A select group of authors who have won or been finalists for the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books have been invited to write or record an introduction to one of their books. We have suggested a few guidelines, but the format and content have been chosen by each author and will be appropriate for their book's intended audience. Science NetLinks will include related classroom resources appropriate for students and educators at the end of each Spotlight on Science Writers post. You can read all the posts in this series here.
Sarah Wassner Flynn on This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash:
Here’s a shocking fact: Around the world, people throw away about 4 million tons of trash each day—or roughly 2.6 pounds of trash per person. That’s enough to fill 44 Olympic-size swimming pools every single day. But where does it all go—and what can we do about it?
These are some of the big questions I address in This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash. Humans are literally trashing the earth at alarming rates, and we are seeing scary consequences, like the Texas-sized Pacific garbage patch, a floating island of waste in the ocean between California and Hawaii. There is garbage at the bottom of the ocean, piled up in dumps, layered in landfills, and strewn about on the side of the roads. And the amount of garbage will only grow in the coming years—experts say that by 2025, the world will generate nearly 2 billion tons annually.
So, why a book about trash? For starters, garbage is something kids can relate to. It’s a tangible object that they see, touch, and smell every day in their own homes and schools. And many of us are unaware of just how much trash is tossed each year or how we can all work to reduce these numbers (I know I have been!). We carelessly toss food from our dinner plates, collect plastic bags from grocery stores, and discard packaging from everyday items like toys without thinking much about where, exactly, that garbage will wind up one day.
Using This Book Stinks as a vehicle, I was intent to arm young readers with knowledge about the waste problem on our planet. And through a lively design, weird-but-true facts, infographics, and compelling features, I hope I do just that. Kids may think that they can’t make a difference, but they truly can. And throughout the pages of This Book Stinks, I offer various entry points that will inspire kids to spark changes right in their own homes.
Of course, learning about trash doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. I had a blast interviewing a professional dumpster diver, finding out about the innovative ways people are repurposing trash, and exploring cool new inventions that will change the way we’ll handle waste in the future. Through a healthy dose of information infused with fun, This Book Stinks aims to inspire future generations of thinkers who may one day come up with actionable solutions to “unstink” the planet.
Sarah Wassner Flynn is an award-winning children’s nonfiction writer for National Geographic. Her recent titles include This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash, Weird But True Know-It-All: Greek Mythology, 1,000 Facts About the White House, The Ultimate Book of Sharks with world-renowned photographer Brian Skerry, and the forthcoming This Book Is Cute: The Soft and Squishy Science and Culture of ‘Aww.’ She has also contributed to the New York Times’ bestselling National Geographic Kids Almanac and several other National Geographic Kids titles. In 2018, This Book Stinks received the AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books, a Green Earth Book Award by the Nature Generation, and was designated as an Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association.
Sarah lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and three children.
Her book, This Book Stinks: Gross Garbage, Rotten Rubbish, and the Science of Trash, won the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books in the Young Adult category.
- Learn more about Sarah at her website.
- Sarah's acceptance speech for the 2018 AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books is online at the AAAS website.
- Science reviews the book.
Garbage, Trash, and Recycling
- Waste is a big problem. Listen to these Science Update podcasts for more information: Litter Life, Ocean Plastics, Wasted Food, Wasted Food Energy.
- Learn more about recycling in these Science Update podcasts: Mobile Plastic Fuel, Ships to Reefs, and Electricity from Sewage.
- With the Power Up! game, you can think about the positive and negative consequences of various types of power, including a trash-burning plant. (Note: This interactive requires the Adobe Flash plug-in, so you may need to ask an adult to help you find a web browser to play the game in.)
- Read our 5 Questions for a Scientist interview with Ellie Fini, whose company developed a process to convert pig manure into a liquid asphalt-binding adhesive that is an eco-friendly, durable alternative to petroleum-based asphalt.
- Watch a video from Reading Rainbow that talks about how trash is recycled.
- The EPA's Recycle City is an interactive look at how people reduce waste, use less energy, and save money by doing simple things at home, at work, and in their neighborhoods.
- National Geographic is doing a year-long series on the global plastic waste crisis. Learn more at Planet or Plastic?
- The Annenberg Learner examines the science and problem of what we throw away and then asks how our communities can reduce waste.
- Keep America Beautiful is a nonprofit with a focus on improving and beautifying community environments and runs a number of programmatic events including the Great American Cleanup and America Recycles Day.
- Another AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books title that deals with recycling and repurposing is Recycled Science: Bring Out Your Science Genius with Soda Bottles, Potato Chip Bags, and More Unexpected Stuff.
- Another AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books winner that encourages kids to take action about the earth is True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet.
- Check back later in the year for a lesson from Science NetLinks to accompany the book This Book Stinks.
- The Science NetLinks collection Disposable Culture pulls together resources on garbage and recycling, as well as suggestions for reducing consumption and waste. Garbage 1: The Roots of Trash (3-5), Garbage 2: Recycling (3-5), and Sanitation and Human Health (6-8) are all good places to start.
- Another relevant Science NetLinks collection is the one for Earth Day, which focuses on ecology and environmentalism.
- The August 10, 2012, issue of Science magazine, published by AAAS, focuses on systems for dealing with waste.
- There is a September 2012 follow-up post on our blog with additional resources focused on waste.
- If your students seem more interested in the negative smells associated with garbage, you might consider the hands-on lesson The Ecology of Your Skin 2: The Microbial World Is an Olfactory World (9-12).
- SB&F posted a bibliography for Earth Day 2018 that focuses on environmental issues, particularly on plastic pollution and recycling.
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