According to the Clean Air Council, in 2008, the average American created 4.5 pounds of waste each day. Of that waste, 66.8 percent was sent straight to a landfill or incinerated. Though more people are stepping up and responsibly disposing of their waste in an environmentally conscious manner, most people don't give any thought to the bags of garbage they place on the street curb every week.
We all have a small part to play in protecting the planet to ensure it remains a healthy and safe place to live for generations into the future. Becoming more environmentally aware doesn't require you to install solar panels or replace all the appliances in your house. Even the smallest actions can make a big-and positive-environmental difference. If you'd like to embrace the Earth and go green, here are several small changes you can make in your daily lifestyle:
Use a refillable coffee mug. You don't have to give up your daily java fix, but if you use a mug that can be refilled, you'll help keep an average of 500 disposable cups out of the landfill every year. A handful of cities and states, particularly on the West Coast, have banned Styrofoam food ware, which has already encouraged many people to use their own reusable mugs. As an added bonus, many coffee shops give a discount to those who use their own cups.
Print on both sides of paper. It is estimated that the average office worker in the United States uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That's four million tons of copy paper used annually! Help reduce this waste by keeping a stack of used paper next to your printer, and use the backs of these sheets of paper when you need to print something inconsequential. Create this scrap stack from letters and documents you receive in the mail, things you've printed in error and other sheets of paper you would otherwise discard.
Avoid plastic bottles. In 2006, somewhere between 827,000 to 1.3 million tons of plastic water bottles were produced in the United States. Making these bottles required the equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil, and 76.5 percent of these bottles ended up in the landfill. Once they've landed in the landfill, it takes thousands of years for plastic bottles to decompose. Instead of drinking from plastic bottles, simply fill a reusable bottle from the tap. If you drink bottled water because you don't care for the flavor of your tap water, invest in a water filter and fill a hard-sided bottle or thermos with water instead. When you travel, don't just assume that the water in your local destination is not potable. Do your research before leaving and ask once you arrive regarding the drinkability of the water, and, if possible, use tap water and your own bottle instead of a plastic bottle.
Reuse shopping bags. During 2009's International Coastal Cleanup, the Ocean Conservancy found that plastic bags were the second most common kind of waste. Every year, Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags, which creates a whopping 300,000 tons of landfill waste. And, like plastic bottles, they don't biodegrade. Instead, light breaks them down into smaller and smaller particles, which contaminate the soil and water. Investing in a dozen durable canvas bags saves money and energy, and it's much better for the environment. Keep these bags in your car, and carry them with you every time you pop into a store to shop.
Properly dispose of electronics. Dealing with broken or out-of-date electronics is a huge problem in the United States. These pieces of equipment are bulky and difficult to discard, but they should not be thrown haphazardly in the landfill. Instead of throwing your old cell phones, computers or televisions away with the rest of your garbage, contact your waste management facility for instructions on how to properly discard of these things in your town. In addition, most electronics stores have facilities for recycling batteries, cell phones and other small electronics.