Every month we discard enough glass bottles and jars to fill up a skyscraper. In a year’s time, a typical family consumes 182 gallons of soda, 29 gallons of juice, 104 gallons of milk, and 26 gallons of bottled water.
Most of these containers are thrown away; the result is devastating to our world. In fact, our recycling rate is only 28% even though about 80% of what we throw away is recyclable. The energy saved from recycling one glass bottle can run a 100-watt light bulb for four hours. It also causes 20% less air pollution and 50% less water pollution than when a new bottle is made from raw materials.
You can make a positive difference! Recycling is easy to incorporate in your household as a practice of daily living. Here’s how:
Check with your local government about the recycling options in your area. The top items to recycle include aluminum, plastic bottles, newspaper, corrugated cardboard, steel cans, glass containers, magazines, mixed paper, and computers.
- Make your recycling area visible in your home and make recycling a family affair.
- Return clean plastic grocery bags to your local supermarket for recycling.
- Properly recycle your e-waste, such as TVs and cell phones, and other hazardous material. Electronic retailers may accept items to be recycled free of charge. To locate hazardous waste sites near you, go to www.earth911.org.
- Consider selling or donating items such as furniture and clothing to a local charity.
Are you ready to go greener? Make some small changes to yield big results and save money.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) that use 66% less energy and last up to 10 times longer.
- Switch to Energy Star appliances which are 10% to 50% more efficient than their conventional counterparts. Visit www.energystar.gov to learn more.
- Reduce the amount of mail you receive. It takes about 68 million trees per year to produce the catalogs and charitable appeals we receive annually. Nearly half of this mail is thrown out unopened.
- Buy products from your local Farmer’s Market to minimize the miles from farm to table and therefore decrease pollution. For a list of farmer’s markets visit www.localharvest.org.
- Dust off the crock-pot. Slow cooking uses a lot less energy than simmering on the stove.
- Wash clothes in cold water. About 90% of the energy used by a washing machine is spent heating the water for the load. Cold-water detergents are effective.
- Learn how to compost. Yard waste and food scraps make up 20% to 30% of garbage. You can turn your organic waste into useful mulch for your garden.
- Become a savvy shopper. As you switch to greener foods, personal products, and household cleaners, learn how to read the labels. Advertisers make a variety of claims, from “natural” to “free range.” You can check the ingredients of a particular product at www.eco-labels.org.
- Bring your own backpack, reusable bag, travel mug, or tumbler. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, and a significant amount end up smothering oceanic life. Some retailers will give you a discount on your latte or tea for using a reusable cup.
Living a greener life doesn’t have to be complicated; “simple” is a good rule of thumb. Your personal efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle now, will have a significant impact on our future.
Sources: National Recycling Coalition, Environmental Protection Agency, Earth911, and Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers. For additional information, consult your physician.