Environmentalism and sustainability are easily interchangeable. Media has helped communicate sustainability to the populous and has offered many catchy commercials and slogans which serve to remind us of our environmental responsibility. Slogans such as, “Think Green,” “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” “The Earth: Love It or Leave It,” “It’s Not Easy Being Green,” “Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute,” and “It Pays to be Green,” – as cheesy as they are – resonates in our psyche and conjures up ways to uphold what these slogans suggest we do. The actors in the commercials or the voices of the radio advertisements seem to tantalize us with their environmentally conscious lifestyle; they make it hip to be green. The central theme of these sayings remains: sustainability and preservation of the planet; often how we support what the slogans suggest is difficult for people to readily adopt into their way of life. Without jeopardizing our current, comfortable lifestyle, can we reduce our consumption of raw materials; recycle aluminum, glass, paper, and plastic; support local organic agricultural activities; purchase items made from recycled materials; and reduce our energy usage by identifying where reductions can be made? Often, many questions arise, such as how is recycling really going to impact the Earth’s longevity? How is purchasing local, organic items important? How do I begin to reduce my energy habits? These are quite a few poignant topics to cover, so that is why this is the first of a three part examination of why it’s not easy being green and what we can do to start.
Recycling is one of many activities which is essential in sustainable practices. The benefits of recycling are far reaching and obvious, of course. Information supplied by the National Recycling Coalition (www.recycling-revolution.com), suggest the following benefits of recycling: The numbers of jobs created via recycling programs is approximately 1 million and a properly run recycling organization are more cost efficient to operate and maintain; natural resources are conserved; the need for coal mining is reduced; ensures natural habitats are protected to protect biodiversity; and decreases our dependence and increases our homeland security. Landfills are becoming overrun with various items which are not readily decomposed. Items such as plastic bottles, diapers, appliances, and vehicles take up years to fully decompose. Plastic bottles may take 450 years plus to disintegrate fully; diapers take over 500 years; and glass bottles can take over one million years.
Businesses and individuals have learned the importance of going green and have incorporated it into their daily routine. Businesses benefit by recycling due to the amount of money they save by purchasing items made from recycled materials, as opposed to purchasing items made with raw materials. Often, less packaging is involved when recycled materials are used. Consumers are now purchasing items with the recycled logo on them; this is in turn, adding value to certain franchises that have made a commitment to more energy efficient practices.
The more corporations and individuals who recycle, the less waste products are added to landfills. Landfills harbor dangerous chemicals, such as methane, ammonia, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenezenes and xylenes. Noxious greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases are emitted during decomposition of various items. Non-biodegradable items, such as furniture, appliances, electronics, and automobiles have pushed many landfills to near over-capacity – these items do not magically disappear and are often overlooked. For example, the guy that tosses a cigarette butt from his car either is not aware, or simply does not care, that it is essentially non-biodegradable. Household recycling has increased steadily since the 1770s (startribune.com). Social media has increased recycling awareness by explaining the importance of doing it; schools have been educating children at all levels and the kids are then taking this knowledge back to their homes. Corporations are becoming greener with their recycling efforts. Building efficiency programs are taking off in all demographics.
Through recycling, humans can reduce their environmental footprint by lessening the amount of non-recyclable items they are putting into landfills, ultimately contributing to the preservation of species’ biodiversity. There are laundry lists of reasonswhy recycling is something we all need to actively do in order to improve our planet’s health, both now and for future generations. Many corporations, such as PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard Company and Motorola Inc., and Philipshave recycling goals they have set forth themselves to achieve. State initiatives are driving residents to begin and continue recycling. For example, Pennsylvania is the largest state in the union to make recycling a requirement; Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection deserves a gold star for this. Through community education, state encouragement, and individual motivation, recycling programs have continued to grow and do not show any signs of diminishing.