Every year, we throw billions of tons of waste material in the form of food, drink cans, glass bottles, and plastic and metal waste. More than 30% of that waste comes from packaging materials alone! And where does all this waste go? Almost 90% of this waste resides in some dump or landfill, where it takes almost 100 years for material like clothes to decompose naturally. Material like glass doesn’t easily break down, and can be found in perfect form even after a couple centuries.
As a generation, we are running out of time and space to save our environment. Environmentalists have long preached about the 3R’s of the environment – reduce, recycle, and reuse, but it may be time we take the message seriously and act fast.
The first and probably most effective component of environmental conservation is to reduce on the waste we create. As consumers, we are constantly encouraged to reduce the waste in packaging materials by buying in bulk, which uses less packaging. Also part of this campaign is to use reusable materials instead of having to buy new every time we run out. Rechargeable batteries are a good example and you can use them for a long time (up to a year!) before going to the store and buying a new pack.
There are no environmental police, so it’s up to you and me to enforce the message ourselves. If your current appliance uses more energy than necessary, you can save resources by switching to an energy-efficient model. And it’s probably better for your own health if you reduce the harmful effects of products that leak toxins if you replace them (think PVC baby toys).
The onus to reduce waste is on businesses as well. They can adopt methods and ways to manufacture using fewer resources, thus generating less waste. In addition to this benefit, the products manufactured because of waste reduction efforts are more likely to lower the production costs, which translate to cheaper prices for consumers.
Before you dispose of anything, take a minute and consider whether it still has use. A can of jam can still have a few licks left to it. An old shirt can be your sleeping gear. Someone else can read an old magazine. DVDs can be traded in for newer flicks. An opened envelope makes a nice rough paper for your shopping or to-do list. Your old car can be resold. Your old computer will probably work with a few upgrades.
Reusing keeps old resources from being disposed of before their time, and keeps new resources from being engaged for a little while longer. While it might not be glamorous, some of the things you can reuse, it is saving the environment now and in future.
Reusing doesn’t have to be a concept left to businesses and manufacturers alone. Like the examples we’ve given above, virtually everything in the home can be used longer than it was made out for. You just have to be creative and find an extended use for that old toy, piece of furniture, food scraps, and coffee can.
When you eventually run out of ways to extend the life of your disposal items, it might be time to discard them. However, you can ensure that such items end up in a position to be recycled. Such material includes newspapers, glass, cardboard, and aluminum, among other materials.
Many of the products we make use of everyday can be recycled: paper bags, milk cartons, and soda cartons can all be easily recycled. Laws also help speed up recycling efforts, like in the US where the law stipulates lead-acid batteries must be recycled. In that particular country, almost 90% of the lead used is because of the recycling mandate.
Towns often leave recycling bins in convenient places to allow residents to put their recyclable garbage that is then collected on a regular basis. Other towns have recycling centers where people take their waste material. You can even take your paper bags back to the grocery store, where they’ll be picked up for recycling!
So, even though it might take a little of your time, try to find out what recycling rules exist where you live and follow them. Sometimes they might not obvious sense, but they’ll do a lot of good for the environment you live in. Just by following the 3R’s you are doing your part in conserving the environment for future generations.
Other ways to conserve the environment
Apart from reducing, reusing and recycling, there’s a host of other ways you can implement to save the environment around you. Most of these methods are easy to implement, and you’ll be setting an example to younger generations who’ll be more likely to follow your footsteps.
First, think about ways to reduce energy consumption in your home. Energy efficient light bulbs save on the electricity bill, and reduce the amount of carbon emitted. Other appliances also have energy efficient alternatives, and this can be as simple as looking at the labels that come with most products. Even the automotive industry is heeding to environmental conservation, and several energy efficient car models exist.
Monitor the use of water in your home. Many times water is wasted when left running for prolonged periods. Ensure everyone in the home knows when they finish using water; they should wind the taps tight. The same goes for leaving electrical appliances on when not in use.
Waste that can’t be recycled ultimately has to be disposed, but cities are coming up with innovative ways to use disposed waste to aid energy and raw materials production. Even though some of these methods cause pollution, it is a step in the right direction. Let’s help these efforts further by making sure we do our part.