What do you get when you combine 250 million tons of trash and 85 million tons of recycled and composted material? You get the waste habits of Americans in 2010, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The data shows on average, we recycle and compost 34.1 percent of waste we individually generate.
And the amount of trash we create is rapidly increasing, (in 2009, Americans generated 243 million tons), but the amount we recycle isn’t keeping up (in 2009, Americans recycled or composted 82 million tons, equivalent to a 33.8 percent recycling rate).
If you have a personal goal to increase your recycling percentage and lower your carbon footprint, here are some ways to get started:
Car pollution is a problem you can help reduce, but when considering converting to the green side, don’t assume driving electric is the best way to go. In most areas of the U.S. fuel-efficient hybrids are better for the environment than all-electric vehicles. The reason is because most states generate electricity from coal and natural gas (used to power EVs), which produces more emissions than states that rely mainly on hydropower and renewables (used to power hybrids), according to a report published on Climatecontrol.com.
However, because of how electricity is generated in Arizona, in Tucson, a Chevy Volt produces less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions an average gas-powered car does, but slightly more than the all-electric Nissan Leaf does. While driving any green technology is better than driving none at all, consider where you live before choosing hybrid or electric.
Reducing & Recycling
The most effective ways to conserve natural resources, protect the environment and save money are to reduce and reuse. There are simple ways to save energy and reduce water waste throughout the home. Like installing low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators, for example, can reduce how much water you use without you even noticing. For less than $5, a family of four can replace a standard 4.5-gallon-per-minute shower head with a 2.5-gallon-per-minute head and save approximately 20,000 gallons of water per year, the EPA reported.
Save energy by using Energy Star appliances, energy-efficient light bulbs or switching from a dirty energy supplier to one that uses green or renewable energy sources such as solar or wind. Instead of throwing out wash water from kitchen sinks or washing machines, use it to water gardens or maintain landscaping. From recycling electronics to using fans instead of air conditioning units to keep you cool, there are plenty of ways to reduce your carbon footprint while living comfortably.
Nutrient-rich soil is an ideal place for your organic garden to grow. To harvest fertile ground, adopt a DIY composting system. Composting speeds up the natural process of decomposition. Because of that, kitchen scraps and yard waste can actually be used instead of thrown out. After being broken down by bacteria, fungi and other organisms, coffee grounds, fruit and vegetables, eggshells and other matter enriches the soil. NationalGeogrpahic.com gives six easy steps gardeners can take to start and maintain a composting pile, including how to choose a site for the pile or bin, what can and can’t be composted and how often to turn the pile.