You’re a sustainability champion & you don’t even know it.
You may occasionally grumble about having to separate your trash into waste vs. recyclable items to ensure that they get to the curb on the right day, in the correct receptacle. Some of us don’t even have the luxury of curbside recycling and may grumble a little louder. So the approach of America Recycles Day (Monday, November 15) seems like a good time to think about why we do this. Here are six quick reasons recycling makes you a sustainability champion:
Recycling saves energy
Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Recycling reduces air and water pollution
Recycling saves natural resources
Recycling creates jobs
Recycling saves space in landfills
Here’s a more specific example of the impact you can have just by recycling, say, your Sunday newspaper (if you’re still reading the print version): If every American recycled their newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. Production of recycled paper uses 80% less water and 65% less energy, and produces 95% less air pollution than virgin paper production. Yes, even the little things add up -- recycling even one aluminum can will save enough energy to power a television for three hours!
That’s a pretty powerful impact for very little effort on our part, and a great reason to celebrate recycling. And with plenty of positive impacts like these, it’s easy to get excited about it.
America Recycles Day is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to recycling awareness. EarthShare member charity Keep America Beautiful is now in its second year as the national steward of America Recycles Day, and they have a website to help you plug into nationwide events. Disney Stores across the country are taking your old t-shirts to be recycled and turned into paper, and they’ll give you a special discount in return. Some communities are holding video game and used book swaps. Schools nationwide are engaging kids with ‘Waste Free Lunch Day’ challenges and hands-on activities to create awareness about recycling in the community. You can also plan and list your own event!
Visit America Recycles Day online to search their database for an event near you, download their Toolkit, or to register your own organization or group event. While you’re at it, here are a couple more ways you can help sustain our natural resources by recycling:
Audubon’s Army in the Gulf.
In the months since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, more than 34,000 of you have signed up to volunteer with EarthShare member charity, National Audubon Society. This “volunteer army” includes workers of all ages and backgrounds, all united with one common purpose: to protect the Gulf wildlife exposed to one of the largest oil spills ever recorded.
Sean Saville, director of Audubon’s volunteer response, noted in the most recent issue of Audubon Magazine, “About 90 percent [of volunteers] who registered were not members of Audubon.” According to Tom Bancroft, Audubon’s chief scientist, these volunteers will be bringing in a year’s worth of crucial data on the Gulf Coast region. And without volunteers like you, Audubon would not have had the reach or manpower to bring in data from so many locations.
It’s still too early to know what the full impact of the oil spill will be on bird populations in the Gulf. So far about 2,300 dead, oiled birds have been found, and estimates for actual numbers range from 7,000 to 23,000 birds killed as a result of the spill. Luckily, volunteers like first grade school teacher, Sheri Lo Proto, are in it for the “long haul,” busily counting birds and patrolling shorelines. “Just because you don’t see something or it’s not headline news,” Lo Proto tells Audubon, “doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
Find out why you may want to help migrant bird populations passing through your area on their way to the Gulf, then check out National Audubon’s guide to building a bird-friendly backyard. You can also help Audubon scientists gather data by entering your birding observations into the eBird database.