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Following the Recycled Paper Trail

On ENN we talk a lot about the importance of recycling and sustainability.  Over the last year and a half  we have had articles addressing the recycling of a range of items, including food, batteries, and clothing, to name a few.  I am a religious recycler, but honestly I am not well educated on what happens after the municipal truck comes to my home to pick my recyclables. How does a used sheet a paper turn into a product made from like paper towels or a news paper?

I decided to step out of my shell of ignorance to investigate what really happens.  Below you will see a quick summary of the journey a piece of paper or cardboard must go through to be recycled.

 

Pickup

Collection of recyclables varies depending on the community/municipality. The main 4 types of collection are: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.

Initial Sorting

If your town recyclable program uses single stream recycling (all types of recyclables are comingled) the recyclables need to be sorted before going to a materials recovery facility.

Pulping

Paper is chopped up and water is added.

Screening

The paper pulp is pushed through a screen that removes unwanted materials (like staples).

Cleaning

A centrifuge is used to separate fibers that are more solid than the rest.

Floatation/De-Inking

The pulp is mixed with a surfactant to collect and discard ink particles from the pulp.

Washing

Water is passed through the pulp to further clean it. If the desired end product is white paper product, bleach is sometimes added.

Dissolved Air Flotation

Dissolved air floatation is used to clean the water used in the recycling process so that it can be reused again.

Re-Use of Processed Paper

The material is now ready to be re-used/manufactured. The materials recovery facility can sell the cleaned paper byproduct to other companies that can turn it into a finished product.

 

Recycle Paper via Shutterstock

Shredded Paper via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

A Green Globe: 4 Surprisingly Sustainable Countries

By: Guest Contributor, Christopher Beck

Going green is trendy these days. Everyone has reusable water bottles, canvas grocery bags and recycling bins. Hybrid vehicles are on the rise, and companies from Verizon to Ikea are working to make their products more environmentally friendly.

But sustainability isn’t just a trend. It’s a global issue – literally. Countries around the world are trying to become more environmentally sustainable, and some have been more successful than others. Here are 4 surprising countries that are going green –and doing it right.

1. Tokelau

You probably haven’t heard of Tokelau – it’s an independent territory of New Zealand made up of three tiny islands. But it’s making waves in global sustainability.

Tokelau, like many other communities in the South Pacific, previously relied heavily on diesel fuel for energy. But now, Tokelau is the first nation to become entirely dependent on solar power. The country uses solar panels that produce 150% of its energy needs. At nighttime and on cloudy days? Tokelau uses coconut oil as a power source.

2. Latvia

According to Yale’s Environmental Performance Index, Latvia is the world’s second-greenest country. The Baltic nation has had environmental legislation in place since the 16th century.

Latvia reduces greenhouse gas emissions through a process called CO2 sequestration – the country’s 35,000 square kilometers of forest and peat bogs naturally convert CO2 into biomass. Riga, the nation’s capital, is one of the cleanest cities in Europe. And Latvia’s sustainability initiatives have allowed many wildlife species that are disappearing throughout the rest of Europe to thrive.

3. Singapore

Asia isn’t particularly known for sustainability – China and Japan rank third and fifth, respectively, among countries with the worst environmental impact. But Singapore is an exception to that rule.

The 682-square kilometer nation makes environmental laws a high priority, and they strictly control city development. The country’s “master plan” includes initiatives to improve air quality, water management and energy efficiency. Singapore provides citizens with electric vehicle charging stations and alternate fuel public transportation. The country also recycles and conserves almost all rainfall and waste water.

4. Sweden

Sweden earned the top spot on Robecosam’s 2013 sustainability report for its exceptional commitment to the environment.

Robecosam judged countries on various factors, including environmental policy, emissions, energy use, energy sources, and exposure to environmental risks. Sweden boasts heavily regulated carbon emissions and fossil fuel output. And many Swedish cities have been pioneers of alternative energy sources – Malmo, a city of nearly 300,000, runs entirely on biofuels and uses solar, wind and water power.

Earth image via Shutterstock.

Christopher Beck is a sustainability consultant. Originally from Asheville, NC, he graduated with a degree from the University of South Carolina and is now pursuing a career trying to make the world a better, cleaner place.

by Editor

I Love Rock and Roll (And Earth)

Joan Jett is a rock icon. Best known for karaoke classics like ‘I love Rock and Roll’ and ‘Bad Reputation’, Joan Jett is the epitome of a rock icon. With a career beginning in the 1970’s, Joan Jett continues to be one of the coolest musical artists out there.

You might be wondering what Joan Jett has to do with the ENN Blog. It turns out that Joan Jett’s newest single, ‘Any Weather’, which comes from her most recent album Unvarnished,  is a “love letter to the earth”.

‘Any Weather’, was written as collaboration with David Grohl, who is best known from being in the bands the Foo Fighters and Nirvana. For the video, which you can watch below, Jett sings in front of a video demonstrating the highlights and low lights of the current state of the earth. Images range from swimming dolphins and waterfalls to images of pollution and drought. Though the song lyrics aren’t specific to any particular environmental issue (the song chorus is We can stay together/Through any weather) the video gives off the message that we need to fight for our planet.

This is not Joan Jett’s first time with an environmental message.  In 2012, Jett posed for a PETA advertisement promoting vegetarianism.

Joan Jett is not the only artist who puts an environmental message in her music. Below are a few songs that come to mind when I think of songs about appreciating the earth and the environment.  Please include your own favorites in the comments section!!!!!!  :)

‘Big Yellow Taxi’ – Joni Mitchell

Environmental lyric: Don’t it always seem to go/ You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone/They paved paradise/ And put up a parking lot

 ‘Mercy, Mercy, Me (The Ecology)’ – Marvin Gaye

Environmental lyric: Ah things ain’t what they used to be, no no/Oil wasted on the ocean and upon our seas, fish full of mercury

‘This Land is Your Land’ – Woody Guthrie

Environmental Lyric: From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters/This land was made for you and me.

‘Time is Ticking out’ – The Cranberries

Environmental Lyric: Looks like we screwed up the ozone layer/I wonder if the politicians care

Where Have All The Flowers Gone Pete Seeger

Environmental Lyric: Where have all the flowers gone?/The girls have picked them ev’ry one./Oh, When will you ever learn?

‘Any Weather’ video from yahoo music!

Rock Hand via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Tax Breaks for Energy Efficient Homes

By: Guest Contributor, Aby League

In a bid to address climate change, promoting sustainability efforts and replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources are viewed as the key solution.

According to the World Bank, urgent actions are needed as the world is set to be 4 degrees warmer by the end of the century, bringing in “cataclysmic changes” including extreme heat waves, rising sea-levels and declining global food stock.

To this end, among the actions undertaken across the world is the implementation of credits for renewable energy projects.

A renewable energy credit is any tax credit offered by governments as an incentive for the installation and operation of renewable energy systems like solar and wind power. Many countries already have this mechanism including the United States, Europe, China and Japan.

The tax credit commonly applies to businesses and organizations, however, recognizing the economical as well as environmental benefits that could be reaped from “green” systems, some governments, particularly the U.S., offer tax breaks for home improvements that make homes more energy efficient.

The United States is the world’s second largest energy consumer behind China, said the United Nations, which encourages the country to reduce its energy consumption and improve energy efficiency across all sectors including residential.

Residential energy tax credits

As part of the fiscal cliff deal stipulated on President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, homeowners will receive Federal tax credits for eligible renewable and energy efficiency improvements.

Reinstated at early 2013, the law extended the residential energy tax credits until December 31 of this year.

To qualify for the Federal tax credit, homeowners must have qualifying energy-efficient properties in their main residences within the period of 2006 through 2013. They must have purchased energy-efficient equipment, which should remain installed for at least five years.

Under the ARRA, there two types of credits. First is the non-business energy property credit, which applies to those who make qualified green upgrades to their existing homes, including insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows and doors, furnaces and efficient heating and air-conditioning systems.

This credit is 10 percent of the cost of qualified energy-efficient improvements, excluding labor costs, up to a cap of $500 for fiscal years 2006 to 2013 combined. However, when homeowners already claimed more than $500 tax credit since 2006, they can no longer claim credit for 2011 though it does not affect the $1,500 credit limit set for 2009 and 2010 combined.

Another is the residential energy efficient property credit, which helps individual taxpayers pay for qualified residential alternative or renewable energy equipment like solar panels, solar-powered heaters, geothermal heat pumps, small wind systems and fuel cells.

Running through 2016, this type of credit is a percentage of the eligible properties and unlike non-business energy property credit, this includes labor costs and there is no cap on the amount of credit available except for fuel cell properties. Fuel cell properties are capped at $500 per kilowatt hour of power capacity.

To claim a tax credit, homeowners have to file an IRS residential energy credit form 5695 together with their federal income tax return for the year the improvements were made. The credit will be deducted from the total amount of tax that they have to pay, or it can be added to their tax refund.

Encouraging energy efficient investments

On the average, a U.S. energy department report shows about half of the energy consumed by American homes is expended on space conditioning. In particular, 30.7 percent is used for heating systems while 11.5 percent for cooling systems.

According to Ronnie Kweller, spokesperson of non-profit group Alliance to Save Energy, tax breaks would be a great move to help in encouraging consumers to think about energy saving investments for their homes.

While it is true that residential energy tax credits could motivate many consumers, a fraction of them knows about this policy. In different lists by consultancy firm Ernst and Young and publisher Kiplinger, credits for home improvements is identified as one of the most and commonly overlooked tax deductions.

It is a challenge for the government to increase awareness about incentives for energy-efficiency home retrofits so more householders will be motivated to purchase energy efficient products and opt for more energy efficient lifestyle. On the other hand, both Ernst and Young and Kiplinger point out that it is also taxpayers’ duty to keep updated of the tax developments, such as the tax breaks for home improvements, to utilize them to their advantage.

“When you invest in energy-efficient products, you may be saving money on both your energy bills and your tax return,” said the International Revenue Service in a news release.

Moreover, the A.S.E. noted making homes more energy-efficient significantly improves the economy as it saves hundreds of dollars; improves energy security as it decreases the overall demand for energy; preserves the environment as it reduces pollution; and uplifts quality of life as it makes it safer and more comfortable.

About the Author: Aby League is a qualitative researcher and a passionate writer. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and is currently taking her Master’s while also balancing her time as a freelance writer and researcher.

Tax break image via Shutterstock.

by Editor

Thinking Green This Halloween

“This is Halloween, Everybody Make a Scene!”

- The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

With the National Retail Federation expecting Americans to spend 6.9 Billion dollars on Halloween this year, Halloween will most likely be a scene. Whether you dress up or decorate your lawn with monsters and ghouls, there are many ways to think green this Halloween.

Freecycle Your Costume

Most store bought costumes are  either poorly made or kids just grow tired with them after only one year. Instead of throwing costumes out and having to buy a brand new one each year instead attend a local Costume Swap Event or use a free swapping online service like Freecycle.org

Make a Costume Out of Thrift Shop Finds

If you listen to Macklemore you know that crazy items can be found real cheap at thrift shops.  Many people go to thrift shops especially for Halloween. Some thrift shops even have Halloween sections. In fact, according to Goodwill, sales are highest in October, up 10-15%.

One Word, Pillow Cases

Instead of buying “cute”, one time use candy collection bags for Trick-Or Treating, instead opt for the old fashioned pillow case. Not only is it reusable but it also stores a lot of candy.

Reuse Unwanted Candy

Instead of throwing unwanted candy in the trash check out the website CandyExperiments.com

Get The Most Out of Your Pumpkin

Pumpkins have more functions than just as a scary Jack-O-Lantern. You can use the insides for soup or pie and you can also roast the pumpkin seeds for a delicious snack. When your Jack-O-Lantern has outstayed it’s welcome, and begins to rot, you can add it to your compost.

Use Reusable Decorations or Ones Made From Recyclable Materials

Invest in decorations that can be reused every year instead of ones that go straight from your yard to the landfill.

Trick or Treat for a Cause

Whether going door to door for Unicef or a more local cause, Trick or Treating with a donations box is a great way for children to learn about fundraising and helping others.

Be A Cause

Use Halloween to raise awareness to an important environmental cause. Have fun, be Yosemite Park on it’s birthday or the last moose in North America!

Enjoy!

(Please feel free to include your own Halloween tips)

Halloween Photo via Shutterstock

 

 

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Should Wind Industry Get a Free Pass on Bird Deaths?

By: Guest Contributor, Paul Batistelli

Energy generation has never been without controversy, and green energy is proving to be no different. The environmental arguments against coal, natural gas, oil and nuclear power are well rehearsed. More recently, the wind power industry has been unable to silence critics of wind turbines’ impact on birds and bats. In March, the Wildlife Society Bulletin reported that about 888,000 bats and 573,000 birds are killed by wind farms annually, 80,000 of which are raptors such as hawks, falcons and eagles. This data may make us reconsider what “clean energy” means and whether this environmental harm outweighs the value of renewable energy.

Particular outrage has been caused by the deaths of bald and golden eagles. The exact number of deaths is unclear, as a paper produced by the Journal of Raptor Research in September stated that there were only about 85 eagle fatalities within the past five years, all of which occurred at 32 different wind farms in 10 states. This study has come under significant scrutiny because wind facilities voluntarily report eagle deaths, and may underestimate total deaths. Additionally, the study did not include data from the Altamont Pass Wind Farm in California, which according to NBC kills more than 60 eagles per year.

The killing of eagles is a felony, but wind energy companies have yet to face the legal prosecution that oil and electric companies have faced for similar incidents. The Obama administration has even proposed 30-year permits for wind companies to kill a set number of bald or golden eagles. Opponents of the wind power industry are outraged, and feel that because the government is subsidizing these renewable energy companies they are being given a pass for their infractions. In contrast, BP was fined $100 million for harming wildlife off the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, PacifiCorp paid $10 million in 2009 for eagle deaths along its power lines and at its substations, and ExxonMobil paid a $600,000 fine for killing birds in Colorado.

 An endless debate

 

Whatever resolution is reached, the wind power industry isn’t going to disappear quietly. The industry produces emissions-free, renewable energy and has more than $25 billion in investments as well as a lot of taxpayer dollars. The National Energy Modeling System predicts that over the next 20 years installed wind capacity will reach 100,000 megawatts, enough to eliminate 69 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and save consumers $17.6 billion per year in energy costs.

Relieving the wind energy industry of its ecological responsibility could create precedent for other industries to demand similar arrangements in the future. Some believe removing penalties would remove incentive to better strategize where wind farms are being built, and because there is already controversy over how wind companies count bird deaths, the proposed changes could be ineffective. Others believe that more research into environmental impact of these wind farms should be required before loans and construction sites are agreed upon.

The obvious risk with implementing harsh penalties on a new industry is stunting its growth, and possibly causing permanent damage to a growing market and job creator. Wind power has the potential to significantly reduce our carbon emissions, but both rising C02 levels and the presence of wind turbines pose a threat to birds and bats. The government must weigh the potential gains toward energy efficiency against the potential risk to protected wildlife.

The unfortunate truth is that human activity has always been detrimental to local ecosystems. All parties with a vested interest in this issue need to find a reasonable compromise that does not sacrifice rare species or hurt our chances of a reduced carbon future.

Wind turbine image via Shutterstock.

Paul Batistelli freelances in the energy field for the promotion of a greener society and energy means. He works to raise awareness on ecological issues, energy dependency, and reducing carbon footprints. He currently resides in Dallas, TX with his lab, Copeland.

 

by Editor

10 Compelling Reasons to Opt for a Hybrid Electric Vehicle

By: Guest Contributor, Amanda Kostina

With charging stations for electric vehicles popping up much more frequently as initiatives to switch to greener forms of energy, the market for hybrid electric vehicles is also growing. They’re also more attractive options for consumers who are concerned about the amount of mileage that full electric vehicles can cover before needed to recharge. Today’s hybrid electric vehicles provide a “best of both worlds” alternative, with their heavily reduced dependence on gasoline and higher mileage capability. If you’re considering a new vehicle or are tired of juggling budget changes stemming from a volatile fuel market, these are ten of the reasons why you might want to give the hybrid electric vehicle some careful consideration.

  1. Because You Spend a Lot of Time Idling – If you live or work in a heavily populated area along major thoroughfares, you’re no stranger to streets that feelmorelike parking lots during peak traffic times. When you drive a hybrid electric vehicle, the automatic start/shutoff feature will turn the engine off when the car comes to a stop, restarting when you press the accelerator. You’re not wasting valuable energy when you’re stuck in a traffic jam or at a long light, making a very real difference in the amount of fuel you use.
  2. To Limit Resale Value Loss Due to Depreciation – When you already own a perfectly serviceable car, it’s not always easy to make a replacement purchase. Still, you stand a better chance of recouping at least some of your investment and limiting loss of value to depreciation when you unload your gas guzzler while it’s still relatively new and in good condition.
  3. Because Your Electricity Bill Won’t Suffer As Much As You Think – With a few minimal habit changes to boost your energy efficiency around the house, you may find that your electric bill doesn’t take much of a hike at all. Hybrid electric cars use less grid power than full electric vehicles, and both can be cheaper on a monthly basis when you take savings at the pump into account.
  4. To Take Advantage of Federal Tax Credits and Rebates – Because the American government is committed to pursuing cleaner energy alternatives and reducing dependence on foreign oil, there are a variety of tax incentives and rebates on the federal level for drivers of electric and hybrid electric vehicles. Some states may also have incentive programs in place, making the investment in a hybrid electric car even wiser.
  5. Because They’re More Affordable Than You Think – Because the idea of a car that runs on electricity still seems so futuristic to some people, many are under the misapprehension that they’re incredibly pricey. Actually, a hybrid electric from some automakers can come with a bit less sticker shock than you’re prepared for, so be sure to shop around before dismissing the HEV as an excessively expensive option.
  6. You Like to Drive Fast – If you’re not looking to save a bundle by purchasing a more economically priced hybrid electric and are put off by the idea of tooling around at a low speed, you’re not necessarily forced to sacrifice pick-up and handling in the name of ecological responsibility. Some models, like the high-end Tesla X1, can actually keep pace with big names like the Porche Carrera GT and the Lamborghini Murcielago.
  7. You Want to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint – The idea of running a car off of electricity while trying to limit your energy use may be a strange one to reconcile, but charging your hybrid electric vehicle may not cost as much as you think. Thinkprogress.org estimates that driving a fully electric vehicle creates half of the amount of carbon pollution for every mile driven than the average new car. Also, as renewable energy resources become more available, your HEV will only become cleaner as time goes on. As a traditional vehicle ages, it may actually create more emissions than it did when it was new.
  8. Because the Support Infrastructure is Expanding Rapidly – Not so long ago, purchasing a plug-in hybrid electric meant that you were almost certainly restricted to charging at home. Now, the infrastructure is expanding rapidly enough that you don’t have to rely on the gasoline in your tank if you’re far from home, because you’re more likely to come upon a public charging station.
  9. Because You Want to Save Time – If you live in a metropolitan area with ordinances requiring emissions testing, you know that the annual trip can be a real time-sink, especially if there’s a chance that your older vehicle won’t pass the test. Today’s hybrid electric vehicles are so efficient and clean that you may even be exempt from testing altogether, depending upon your local ordinances.
  10. Because “Fuel” Prices Are More Stable – While you will still need gasoline to power your vehicle, you’ll need so much less of it to get where you’re going that the wild fluctuations in prices may not be so much of a rollercoaster ride if you’re driving a hybrid electric.

As with any vehicle, it’s wise to do your homework before making a purchase so that you’re assured of finding the best fit for your household. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks of several models, including price point and feature availability, and you could be making a cleaner, greener commute each day.

Resources:
http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_basics_hev.html
http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybridtech.shtml

Hybrid car image via Shutterstock.

Amanda Kostina is a green living enthusiast and a blogger from Whitefence.com. She generally writes about green lifestyles, eco-friendly businesses, and frugal living. Amanda is always passionate about making the world a better place for the generations ahead.

by Editor

Making the Most Out of Fallen Leaves

It may possibly be the most beautiful time of the year. The air is crisp, but not cold, and it’s impossible to go a day without eating an apple or imbibing apple cider. Most importantly the leaves on trees are beginning to change colors. Trees that were once ordinary in look are now bright yellows and reds. I am lucky enough to have a maple tree right outside my bedroom window that within a few days will be a brilliant red normally unseen in nature.

Unfortunately this sight quickly turns to mirage when the leaves outstay the trees welcome and blanket the ground. We are then stuck with the conundrum of what to do with the trees unwanted counterparts. Though the sound of leaves crunching under footsteps is beautiful in it’s own right eventually one feels the need to make a decision on what to do with them.

Below I have compiled a list of suggestions for leaf management:

1. Know Your Local Laws Relating to Yard Waste Disposal

Depending on where you live disposal rules vary. Many municipalities have separate collection for leaf litter and other landscape wastes. In some places that have separate programs for the collection of litter, like the state of Minnesota, it is illegal to mix yard waste with trash waste and you can get fined for putting your leaf trash out on the wrong day.  Check with your municipality to identify the natural waste management programs available in your area.

2. Do Not Burn Your Leaf Waste

Not only is leaf burning illegal in states like New York, it can also be unhealthy and bad for the environment.

3. Keep Your Sidewalks Clear

Even if you are not ready to manage your whole yard it is important to try and keep your sidewalks clean. When wet leaves can be very slippery and may serve as a fall risk.

4. Use Leaves as Mulch

Instead of raking and packaging your leaves for the trash or your local leaf management program reuse your leaves to spruce up your own lawn and garden for the spring.  If you only have light leaf fall the leaves can be mowed and left in place. Leaves contain 50-80% of the nutrients a plant extracts from the soil making them a great resource.

You can also use the leaves as mulch in your garden and flower beds. Shredded leaves can be used as a mulch covering or can be mixed into soil.

5. Add Leaves to Your Compost

Leaves can also be added to your compost pile. Large piles of leaves can take awhile to decompose so it is important to shred them first. If you do not have a compost pile already there are many videos and sites with simple instructions to starting one.

6. Get Crafty

Take a trip back to elementary school and make some fall inspired craft projects. Whether you make a wreath out of leaves or use them in a collage the options are as limitless as the leaves available in your yard.

Photo Credit: Maddie Perlman-Gabel

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

Making Food Waste Recycling Easy & Convenient is Key

By: Guest Contributor, Namju Cho

There is no question that food waste is a monumental environmental problem and recycling food waste would make a significant dent in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The barrier to food waste recycling isn’t so much about people’s willingness to compost. The willingness is there but the key to composting’s success will be how easy and convenient governments will make it so that food waste recycling becomes as established as recycling paper.

Fact: Food waste was the second largest waste material in 2011, accounting for 15% of all waste behind paper and paperboard, which accounted for 28%, according to the EPA. Of those, however, over half of the paper/paperboard was recycled while a meager 1.6% of food waste was recycled.

So how could we make it happen? Why not turn to bright spots in our own backyard?

New York recently launched pilot food waste recycling programs on select sites and is following the lead of cities like San Francisco to combine convenience, incentives and slight nudges to prompt residents to recycle food waste. A recent survey by BioCycle, a magazine that promotes recycling, found that some municipalities are offering less frequent garbage collection to steer residents away from the trash bin, according to the New York Times. Others have offered free recycling pickup services as an incentive.

Behavior change, after all, is about removing barriers and motivators to adopt the behavior. Awareness alone isn’t enough to prompt people to act. Smokers know tobacco causes cancer but they still smoke. Bottom line is that it has to be easy.

The NYT article added that apartment buildings were the most challenging as residents don’t want to come all the way down to a garage or basement to dump their scraps. “…Space for bins must be found at least on some floors. Buildings must also devote staff to removing the waste every day, or at least keep it out of sight, to avoid putting off the squeamish,” the article stated.

Portland scaled back residential garbage pickup to once every two weeks and also launched a weekly compost pickup – and got results. The volume of garbage collected decreased to 58,300 tons in the 12-month period ending in October 2012 compared with 94,100 tons of garbage collected in the same period the previous year when the program launched. Moreover, collections of compostable material rose to 85,400 tons from 30,600 tons in the same period, a figure that includes yard waste, according to a Yale Environment360 report.

Are you sold yet? What have you found to be the most effective ways to make composting successful in your neighborhood?

*Photo courtesy of EPA.

Namju Cho is a former staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal who is currently a project manager at S. Groner Associates Inc, a Public Relations and Communications firm specializing in social marketing, media relations, online outreach and social media as it relates to issues facing communities and the environment. Cho can be reached at 562.597.0205 or ncho@sga-inc.net.

 

by Editor

Measuring Wealth in Footsteps

Many people consider the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the best way to measure a country’s wealth. The GDP, which is the market value of goods and services produced within a country during a period of time, is said to be an indicator of a country’s standard of living. The problem is the GDP doesn’t create a full picture of a country’s wealth and assets because it leaves out a country’s ecological wealth.

A country with a growing GDP may have dwindling ecological wealth because many economic activities deplete natural resources. GDP see’s these economic activities solely as income rather than a liquidation of assets. Therefore, countries relying on the GDP will blindly spend their ecological resources without consideration putting.

In 2003 the Global Footprint Network (GFN) was established in response to this problem and  to help countries and businesses measure their impact and as a result live more sustainably. By helping countries discover their ecologic impact GFN can help countries better plan for a sustainable future.

To help countries understand their wealth/debts GFN created an “Ecological Footprint”. “Ecological Footprint” is a resource accounting tool that measures availability and consumption of resources. “Ecological Footprint” reveals how much water and land a population needs in order to produce resources and absorb waste, while also measuring the country’s biocapacity. By comparing the country’s footprint to its biocapacity a country can better understand what it needs to do in order to maintain natural wealth and improve economic resilience.

GFN uses statistics from the United Nations to come up with each “Ecological Footprint” and uses approximately 6,000 data points per country.

GFN works with a network of over 90 partners. Since 2003 11 countries have officially adopted GFN’s “Ecological Footprint”, including the Philippines, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, and Switzerland.

The continued adoption of GFN’s “Ecological Footprint” will promote sustainability and help countries better manage their resources and wealth. There is more to wealth then just the GDP, wealth is also in nature, and until people understand that, we will continue to consume our resources at rates that can only lead to disaster.

Foot Print via Shutterstock

by Maddie Perlman-Gabel

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