Happy day-after Earth Day!
Continuing the series I started here yesterday – today’s topic is Extend the use of the items you use and buy.
The Three R’s
Much of this involves the ‘three R’s’ which we are all familiar with: Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. The EPA’s web site Consumer’s Handbook for Reducing Solid Waste has a lot of ideas that may be helpful. These include:
- Buying only what you need
- Buying less things that are disposable
- Repair broken items if you can
- Donate things you might otherwise throw away to charity
- Recycle things that can be, if you can where you live
- Compost food waste if you can
Another idea is to join Freecycle – it is a web site and ‘nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns’. Its a great way to find uses for items you don’t need anymore also.
Water conservation is also important, the Earthday.gov web site has a list of great ideas.
I’ll add one more to the list – if you can do it – replace your lawn with a native North American grass like Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides). We’ve been slowly replacing ours. Buffalo Grass needs very little water – only several inches of water per month during hot weather. There are different varieties that have been developed for different regions. For our region we use a variety called Legacy – it grows easily in a wide range of soil types but actually prefers heavy clay. And it needs minimal mowing, if any, as it doesn’t grow very high. If you are interested in learning more about Buffalo Grass I will periodically write more about it on my Butterfly Gardening blog also. (I don’t have any business affiliation with High Country Gardens, its just the place we bought our plugs from.)
Recycling and E-waste
Another thing you can do is to try to encourage more recycling in the U.S. Apparently much more is recycled in the European Union than in the U. S. According to an article in National Geographic (NG) the European countries Denmark, Sweden and Belgium recycle nearly 100% of their materials, while in the U.S. its a much, much, lower percent that gets recycled.
When it comes to e-waste (computers, T.V.’s, cell phones, etc.) we are doing even worse. According to NG: High-Tech Trash the U.S. doesn’t ‘require green design or take-back programs of manufacturers’. A large percent of our e-waste sent to domestic recyclers actually gets sent to other countries – China, other parts of Asia and West Africa – especially Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast. There the recyclable scraps are salvaged by unsafe methods further contributing to the local contamination of the soil, water and air with toxic substances like dioxin, lead, flame retardants, etc.
Unlike in Europe, there are only a few recycling places in the U. S. that process e-waste, and the metals within it, properly and responsibly. The article highlighted one of these companies: Creative Recycling Systems, located in Florida. Their ‘system can handle 150 million pounds of end-of-life electronic equipment a year’. A few more recycling companies like this and all the the U.S. e-waste could be processed safely.
Who Should Cast the First Stone?
While we complain when China sends us jewelry with high levels of lead – it is very possible that that lead came from the discarded e-waste we dumped in China.
Michael L. Clement and Jeffrey Weidenhamer published a paper in the journal Chemosphere showing that this might be the case: “Leaded Electronic Waste is a Possible Source Material for Lead-Contaminated Jewelry” Chemosphere (2007) doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere .2007.04.023. See Chemosphere Article also at: http://personal.ashland.edu/~jweiden/
What am doing?
So – do I recycle? We have been, but only in limited amounts. We haven’t had the time to make frequent trips to a recycling place and not enough room to store very much. However – I’m quite happy to say that today – the day after Earth Day – we finally got our recycling cart delivered to our house! Our unincorporated St. Louis County home didn’t have any pickup service here but it was recently started. For some reason we were originally skipped in the distribution of carts – but now we have one – so now we can recycle everything that can be recycled!
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