Recycle: Even little things matter

In recent years, recycling has become a more visible part of life. Climate change warnings are severe and alarming, and pop culture has embraced going green with a surge of reusable bags at the grocery store and T-shirts promoting an earth-friendly lifestyle sold at the mall. Although we know the incredible importance of recycling, we as a society are not taking this issue seriously.

With its long-term environmental and economic benefits, recycling is a positive thing from every aspect. By recycling, we actively reduce our carbon footprint and our negative impact on our planet. A reduction in the gaseous pollutants spewed by factories not only means cleaner air for us, it also helps lessen our contribution to climate change.

But an appalling amount of the trash we produce ends up buried in landfills. And of that waste, estimates 60 to 75 percent could have been recycled.

Most of us do not recycle simply out of laziness. There is no immediate negative consequence (because, you know, climate change isn’t real or anything), so people just don’t care.

The solution? Make it easier to recycle.

Putting recycle bins next to all garbage bins will cut out the excuse of laziness and make it downright convenient to recycle. By making recycling easy, we will be contributing to the sustainability of our planet.

With mass consumption and population growth, the toxic waste produced by factories will only increase. This is not only environmentally inefficient, it is also economically inefficient. The recycling industry also creates jobs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the recycling industry is larger than the auto industry.

All these facts, and others beside them, prove recycling is both energy and cost efficient. Recycling products that are already made utilize much less energy than synthesizing new products. Paper provides a good example: National Geographic reported that producing a recycled paper product uses nearly 60 percent less energy than making the same product from raw pulp. Furthermore, nearly 40 percent of American waste is recyclable paper.

The implications of the efficiency recycling promotes are visible at both an individual and national level, and the truly beautiful thing about recycling is every individual can make a difference. said the average annual carbon dioxide emission per American citizen was 20 metric tons, compared to a world average of four tons.

Our carbon footprints are quite big, to say the least. But the little things do matter. Properly disposing of batteries prevents heavy metal pollution of our water sources. Replacing one regular light bulb with an Energy Star certified light bulb in each home saves the energy needed to light three million homes for one year.

The true problem with our inefficiency is our indifference at the individual and societal level.

Our current average level of consumption waste is not sustainable. The problem demands a systemic change: Cities need to make recycling widely accessible, and large corporations need to be held to an energy efficient standard.

It is doubtful the push towards an environmentally friendly country will happen from the corporate end, so it falls on the average Joe to care enough to demand the change and be the difference.

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