What’s up Defenders? Like me, you probably love animals and want them to have healthy habitats on this planet for future generations. Well, it’s time to get serious about waste management. There are almost 8 billion people on this planet! Every day, Americans average 4.5 pounds of trash per person. With over 320 million people on the planet, that means we make more than 525,600,000,000 pounds of trash every year!!! This is trash that ends up in our oceans and gets into our food chain. World leaders around the globe agree that steps must be taken to reduce our negative impact on the environment and climate change. The EPA has outlined the Three R’s of reducing waste – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle! Here are some ways you can start helping today.
One of the simplest things you can do to make an immediate impact is simply reduce your waste by being smarter with what you buy and use. Often in America, we take for granted the amount of great stuff available to us. When we go through a drive-through restaurant, we may order a combo, but only eat a couple fries and throw the rest away. Like many other foods, french fries begin as a basic agricultural crop – the potato. Instead of ordering the combo, just order the burger and the drink. That doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up quickly.
Remember that 525 trillion pounds of trash? Well, if each of us cuts out a half pound of food waste a day, like not ordering the fries if you aren’t going to eat them, that can save over 58 trillion pounds of trash each year! We have a long way to go to make our planet healthy again, but we can get there, and we can do it with little steps.
When I was in school, I brought a lunch in a brown paper bag every day except friday, when my school cafeteria actually served good meals. On those Fridays, I would use the styrofoam plate and the plastic fork and knives given to me by the cafeteria. Instead of throwing away my plastic utensils every friday, my mom started packing my bag with a fork and knife from home, that I would take home and wash after school. With only 38 weeks of school, that’s only a saving of 38 forks and knives. But if all 2,000 kids in my school did that for the year, that would save 76,000 plastic forks and knives! That’s just one school and one day a week. Imagine if we could do this every day at every school.
Many of the stuff we throw away is still good stuff. People throw away old shoes, clothes, hats, car parts, electronics, and all kinds of valuable items. I imagine many of you are already aware that you can donate used clothing items to thrift stores, but many also take in used electronics. Some of the biggest contributors to our trash problem are single use plastics. That includes plastic silverware, coffee and tea canisters, plastic sandwich bags, straws, plates, cups, and packaging.
Like when I was in school, taking silverware from home every friday, there are many reusable items we should be using. Dry your hands on a towel instead of a paper towel. Pack your sandwiches in washable containers instead of plastic bags. Carry a reusable straw instead of using plastic straws. Going on a hike? Bring a washable water bottle instead of buying bottles of water. If you do buy a bottle of water, don’t just throw it away – fill it up for the next time you’re thirsty! And donate everything you can instead of throwing it away. As Americans, we throw away over 1/4 pound of single use items every day. Just by not using and throwing away those items, we could reduce our trash output by over 29 trillion pounds!
Recycling is one of the easiest, but also one of the least understood way to reduce our trash output. Most of us know that we can recycle soda cans. But did you know you can also recycle most plastics? Grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s now have special bins outside to collect specific types of recyclables. Most paper, plastic, and metal products are recyclable. But did you know that if you’re throwing away too much non recyclable trash like food, animal waste, and other products, the recyclers may have to throw out the entire truck’s worth of recyclable items. What a waste! So make sure that you check your item for the recyclable symbol on the package. If it doesn’t have one, try and donate or reuse it. If it does, make sure it ends up in the correct bin. I think most of us have seen videos of turtles stuck in plastic or with straws lodged in their noses. Let’s do what we can to save the planet and the animals that live on it.
You Can Do It!
The point is, a little bit goes a long way. Try and take a moment every time you buy something, or your parents are shopping for you, and ask if you’re going to use that item, or throw it away. If there’s a chance you’ll throw it away, don’t buy it. Any time you’re about to throw something away, stop and think if you can donate that item or use it again in any way. Last but not least, if your item is recyclable, don’t throw it in the trash, recycle it! You’ll find that you can really get by with a lot less than you’re used to if you just stop and be smart about what you’re purchasing. If you already do this but still want to do more, there are other ways you can support conservation efforts. If you do all this, you’ll not only be helping the planet and saving animals, you’ll be saving money too. We have a lot of work to do, but we’re all in this together. And if we work together, there’s nothing too big to accomplish.
If you want even more tips on The Three R’s of waste reducing waste, take a listen to episode 1 of The Squadcast as our hosts go even deeper on the subject. See you next time, Defenders!