I heard two disturbing news reports in the last two weeks. The first was how the carbon dioxide has reached record highs. Here is the story on USAToday, “Emissions of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere reach record high”. With evidence like this, it boggles the mind that anyone can possibly think that mankind isn’t responsible. In addition, the Scientific American article, “CO2 Levels Just Hit Another Record-Here’s Why It Matters”, made the event sound like a domino effect in that the more the we have global warming, the more the ice caps melt, releasing ancient carbon compounds to add to the problem.
The second nightmarish article Came from Forbes Magazine, entitled “We’re Now at a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 915 of Which Are Not Recycled”. The last blog I wrote was on how plastic was not going away so we must reduce our single-use containers: bottles, bags, straws, take out containers. I still proudly agree with this and would scream RECYCLE, REUSE, REPURPOSE! daily from the rooftops if that would help.
When I see news like this, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Trillions of bottles, 37 billion tons of CO2 emissions due to humans. All those numbers must decrease dramatically and they must do so by 2030 or in 11 short years. Companies must be forced to change packaging and one way to do that is make plastic use not as profitable. Governments must enact legislation that encourages research into and development of more economically sound recycling technologies for plastics and other waste products. We need those industries inside the United States so when we have problems with China or other countries, it doesn’t shut down the recycling like it has this year.
For instance, a Utah based company, Renewlogy basically melts down plastic back to its carbon core and changes it to diesel, kerosene, light fuels, and natural gas. The natural gas is pumped back into the factory to keep the process going. The process has only a 5% waste and no toxic emissions. Unfortunately, this company is overwhelmed with supply now that China is refusing our plastic. We need more factories like this. If we can spend tax dollars bailing out the auto and bank industries, why can’t we create low interest development loans on these types of recycling or reusing industries?
None of this answer what I or you can do now about rising CO2 and global warming. The options seem overly simplified for one individual, which is discouraging. Not just a drop in a bucket but a micron of effort in a container the size of the Empire State Building. But collectively we can make a difference if we all change our lifestyles. Think of it as one drop of rain doesn’t do much, but a thunderstorm swells streams and rivers. It is time for all of us to be that thunderstorm of change to so we can save our planet.
Plant a Tree, bush, or flowers, or lots of them. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and deal with what is in the atmosphere now. Plants are the natural recyclers of the air. However, Americans have cut down most of our original forests and South America is losing the great rainforest. One small way to fight back is to plant trees in your yard, bushes along your walkway, flowers in a bed—any plant will do. Your grass helps but larger plants can do recycle the air more. Trees are the best because of their massive size makes them large recyclers. Flowers also help bring back pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, which are in grave trouble as well.
Make good recycling choices. By that I mean carry the bottle/can you used in the car back home again to clean and recycle properly rather than throwing it in a local trash can. Know what your recycler will and will not take so that you don’t contaminate large loads of plastic. For instance, I just learned deli take-out containers used in many grocery stores are not recyclable. This includes the large hot-chicken boxes many grocery stores use. See the recycling rules here.
Reject single-use items. The easy step is using canvas and net bags in place of store plastics. Refuse to use straws in restaurants. If you want to focus on not using single-use plastic bottles, then buy all your soda/water/whatever drinks in aluminum or glass and then always recycle those containers. Even better, buy a reusable drinking container (lots of types available) and fill it up at water fountains.
Change your use-and-discard habits. So many things we throw away can be reused or donated for others. Can you turn that old leaking plastic container into something else? A planter? Some folks make CDs into toys or mandala art projects while others use them for mosaics. Several websites will tell you how. Consider making a rag rug out of old sheets, clothes, t-shirts. Lots of instructions are online for doing so. These are just a few ideas you can find by doing searches on the Internet.
Hopefully you already are an agent of change. I believe it is a learning process and I can always improve. However, we need more “rain drops.” We need friends encouraging each other to recycle and reject one-use items. We should teach our children a more sustainable lifestyle since it is their future that is endangered. We must vote in leaders willing to make the hard decisions to limit some wasteful/toxic industries while encouraging other renewable or recycling companies. We need sensible environmental legislation. With everyone being agents of a better world, we can create a global thunderstorm of change and stop humanity from drowning in a sea of carbon emissions.