Consumption is a tremendous environmental dilemma. You could argue it's our only one, because all waste, toxic and climate change issues are tied to it. This is why Eric Lombardi, the executive director of Eco-Cycle International, argues in Waste 360 below that we need to account for the impacts of consumption when we take inventory on greenhouse gases. “The EPA published a groundbreaking report in 2009 that described how “materials management and food systems” in America are responsible for 42 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions," Mr. Lombardi writes. "Let that sink in for a moment: The way we manufacture, use and dispose of our “stuff,” is responsible for nearly half of our climate impact." It doesn't take environmentalists much time to process this thought. The more we consume, the more of which we dispose, from natural resources to manufactured products. Healthcare professionals ought to be connecting these dots, too. Let's take the plastic bottle as an example .When the public buys bottled water, we create demand for plastic bottles alongside the need to incinerate them and then, of course, comes the slew of chemicals that follow from the destruction of the bottle. So not only does the creation of the bottle use fossil fuels, but the destruction of it leaches chemicals into our water and air. Climate solutions are not all based on installing solar panels and windmills. They also come in simpler forms. Fortunately, reducing consumption means reducing waste. A no cost solution and one, in many regards, we can all handle.
The unfolding string of chaotic climate events around the world is disturbing to anyone paying attention, but as a father I can tell you that it is absolutely terrifying to our children who are old enough to understand what is happening. The generation that is coming of age at this time, the millennials, are some of the smartest and globally-aware young adults that the human race has ever produced. That is both good and bad news as it relates to climate change and what the world is doing about it.
There is zero time to waste since delaying climate cooling solutions today only increases the price tag in the future–a burden we shouldn’t be passing on to future generations. The time to act is now, and we need solutions that are ready to go, cost-effective and impactful.
Fast, cost-effective and proven
That’s what we as a recycling industry can bring to the climate discussions: Proven strategies that can be implemented today at reasonable costs with meaningful impacts. We can’t solve the whole problem because there is a lot of long-term large-scale work to be done on our energy and transportation systems, but investing in zero waste today is one of the best short-term strategies that helps buy time to work on these longer-term problems.
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