Happy Earth Day!

In honor of Earth Day…and because we are studying natural resources anyway…I read this book about recycling yesterday.  Gail Gibbons is fantastic, and writes so many well-written, well-researched, well-illustrated non-fiction picture books on various topics.  (I once had her book about bats memorized, because a boy in my class named Martin wanted to hear it every day during book time.  We did fun things like that in preschool, reading to the kids…well, that book was fun for the first three days…would you like to know anything about bats?  🙂 )  Recycle! is no different.  In fact, in the past 24 hours I have been so aware of the things that I throw away.  I recycle out of habit, but I rarely stop to think about why.  I also don’t really think about the things I don’t recycle, the things that end up in the garbage.

A wool sock takes about a year to biodegrade in a landfill.  A banana peel might take two years.  Metal cans, such as pop cans, soup cans, etc., take about 500 years to biodegrade in the landfill.  Glass takes 1000 years to biodegrade.  Plastic and styrofoam are here forever.  FOREVER.  Yikes.  (A video that I showed today contradicted slightly, saying that plastic will take several thousand years, but will eventually turn back into fossil fuel.  The video agreed that styrofoam is not at all degradeable.)  Also, styrofoam that finds its way to the ocean looks like food when it floats on the water.  Sea animals eat it, and their bodies can’t digest it, and the animals starve to death because their stomach is full of styrofoam.

According to Gail Gibbons, it is cheaper and produces less pollution to make things out of recycled metal, glass, and plastic, than to make those materials new.  Yay.  This is why we can recycle those materials.  Unfortunately, we can’t recycle styrofoam because it is cheaper to make new polystyrene products than to recycle used ones.  In my school district, each child throws away a styrofoam lunch tray every day.  Dumpsters full of polystyrene, that is here on this earth forever, thrown out every day.  It makes me sick.  In the spirit of community, I asked my kids what they thought we could do about that.  They suggested things like bringing their own lunch.  They suggested asking our lunch servers if we could wash our trays and use them again tomorrow.  🙂  I suggested they think about inventing a new way to serve school lunch when they grow up.  {Of course, there’s the old way.  I ate off a plastic tray with metal silverware in elementary school and even in high school.  What’s a little washing dishes compared to taking care of our planet???}

I thought about fast food beverage lids and straws, and the plastic front part of packages where the back is cardboard, and the plastic baggie that my lunchmeat came in, and dog poop bags, and scotch tape dispensers.  I thought about that beautiful video that I posted last time, and the oceans that sustain us.  I thought about how much of our earth will be covered with landfills if we go on.  I thought about the chemicals those landfills are giving off over thousands of years as our garbage is processed by nature.  We are killing our planet. 

And then I calmed down, and I thought about what I do habitually.  What small steps can I take?  First, I am horrible with ziplock baggies.  My mother wisely made us wash and reuse them, but I hate drying them, so I don’t do that anymore.  But, what exactly do I do that I can’t use a recyclable plastic tupperware-type container?  Or a reused cottage cheese container?  Is there anything that I need ziplock baggies for?  I just ran out, and I think I won’t buy anymore, and see how it goes.

Second, I love cold coffee drinks.  Smoothies, iced lattes…but every time I get one, I throw away a plastic container.  First, are they recyclable?  I need to look and see, and it would take so little time to rinse them out and throw them in the recycling.  Second, some coffee places let you put your drink in a reusable mug, what about smoothies?  Can I buy a smoothie, but have them pour it into my Nalgene-type water bottle instead?  Or will they put it in a travel mug, even if it’s cold?  {Or perhaps I should make coffee at home and save my money anyway!!!}

It helped me calm down to think about the steps I have taken.  I no longer buy paper towels.  I have paper napkins on hand, but I really only use them when people are over.  I recycle almost all paper and cardboard.  So we’re good with the tree products.  🙂

What do you do to reduce your footprint on the planet?  What small steps can you take to go further?


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Doris Jacobs
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 09:19:35

    they do make biodegradable dog poop bags that disolve in wet environments so not to seal the poop up for thousands of years but let it renew the earth.


  2. Mom
    Apr 22, 2010 @ 17:07:40

    But what are those dog poop bags made from? Are they actually biodegradable? Do they just make smaller pieces of the same material that can’t be reused in the environment?


  3. Betty
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 19:50:14

    I am pretty good at recycling everything that our town recycles and even reducing how much “garbage” I create –such as taking my snacks/lunch stuff in reusable containers and primarily using cloth shopping bags. The one thing I cannot figure out is how to sanitarily deal with the garbage without using garbage bags or in my case those nasty plastic grocery bags that find their way in to the house. Any ideas on that?


  4. Dawn
    Apr 23, 2010 @ 21:42:20

    Mom- The poop bags that my apartment complex provides say they are “oxy-degradable,” so I looked it up online. It says they degrade about the same rate as an apple when exposed to the elements and bacteria of a compost pile. Not bad. They are made from corn, not petroleum.

    Betty- Yeah, garbage bags bother me too. And plastic grocery bags. You can take plastic grocery bags back to recycle at Wal-Mart or wherever. I wonder if they’ll ever start making garbage bags out of corn, that are “oxy-degradable” like the poop bags.


  5. Betty
    Apr 26, 2010 @ 19:07:48

    I like that idea of oxy-degradable garbage bags! Have you “mentioned” that to any of the manufacturers of garbage bags–those poop bags work good so why not all the garbage in those bags.


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