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How Can We Keep Plastics Out of Our Oceans?

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Plastic pollution poses one of the biggest known threats to the ocean, influencing all ecosystems from beautiful coral reefs to abyssal trenches, eventually accumulating in our own food.

This video from National Geographic explores ways we can upend the current system of produce-use-discard, and transition to a system which promotes reuse and repurposing of plastics.

New-Age Building Materials that Negate Age-old Energy Waste

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New-Age Building Materials

No matter how careful we are with turning off electrical devices in an attempt to save energy, we tend to waste some of it every single day. There is no perfect system for insulation that will keep every last particle of heated air in the home. Electronic devices are so intertwined with the modern life that it is impossible to remember to turn off every last one. Despite these energy wasting challenges, there are alternatives that can reduce the amount of energy that is lost. Newly developed materials and methods are able to counteract decades of energy waste and strive to be a more efficient option.

Lets explore a few of these option below.

 

LED Lighting

LED lighting used to be ridiculously expensive and therefore impossible for the average homeowner to utilize. However, those costs have dropped drastically and as a result;

  • These new, heat-less methods of lighting are being used.
  • Instead of replacing all of the old, energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs, these can be installed underneath overhanging cabinets in the kitchen and as recessed can lights because it does not produce heat and would therefore not cause a fire.

 

These lights are much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs and will greatly reduce a home’s energy footprint.

 

Increased Use of Fiberglass

Fiberglass is one of the most energy efficient materials available in the market today because of its superior insulation qualities.

  • It is able to stop heat from leaving a building, therefore reducing the amount of energy that needs to be spent to keep the house at a comfortable temperature.
  • It is increasingly common to see fiberglass doors, rather than wooden doors, because fiberglass doors are up to five times as energy efficient as the alternative materials.
  • Fiberglass window frames are also available to bring down the amount of energy that may otherwise gets wasted.

 

Building with Insulated Concrete Forms

Another excellent material that is being used to reduce the amount of energy waste is concrete.

  • Although concrete in itself has a very average r-value, a new trend is growing that has a layer of concrete in a wall, which provides the necessary structural support for a building, sandwiched between two layers of material that has a much higher insulation value, such as fiberglass.
  • This allows the structural integrity of the building to be maintained, as well as it’s comfort level. Buildings that have been created out of insulated concrete forms reduce a building’s energy costs by up to 20%.

 

Cool Roofing

Another excellent way that new materials can be used to counteract energy waste is to improve the materials that are used for roofing.

  • Because dark colors tend to absorb the rays of the sun, they tend to cause a building to absorb a lot more heat.
  • In order to save on the costs of cooling a building, light-colored, “cool” roofing materials must be used.
  • These materials have the ability to reflect the heat back and keep the building’s temperature from rising.
  • If you still prefer darker roofs, buy the ones that have been treated with a special substance also allows heat reflection.
white roof
via Walmart

Although these type of roofs cost more, the additional cost of materials can be quickly recouped by the energy saving that it will provide.

 

Low Emissivity Windows

Low-E windows, or low emissivity windows, are windows that are specially treated with a metallic oxide to resist losing heat during winters and gaining heat during the summer.

  • This type of window coating is usually applied to the outermost storm window, or windows that do not have a double layer of panes.
  • Usually several layers of the coating are done. Soft coatings are applied between the layers of glass and the hard coatings are located on the glass that is the outermost layer.

These windows tend to be between 10% and 15% more expensive than traditional windows, but have the ability to cut the amount of heat that goes through the windows by half and reduce the amount of energy needed to keep the temperature inside a building comfortable.

 

Stone Siding

  • Stone siding has very high insulation properties that will ensure that heat does not easily leave the building.
  • It also keeps the building to which it is applied looking exceedingly attractive and elegant, raising the overall worth of the building tenfold.
  • Stone siding is very easy to install, so labor costs will be low, and will last for a long time, providing insulation for years to come.

By using these new age materials, you can take a step forward in making your home more energy efficient and bringing down wastage to a minimum.

20 Superfoods to Boost Health and Immunity – Infographic

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antioxidant rich superfoods

These days, getting healthier seems almost impossible! Expensive protein powders, fancy meal plans, and over the top gym memberships that all add up quickly. When you look at the hefty price tag it’s easy to think, “Well, maybe next year. . .”

However, the best way to change how you feel starts right at your grocery store or your local farmers market – and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it.

Healthy lifestyles start with the foods you eat. If you’re constantly ingesting bad-for-you foods, no gym membership in the world is going to make you feel better.

But, if you give your body the nutrients it needs and deserves, it will reciprocate the love. More energy, less weight gain, and better brain performance are just a few of the ways you’ll start to feel healthier, fast.

 

What is a Superfood?

superfoods

A super food is generally a food that is especially dense in nutrients.

While most of these foods tend to be plant-based, some fish and dairy fit the criteria. According to the American Heart Association, there is no set criteria for super foods. However, most seem to exhibit certain characteristics that make them especially good for you.

These include:

  • High in antioxidants
  • Have plenty of healthy fats to boost heart health
  • Rich in fiber to prevent digestive problems

From our past article, What Makes a Food a Superfood, we said:

For example, some small foods are packed with so many vitamins or antioxidants that they are as rich in nutrients as a whole plate of others.
Hence the name; superfoods deliver on key nutrients in a way that puts them far ahead of other, less nutrient-rich foods.

To ensure you’re including as many superfoods as possible in your diet, check out the infographic below by Skintrium, and next time you’re grocery shopping, pick up a few of these superheroes. Getting healthy never tasted so good.

superfoods infographic

 

Blueberries, quinoa, salmon, steel cut oats, coconut oil, greek yogurt are some of the superfoods to boost health and immunity. All of the options can lead to a delicious and super-healthy meal – so which of these superfoods will you be sure to include in your next meal?

For inspiration on including these superfoods in super-delicious meals, be sure to check out Greener Ideal’s Recipes.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

10 Tips to Reduce the Carbon Footprint in your Pantry

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pantry

Go open your pantry and see how green it really is. You may be surprised to find how environmentally unfriendly it is because food, and the agriculture industry in general accounts for almost 10% of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. alone. So how do you reduce the carbon footprint in your pantry?

What you eat matters a lot in reducing carbon footprint. Some studies suggest that a vegetarian diet may contribute less towards emissions compared to a largely animal-based diet.

But, it’s not always the case. Not all plant-based foods minimize your carbon footprint. For instance, transporting fruits and vegetables through planes may create more carbon emissions compared to a kilogram of chicken meat. As you look into reducing the carbon footprint in your pantry, consider where your food comes from.

Not to worry though — just follow these 10 tips and your pantry will be greener and more environmentally aware than what it is now.

And once you’ve made it more greener and environmentally-conscious, well then, there is no turning back. You’ll find even more ways to cut back on your emissions footprint. Soon you’ll be inviting your friends and family in just to take a look at your pantry.

Reduce the Carbon Footprint in your Pantry

1. Weekly Shopping

Reduce carbon footprint in your pantry - grocery shopping

Don’t take grocery shopping for granted. The biggest waste of money and time is taking off to the grocery store on a whim.

Before you head out to the organic market or store, make a list and stock up on the things you use most often.

Shopping with a pre-determined list stops you from making a run to the store for just one more ingredient.

The back and forth to the market is neither efficient nor ecologically responsible.

 

2. Take Your Reusable Bags

Be sure to take a reusable carry bag to carry your groceries home. Plastic bags take years to decompose, and it’s not just that. According to expert estimates, sea life consumes more than 24,000 tons of microscopic plastic every year, with a UC Davis study finding whole and micro plastics in fish sold at most California markets.

Plastic bags are also harder to recycle. The EPA estimates that only about 9% of plastic material was recycled in 2015 compared to the more than 102.1 billion plastic bags used annual in the United States.

For a quick run to the grocery store, buying and adding extra plastic bags is just not worth the trouble. It won’t help you reduce carbon footprint in the pantry.

 

3. Look for Reduced Packaging

When filling your pantry, look for ingredients that have less packaging.

Look for products in recycled packages or those that are compost-able.

Buy spices in bulk and keep a little in the pantry and freeze the rest. Pour ingredients in recycled sterilized jars and containers.

 

4. Keep Stuff From Spoiling

One of the greenest things you can do is prevent waste before it exists. Use clear jars to store things. Date your perishables so you know when you need to use them by, and you can properly store them.

Other tips to reduce food wastage at home and reduce carbon footprint in your pantry include:

  • Store your leftover broth and stock as ice-cubes and only melt a few cubes when cooking.
  • Come up with different uses for ingredients so you don’t waste any.
  • Turn your leftovers into fresh dishes or have a special meal day just for leftovers. Get creative in the kitchen.
  • Use creative swaps in your recipes. For instance, you can use kale instead of spinach if you already have it in the fridge.

 

5. Go Vegan

go vegan - Reduce carbon footprint in your pantry

Most Canadians and Americans eat double their recommended intake for poultry, meat and fish.

Store legumes like beans, lentils and fava beans in your pantry, and choose these proteins over meats for two or three days a week.

Just think, the land used to grow beans and vegetables yields 10 times more protein over the land used to raise cattle. Going vegan, as one reader mentions is, by far, one of the most effective ways to slash your carbon footprint.

 

6. Buy Local

Buy items that are produced locally whenever possible. Many spices and staples com from other locations and purchasing these items can increase your carbon footprint. So you want to keep your basics from homes, local farms or farmers markets.

When you have a sunny windowsill,  grow your own herbs there.

 

7. Use Your Compost

Compost organic items like onions, garlic, lemons, old flour and grains. You can also compost stale spices and dried herbs. If you don’t have a garden, use a worm composter.

 

8. Use Green Cleaning Materials

Do your skin, your lungs and your wallet a favor by eliminating the commercial cleaners from your pantry. Instead use simple cleaning products like vinegar, lemon, bicarbonate soda, teatree oils and eucalyptus oils. This can significantly reduce carbon footprint in your pantry.

 

9. Eliminate Processed Foods

Look through your cupboards and eliminate those processed sugars, flowers and above all, get rid of that instant stuff.

 

10. Read Labels

read food labels

If you haven’t practiced reading the labels of the foods you eat, now is a good time to start. Look at all of those canned goods and remove the stuff that has processed ingredients, sugar, salts and chemicals. You’ll probably find that this amounts to most of your canned goods.

But just remember, this is a one time deal. If possible, use it for your compost or recycle it in some way to reduce carbon footprint in your pantry.

{This article has been updated for freshness and consistency.}

Creamy Vegan Cucumber Potato Salad Recipe

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Creamy Vegan Cucumber Potato Salad
Creamy Vegan Cucumber Potato Salad
Yield: 2 servings

Creamy Vegan Cucumber Potato Salad

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

This creamy vegan cucumber potato salad is both refreshing and hearty at the same time.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 block silken tofu
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 cup baby potatoes, roasted, cooled and halved
  • 1 long English cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Blend the tofu, garlic, salt, lemon, olive oil and rosemary together until smooth and fluffy.
  2. Place the baby potatoes, cucumber and onion in a large bowl. Toss until evenly combined. Spoon on the tofu mixture and gently combine into the salad, careful not to separate the cooked potatoes. Chill until ready to serve.

Notes

To make it a whole meal full of vegetables, protein and carbohydrates, add a grain, such as cooked bulgur or barley.

A vegan mayonnaise alternative can also be used in lieu of the tofu for added flavor.

Nutrition Information

Yield

2

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 317Total Fat 18gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 93mgCarbohydrates 31gFiber 3gSugar 8gProtein 12g

Did you make this recipe?

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Exercising the Eco-Friendly Way: 5 Tips for Success

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Exercising the Eco-Friendly Way

Many people are finding small ways to make their daily life a little “greener.” You may be surprised to learn that altering your workout routine can make a big difference when it comes to the health of the environment.

Losing weight and staying in shape isn’t easy, and as a result, a number of fitness enthusiasts simply don’t consider how many resources they are wasting in their quest to live a healthier life. The following tips will help you turn your exercise routine green.

 

1. Avoid the Gym

Gyms use a lot of electricity. As an alternative, look for outdoor fitness programs that interest you. There are a number of boot camps popping up across the country that provide fun, fellowship and intense workouts.

If you aren’t interested in a structured class or program, simply brainstorm outdoor activities that will help you stay active. Take a walk after dinner each evening, or start biking with a friend. Get creative, have fun and get in shape!

 

2. Recycle Your Shoes

Working out frequently does a number on even the best pair of sneakers. If you stick with an exercise routine over time, you are likely to go through several pairs of shoes. When you notice your current pair wearing down, consider donating them to one of several worthwhile organizations.

For example, Nike has a program that takes old shoes and converts them into playground surfaces, tracks and even outdoor basketball courts.

 

3. Buy a Reusable Water Bottle

Grabbing a plastic water bottle before your workout is convenient, but almost 75 percent of these bottles wind up in landfills rather than a recycling center.

Instead, purchase a reusable water bottle and fill it up in the morning so that it is ready to go when you are. You’ll help the environment and save money at the same time.

 

4. Work Out at Home

Not sure what to do if the weather isn’t cooperating? Consider working out in the comfort of your own home. You can exercise at any time of the day, whenever you can fit in a little extra activity.

For help and motivation, use the myriad fitness videos online on sites such as YouTube, Vimeo etc, or even on fitness apps. You’ll be helping the Earth and staying healthy.

Changing your workout routine may not be the most obvious way to live a greener life, but it ultimately benefits both you and the environment. To have the most impact, implement other eco-friendly lifestyle changes as well; for example, purchase reusable shopping bags for the grocery store or hire a pest control company that offers green treatment methods. It doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

Top 10 Evergreen Shrubs [Infographic]

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Providing permanent structure to your garden and giving an all-year-round interest, evergreen shrubs are a great addition to your outdoor spaces.

With the ability to produce stunning floral displays, or being highly scented in the winter, these plants can be grown to accompany summer perennials or as stand-alone features during the colder months.

With choices from Daphne – small but incredibly fragrant flowers that grow when your garden is hibernating in the winter, to Holly – the popular Yuletide addition that makes every garden look wintery, along with providing much-needed food for birds, the choice of evergreen plants is bigger than you think.

Our friends at Thompson and Morgan know you want to mix up your garden so it looks beautiful across the seasons. So here’s their picks of the top 10 evergreen shrubs for an easy and reliable display. Enjoy!

top ten evergreen shrubs infographic from thompson & morgan
Top 10 easy to grow vegetable plants and seeds, from the team at Thompson & Morgan

The Impact of Metal Extraction to the Environment, Economy, and Society

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metal extraction

One of the growing concerns right now is the increasingly worsening condition of our environment.

If you read and listen to environment news, you will not just worry but be scared of all the things that could potentially go wrong once we’ve exhausted our natural resources.

One natural resource that is in high demand is metal. The increasing need for this element has made companies extract more to meet the demand.

If they continue to this way, we will soon deplete this natural resource.

 

Environmental Impact of Metal Extraction

When metal is extracted from the ground, it creates a lot of negative impact to the environment.

Look at what’s happening in Brazil, the country that’s fast becoming the world’s primary supplier of gold. It is estimated that more than 2,000 tonnes of mercury have been released into the environment as a result of the modern Brazilian gold rush.

What people don’t know is that mercury is needed in the extraction of gold.

Now, an abundance of mercury in the soil and water has led to an increased mercury level in fish, which is very toxic not only to animals but to humans as well.

The same is said of metal extraction.

Metal extraction can drastically affect air quality in the surrounding areas, what with the high levels of dust and gas in the area.

There’s also the noise pollution that it creates, which is affecting the natural habitat of animals.

Last, metal extraction disfigures the landscape.

Now, if companies continually extract metal, the land will forever be disfigured, causing flooding and soil erosion in the area. It will also cause large-scale natural habitat destruction, causing many species to be uprooted.

There’s also the air and water pollution to consider.

 

Economic Impact of Metal Extraction

It is a fact that mining, extracting, refining, and purifying metal will cost a lot of money.

There are different types of metal, and they need different methods of extraction.

Now, the methods of extracting metal do not come cheap, nor does refining and purifying metal.

Not only will you need special equipment for their extraction, but you will also need other elements as well such as copper, zinc, mercury, among others, for the purification and refinement processes.

Some of these elements are very harmful and toxic not only to humans and animals but to nature as well, worsening the environmental impact of metal extraction.

Aside from this, you also have to think of the transportation costs of extracted metal, and the associated environmental impacts of transport.

Then there’s also the production and manufacture costs of turning metal into different parts and pieces.

 

Social Impact of Metal Extraction

Communities that thrive near quarries and mining sites suffer from noise, air, land, and even water pollution.

In the long run, and most especially if the company’s not following safety and security protocols, it will pose detrimental and hazardous risks to the health of the people living in the community.

Yes, there are added jobs and increased salaries for the people as well as increased revenue to the community, but is it worth it to sacrifice their health?

To reduce all these negative impacts, people are being urged to recycle metal.

Not only will this keep production costs down since there’s no longer the need to refine and purify them, but this also prevents land devastation and natural habitat loss. In the end, it will be healthier for all.

Manufacturers, too, are now more aware of the negative impact of metal extraction. To help the environment, they make use of recycled metal in their products, good examples of which are metal carports, steel cabinets, metal garage, and more.

Through their efforts, the negative impacts of metal extraction are being reduced.

 

All About Rare Earth Metals

All about rare earth metals

 

This article has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Fast Food Goes Green

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sustainable packaging

The connection between fast food restaurants and green living seems like a complete contradiction. Amid Styrofoam cups and packaging, plastic lids, cardboard holders, and genetically modified vegetables and inorganic meat, the industry is not particularly environmentally friendly.  But as going green becomes more of an attractive image for customers, many companies are moving towards greener options that are less harmful to the environment.

There is now real progress towards greener alternatives in the fast food industry.

 

Environmentally-Conscious Packaging

environmentally friendly packaging

Green packaging is the new “it” factor as fast food chains are beginning to adapt to greener, friendly packaging alternatives.  It’s an impressive move away from the customary environmentally damaging use of petroleum-based Styrofoam containers, a product which fast food restaurants have been using for the past few dozen years by the billions.

With affordable alternatives, fast food and regular restaurants now have great replacement options available – and they are taking advantage of these green advances in packaging. These compostable, biodegradable and recyclable packaging work just as well as their more harmful counterparts, being oven, microwave and freezer safe while remaining ecologically-safe.

Ironically, it’s the most unexpected fast food chains that are emerging as leaders in the green fast food movement. For the past two years, big chains like McDonalds and Starbucks are placing a central focus on changing their packaging, improving their sourcing and lobbying the FDA to increase the amount of recycled fibers allows in fast food packaging.

The movement is meant to decrease their carbon footprint, waste and of course, cut costs.

 

Organic Food

organic food

The famous Chipotle restaurant was the first ground-breaking big fast food chain to abide their food by organic standards – using only natural meats, hormone-free chicken and organic beans. They have never used animal meat with growth hormones and turned this into a selling point to their customers, creating their famous slogan, “Food with Integrity”.

Smaller chains like Le Pain Quotidien and EVOs and Pizza Fusion are taking their commitment to using organic ingredients very seriously. Le Pain Quotidien is baking their products with only organic and local ingredients, while Pizza Fusion used the green movement to their marketing advantage, claiming to be “Saving the Planet One Pizza at a Time”. 

All their pizzas are made with the finest organic ingredients, packaged in compostable boxes, and delivered to your home in a hybrid vehicle – green all the way!

 

Reducing Carbon Footprint

carbon footprint

Some fast food restaurants known for their ‘organic’ choices are adapting to a greener alternatives to cut down on carbon footprint. Some, like Chipotle, are actively working at reducing their carbon footprint. Their going green process has started by using solar cells, hyper-efficient plumbing and biodegradable utensils.  New restaurants set up in the country are built with elements of green design in mind.

Others have installed recycling bins and segregated trash, to ensure that materials and recyclables are disposed of properly.  Starbucks itself is now mandating that all their cups be made from recyclable materials and be recyclable on their own. They too are using green building designs for their new stores and are now diversifying their purchases by buying fair trade coffee.

McDonalds has established a waste diversion program, and have gone so far so as to refuse to source beef from locations causing rainforest degradation. Subway is making other moves towards become a green-friendly company as well, by improving their energy efficiency in transport and using recycled material in the construction of new chains.

 

Finding the Profit in Going Green

profits

One of the most impressive advancements in this green movement is the fact that fast food chains are taking advantage of environmentally friendly alternatives to cut costs & increase profit.

Recently, Starbucks started offering a great deal to its customers: reusable cups sold for $1 apiece. The cups last for about a month, cut down on the company’s waste and trash hauling costs, and offer environmentally conscious customers an affordable way to lower their carbon footprint. To push sales on the reusable cups, customers save 10 cents on each refill.

Other companies are following on this plan as well, offering reusable mugs, bowls or vessels. Just Salad, a salad restaurant chain, is offering their clients reusable salad bowls. When customers use their bowl, they get free toppings in their salads – a great marketing & environmental ploy to decrease the unnecessary expenditure of one-time use salad bowls.

Bob’s, a Brazilian fast food company, has taken a more creative approach that serves a great marketing purpose. Their burgers are wrapped in the ultimate recyclable wrapping: edible, rice-based paper. Its innovative concepts like these that are inspiring restaurants towards environmental alternatives.

These 7 Amazing Recycling Facts Will Make You Think Twice

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recycling facts

Next time you finish that Diet Coke, decide to replace your cell phone, or toss that outdated phone book, take a moment to think about your next step. Before you head to your trash bin, ask yourself if there is a smarter option. The more you know about recycling, the more you will be motivated to do it. Not only does recycling keep waste from overcrowded landfills, it provides raw materials to create new product. Read on for seven reasons sure to convince you.

 

1. Using Recycled Paper Saves Water, Not Just Trees

When you use recycled paper instead of “virgin” paper, you are contributing to saving 7,000 gallons of water per ton of paper produced. That water can be better used combating the effects of drought. You’re also offsetting the 900,000,000 trees per year chopped down to make paper.

 

2. Enough Plastic Bottles are Tossed Each Year to Circle the Planet Four Times

In an Average Year, 8 billion pounds of plastic bottles are produced in the United States. If all of them had been recycled, the resulting material could have been used to create 22 million size XL T-shirts.

 

landfill waste
Colin Delaney

3. Americans Throw Away Enough Trash in an Average Year to Circle Earth 24 times

That trash is chock full of recyclables that were not recycled. Each day, Americans toss about 100 million tin and steel cans. Each year, Americans use more than 80,000,000,000 aluminum cans and most end up in landfills.

 

4. It Takes Centuries for a Disposable Diaper to Break Down in a Landfill

On average, one baby will go through 8,000 diapers. Cloth diapers are not as convenient, but they are reusable.

 

5. 25 Billion Styrofoam Cups are Trashed Each Year

It takes Styrofoam more than 500 years to decompose in a landfill. A coffee mug can be washed and reused for years generating no waste.

 

6. Recycling Aluminum Cans Saves 95% of the Energy Used to Make New Cans

When you recycle just one aluminum can, you save enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours or to listen to a full album on your iPod. Thanks to state-of-the-art automated sorting and separating equipment, recycling facilities can process more than 3,500 pounds of aluminum cans per hour and send the aluminum to be reused in other products.

 

7. In a Recent Year, Americans Recovered, Reused, or Recycled 34% of Waste Generated

This means Americans threw out 161 million tons, or about 3 pounds of trash per person per day. If the recycling rate in the United States reaches 75%, it will be equivalent to the environmental impact of removing 50 million cars from the roads each year. Unfortunately, there is a long way to go. A 2011 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study estimated that only about 35% of households and 10% of businesses in the United States recycle.

 

Each recycled, re-purposed or reused item is an item that does not end up in a landfill. We have one earth, and we all should work together to take care of it.


Informational credit to Eco Green Equipment

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