I got this book from my Namesake as a Christmas present. I read it really quickly. Not because it’s an exciting sci-fi or a fabulous fantasy, but because I wanted to how know the household me and my partner manage could develop in terms of awareness and waste reduction. Since it’s a very useful book of Hungarians, I thought I’d share a review with you to encourage you to change. Additionally, I’m happy to lend the book to anyone (who promises to take care of it and give it back :)) because the more people read it, the more printing the book was worth it. Book review by Noémi Szabó.
I’m Jasmine, a 16 year-old high school student from Gödöllő. I’ve been busy with preparations since yesterday, as today is the birthday of one of my friends so a few of us are visiting her for a bit of celebration. Yesterday after school, I asked my mom for the recipe of her most delicious cookies. I checked the kitchen to see what ingredients were missing. I made a list and collected the containers needed for the shopping: buckle jars and bags we’ve been using forever. I rode my bike to the farmers’ market and then to the nearest zero-waste shop, I bought seasonal fruits, whole grain flour, nuts, free range eggs and oil. Then I managed to bake very nice cookies (except for half of it that got burned and ended up in the compost), and put them in a metal box. Right now, I’m applying my mom’s homemade face cream, then I’ll brush my teeth with our homemade toothpaste and toothbrush made out of natural materials, then I’ll pack the snacks I’ve prepared: nuts and my mom’s homemade syrup, all in their own, plastic-free packaging. My mom always emphasizes that they’re plastic-free, though I barely see plastic packaging anymore; those who bring their lunch wrapped in disposable plastic packaging get mocked hard. On my way out I peek into the trash can; the last pickup was like half a year ago, but it’s still not full.
There’s still a long way to go before our children can live their daily life like this and navigate the waste-free world this naturally, but in order not to waste the initial enthusiasm on haphazard attempts at reducing waste but to proceed in a conscious, focused manner and at a suitable pace, Andi Tóth wrote the guide Throw the Trash Can Away! for Hungarians. I’m calling the book a guide on the one hand because that’s how the author herself calls it, on the other hand because it’s a book that you can constantly use, it always offers new ideas, tricks and practical advice.
Andi points out right from the start that she believes every little step matters. As her attitude changed and she began to reform her own and her family’s life, she realized that she was merely a drop in the ocean, so she had to shape her life to make that drop count. She emphasizes that waste reduction is a constant challenge, but it’s also great fun.
I think it’s very important, and the author points it out repeatedly: everyone manages their household differently. Our shopping, cleaning and cooking habits are different, so we’ll progress at different speeds with waste reduction! For example, for some it’s natural to do cleaning without chemicals, while others have a shelf full of cleaning products. Or one person has been using canvas bags forever, while others hoard plastic ones. These two examples show (and there are so many more!) that different changes cause individual people to reach the edges of their comfort zone and hopefully move out of it as well. So it’s best if everyone progressed at their own pace, (a bit like in case of a diet) and avoided taking huge, drastic leaps right at start.
I was surprised when in the middle of chapter one the author asked me to empty the contents of my trash can, preferably in the middle of the room. The purpose of this is to see the amounts of different types of trash I have “collected”. A truly shocking and memorable sight! I used an Excel spreadsheet to note how much garbage my household produced per week. Well, I’ve become tremendously motivated already at this point.
Unsurprisingly, the book also addresses the 21st century’s growing consumerism and its disadvantages. It also presents a version of the international 5R rule very creatively adapted to Hungarian.
This is followed by the main pieces of content of the book: sharing advice and experience divided into three levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Not only does Andi give very useful practical hints in this chapter, she also illustrates the changes in her life through concrete examples. Interesting bits of information and financial summaries constantly add to the already intriguing paragraphs.
As an environmental engineer, I was quite critical of the guide and researched every topic which raised questions. I particularly like the fact that it explains the difference between waste and garbage (which we’ve covered in an article here), based on the relevant parts of waste management law. In addition, it offers a detailed description of the production and decomposition of raw materials like aluminum, glass and plastic. It also lists lots of interesting movies and books.
I don’t want to spoil everything but I’ve got to point out the fact that Andi not only tells you what’s the right way to do it, but also helps you realize it. What does this mean? She tells you in details about her tried-and-tested recipes (think of cleaning, hygiene and baby products etc.), she doesn’t just leave us thinking „OK, I’d like to use homemade shampoo, but how do I make it?”. What’s more, she offers a list of shops and stores where you could purchase the ingredients. What else do you need? Well, determination and to actually start doing it and then to develop it into a habit (Andi can only do so much to lead you in the right direction).
In summary, if you want to protect the environment, if you want a cleaner world, if you don’t support a lifestyle of overconsumption, and if you’d like if your communal bin only filled up every 6-8 months (and spare some money too), then read the 2nd extended edition of Throw the trash can away! (Published as eco-friendly book and e-book.)
I’ll end my book review with a sentence from the volume:
Isabella Rémán writes on page 247: “Instead of pushing for ‘more and more, faster and faster’, let the permissive simplicity of ‘always enough’ lead you!”
Source of featured image: Merci Skoda Photography
Translation by Ádám Hittaller