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As we enter into this New Year many of us take the time to pause and make a resolution to change a behavior – to better ourselves or the lives of others. I think this is a good time to accomplish both tasks by taking inventory on how we live our lives. We are consumers – we buy, we like convenience, and we are people on the go. As a result of the way we live, on average, each person in the United States produces 4.6 pounds of trash each day – every day. With some simple math, we create 491,400,000,000 pounds of trash each year – nearly a half a trillion pounds.
We are a bit better off than 30 years ago when we only recycled 10 percent of our trash. Last year we recycled about one-third of all our trash – so only a third of a trillion pounds were sent to dumps and landfills. When we first settled this country, explorers were amazed by our mountain ranges and vast prairies. If we maintain our consumption rates and fail to dramatically increase our recycling, our children’s children may know a United States that only has mountain ranges – man made landfills as a tribute to our legacy while we walked this earth.
Do we think before we buy that case of plastic water bottles? Do we take a few minutes out of the day to recycle all that we can? Do we actively search out products that are made from recycled materials? Can we look at our children and say we are doing all we can to make our world a better place?
I met a farmer many years ago, before organics were all the rage and “green” was just a color, not a movement, and he said something that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years. He said “all I want to do is be a good steward of the land and leave it in a better place than when I started”. Better than when we started – perhaps a bit idyllic, but certainly something we can all strive to do.
The amount of trash we recycled last year saved us the energy equivalent of 10 billion gallons of gasoline.
Recycling a stack of newspapers three feet high saves one tree.The largest landfill in the US is taller than the Eiffel Tower (1,063 feet) and continues to grow each year.
Recycling a single can saves enough energy to power a television for 3 hours.A plastic bag takes more than 400 years to decompose – a glass bottle – perhaps never!
As the enthusiasm of those resolutions begins to wane as the year marches on, I ask that you go to your place – the place on this Earth that brings you comfort, relaxation or memories of joy. What if in a few years “your place” was truly only a memory as our excess forced our hand and “your place” became a landfill? While this may not happen this year or next, we are on the path where necessity will soon replace beauty on our planet.
I ask that you make a resolution not just for today or this year, but for a lifetime. What can you do to be more like that farmer I met two decades ago? What can you do to leave this Earth a better place? You deserve to experience all the beauty this world has to offer and future generations deserve to have the same experiences we did.
If you have a story about how you made an positive impact on our world please send it along to firstname.lastname@example.org as your inspiration may inspire others to change.