WSU Common Reading Office of Undergraduate Education

Common Reading Program

Common Reading 2014/15: Garbology

The Book and WSU

In Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash, a Pulitzer prize–winning journalist takes readers on a surprising tour of America’s biggest export, our most prodigious product, and our greatest legacy: our trash.

The average American produces 102 tons of garbage across a lifetime and $50 billion in squandered riches are rolled to the curb each year. But our bins are just the starting point for a strange, impressive, mysterious, and costly journey that may also represent the greatest untapped opportunity of the century.

GarbologyIn Garbology, Edward Humes investigates trash—what’s in it; how much we pay for it; how we manage to create so much of it; and how some families, communities, and even nations are finding a way back from waste to discover a new kind of prosperity. Along the way , he introduces a collection of garbage denizens unlike anyone you’ve ever met: the trash-tracking detectives of MIT, the bulldozer-driving sanitation workers building Los Angeles’ Garbage Mountain landfill, the artists residing in San Francisco’s dump, and the family whose annual trash output fills not a dumpster or a trash can, but a single mason jar.

Garbology reveals not just what we throw away, but who we are and where our society is headed. Waste is the one environmental and economic harm that ordinary working Americans have the power to change—and prosper in the process.

Garbology is raising awareness of trash production and sparking community-wide action through, for example, One City One Book programs around the country.

WSU is using Garbology as its 2014-15 Common Reading book in several first-year and other classes as a way for students from a variety of disciplines to interact academically with each other and faculty members.

Garbology is the eighth Common Reading book in as many years on the Pullman campus.

What’s New?

Author Humes Visits 10/7/14

Garbology author Edward Humes will deliver the year’s Common Reading Invited Lecture Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014 at 7 p.m. in the CUB M.G. Carey Senior Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

Garbology Exhibit Open in Terrell Library

How does WSU as a whole process the university’s trash? To a great extent, through reducing, reusing, and recycling waste.

A new exhibit in Terrell Library’s atrium display case shows how WSU does this.  The exhibit is sponsored by WSU Libraries and the WSU Waste Management Department. It is open Sept. 19-Oct. 12.

Message from the Provost

Read Daniel J. Bernardo’s views on the applicability of Garbology to WSU students and departments.


Check the Common Reading calendar for upcoming faculty and guest expert presentations at Common Reading Tuesdays events.


Common Reading Assessment Reports



What is Common Reading?

Topics from a single, carefully selected book for freshmen are featured in first-year and other classes in disciplines across the university, and in special events and presentations. Having a shared source for such topics provides a common ground for students and their professors, and stimulates discussions and learning.  The same topics also lend themselves to presentations in a lecture series, and to discussions between students and faculty within and beyond classrooms.