once, and then throw it away without a second thought. Imagine, then, how difficult it is to convince people that there is actual value inherent in the waste they throw out every single day.

To help enact the paradigm shift in attitudes we hope to see, we at TerraCycle have made environmental education and raising awareness integral parts of our communications strategies. For example, we record a monthly podcast, provide environmental curricula to teachers, and regularly write blogs and articles for a variety of publications. Our CEO, Tom Szaky, has written two books – Revolution In a Bottle (2009), and Outsmart Waste (2014). Together, this content allows us to explain in our own words where TerraCycle fits into the world of sustainability, where our inspiration comes from, and where we need to be as a society to ensure we can grow and develop in a sustainable way.

Make Garbage Better

This month, we’re even adding another book to our current collection – Make Garbage Great. What makes the book so different, however, is that it isn’t full of scientific language or complicated data that has to be deciphered. It’s light, fun and easy to read – so much so that even a child can pick it up and learn something new. We filled it with hundreds of pictures, eco-tips for living a more sustainable life, facts and figures, historical timelines, and DIY upcycling projects made with waste materials. It’s a family guide, teaching readers everything from the history of waste, to where our wasteful habits will land us in the future if we don’t start changing our behaviors today.

While something like a lifecycle analysis or sustainability report is definitely useful and important, most people aren’t going to be motivated by raw data, line graphs, and complicated terminology.  This is why our goal with Make Garbage Great was to make environmental issues interesting and understandable to everyone, regardless of their age or academic and professional backgrounds. If we can help make environmental topics more salient to everyone, the global sustainability conversation will be that much more powerful. 

Can a book really get people interested in garbage? We’re not entirely sure, but we think it’s a great place to start. By helping readers appreciate our precious raw materials, and by providing them with a different perspective of waste, we hope that individuals and families will begin to make environmental stewardship an active part of their lives. 
 / Issue 172 - June 2018
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