Thursday, November 5, 2009

Going green in the classroom

Going green in the classroom

We have been reading and talking about recycling in my third-year English class. It has been really interesting and has gotten me thinking.

Reading from my third-year high school textbook:
“Aluminum cans are very easy to recycle. But, every three months, we throw away enough aluminum to rebuild all the commercial airplanes in the country. Please think of that the next time you throw away a soda can.
We throw away enough iron and steel to supply all our car makers. If we recycled more metal, our car makers would never need any new iron and steel.
Every week, more than five hundred thousand trees are used to make newspapers. Imagine five hundred thousand trees. And two-thirds of those newspapers are thrown away.
This year, we’ll throw away enough office and writing paper to build a wall twelve feet high – that’s three and a half meters. And that wall would be so long it would go from Los Angeles to New York.
Every year, we throw away twenty-four million tons of leaves and grass clippings. They could be composted, allowed to rot or decay so that they could become fertilizer for soil.
We throw away enough glass bottles to fill two skyscrapers every two weeks. Think of it. Those bottles could be recycled.
We throw away two and a half million plastic bottles every hour. Very few plastic bottles are ever recycled – what a waste!”

Pair that with the photos I shared with my class:

One million plastic cups, the number used in the US every six hours.

Two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

1.14 million Brown paper supermarket bags, the number used in the US every hour.

106,000 Aluminum cans, the number used in the US every thirty seconds.

60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds.

As I learn this and see these photos, it strikes me how wasteful we are, as Americans. This makes me think lots of things. I’ll try to collect my thoughts into something coherent.

It makes me wonder how I can personally affect change in this area. What am I doing that I can change? Plastic cups on the airline. Can I bring my own? Would that be too weird? Or am I already too weird, when I carry my groceries because I can and that means I don’t have to use a bag? I definitely am planning to bring a cup or beverage container of some kind on my next flight. Can I bring a sippy cup? Or a hot beverage cup? How else am I buying/creating waste that I don’t need to? What can I do to change that?

What do I use that is made of iron? Apparently I’m helping throw away tons and tons of it, but what’s made of iron?

Also makes me wonder, how can I affect change in the world? Besides just what I’m doing, since I recycle most of those things. In Japan, they practically triple package everything (grr!!), but they have a recycling program in my town that I think is pretty great (with the exception of paper – which is burnable). Recycling is FREE. Why wouldn’t people recycle? Garbage is what costs them money. That would encourage everyone. It wouldn’t matter if they were poor or rich. Why would anyone choose to spend money to throw something away that they could recycle for free? Maybe it’s not the answer to every problem, but it seems like a really good way to encourage people to recycle.

Now it’s time to get off the soap box and back to normal life. Hope you enjoyed and don’t forget your reusable bag the next time you grocery shop.

If you’re interested in seeing more detail of any of the photos, the photos should all link you to the site where they’re originally posted.