Recycling and Composting: Significant Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.
November 16, 2010, D. Mancini
“Carbon footprint?” a pedestrian asks while on a routine walk to work. The person was curious about a common phrase now well-known in most circles depending on location but too often thought about and discussed rather than acted upon. It basically means how much of an effect someone or somewhere has on the environment, based on a plethora of careful research and information. It is called “carbon” because of the amount of carbon dioxide contributed to the greenhouse gases in the environment, which has increased significantly over the last century due to both natural changes and heavily by human activity. These greenhouse gases are bad and contribute to a decrease in health, biodiversity, and air quality. Individuals can track the size of their carbon footprint is according to where and more importantly how they live. Countries can be assessed to calculate a nation’s carbon footprint, and there are very significant differences as to be expected. Some have an acceptable size footprint, and others more like that of Shaquille O’Neal.
Take a look at some information regarding carbon footprints:
- Nations with the highest carbon dioxide emissions (metric tons of carbon dioxide per capita):
o Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, United States, Australia, and Canada to name a few. Notable mentions: Germany, United Kingdom, China, Russia.
- People earning over $75,000 consume twice as much energy used in households compared with people earning under $10,000. This does not take into account transportation energy use, but it is probable that wealthier individuals are more likely to own vehicles.
Facts and figures aside, the important thing about this carbon footprint discussion is that individuals reading this can do something positive for the world by evaluating their behavior and doing things to reduce their carbon footprint: Recycling and composting particularly make for a good start.
People living in areas with good recycling systems know the basics: Reuse things when possible, throw away metal, paper, plastic, glass, and compostable/biodegradable items separately both at home, at work, and at public institutions.
Different cities and countries use different methods. In places like San Francisco, recycling is quite common among citizens and there is a good system in place. It is often you will find the different necessary bins and folks are pretty aware. In fact, San Francisco is ranked #2 on the list of America’s Greenest Cities. Cities like Berlin, Germany have an even better system in place, with recycling being commonplace among all citizens, with the norm of having four separate bins in homes, businesses, streets and public places. Another city known for its green reputation is Freiburg, located in the south of Germany in Baden-Württemberg, which serves as a model green city for Germany, Europe, and the world. Additional green cities include Copenhagen, Oslo, Portland, Stockholm, Vienna, and Amsterdam, all with various systems.
Of course it is not totally realistic to move to one of these cities in order to contribute to recycling, but by taking the initiative to recycle at home, making sure it gets to the right place, and composting, you can do a lot for your community.
Types of composting include:
- Using your yard and a mix of leaves/straw, and green clippings/food scraps.
- Worm composting for those with a tiny yard or in an apartment with an abundance of food scraps.
It is actually very important to consider composting because yard and food waste account for 30% of the world’s waste stream. It also adds to the value of your property by enhancing soil properties.
Rsearch how your city recycles and get involved. For example, in San Francisco there are three main bins for recycling: Blue (paper, glass, aluminum, plastic), Green (paper, food, plants), and Black (landfill items). The city aims to send nothing to landfills or incinerators by 2020.
Invest in a compost bin and rain barrel. This will save energy, money, and boost the value of your home.
When you go to the grocery store, bring bags – this will save you time, hassle, and money as well as benefit the environment. In sustainable and efficient cities, grocery stores do not even offer bags without a fee and it is common to bring a few sizable and sturdy bags from home to shop.
Redesigning your kitchen to be recycle-friendly can be a lot of fun. Opt out of junk mail at opt-out.cdt.org.
Taking these small easy steps can make a big difference, and promotes healthy family and business practices, reduces carbon footprint, and preserves life for future generations. Promoting these practices by getting other people involved improves community, reduces our carbon footprint, and is also a great way to interact with people.