Published on June 6th, 2008 | by Shirley Siluk Gregory


Want to Curb Global Warming? Start Recycling and Composting

A garbage dump. (Image credit: Marcello Casal Jr./AgĂȘncia Brasil at Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.)Looking for ways beyond changing lightbulbs and taking the train to help reduce your carbon footprint? Turns out we all could make a big difference in greenhouse gas emissions by not throwing out so much trash and composting our food waste.

That’s the message from “Stop Trashing the Climate,” a report prepared by The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Eco-Cycle, a non-profit recycler. The study finds that waste prevention and increased recycling and composting could reduce as many greenhouse gas emissions as are produced by 21 percent of the U.S.’s 417 coal-fired power plants.

Why? There are two basic reasons. One, by trashing stuff instead of reusing or repairing it, we create the demand for new resources … and extracting, manufacturing and transporting those resources generates carbon dioxide. And, two, by tossing biodegradable materials into landfills instead of composting them, we’re creating emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas that is shorter-lived but 72 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

“Recycling is as important for climate stability as improving vehicle fuel efficiency, retrofitting lighting, planting trees and protecting forests,” said Brenda Platt, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and lead author of the “Stop Trashing the Climate” report.  “By avoiding landfill methane emissions, composting in particular is a vital tactic in the battle to stop Arctic ice melting. Biodegradable materials are a liability when buried and burned but an asset when composted.”

The report asserts that “A zero waste approach based on preventing waste and expanding reuse, recycling and composting is one of the fastest, cheapest, and most effective strategies to protect the climate.” It also notes that, per megawatt-hour, a trash incinerator produces more carbon dioxide emissions that a coal-fired power plant. Incinerators also waste three to five times as much energy as recycling helps to conserve.

“A zero waste approach is not only good news for climate stability, it’s also good news for America’s businesses and economy,” said Eric Lombardi, a report co-author and director of the Boulder, Colorado-based Eco-Cycle.

“Stop Trashing the Climate” urges a local and national 20-year goal of zero waste. We can get there, the authors argue, by not subsidizing landfills and incinerators, putting an end to waste incineration, composting biodegradable materials and expanding the nationwide infrastructure for reuse, recycling and composting.

As part of World Environment Day, community supporters of better recycling and composting lobbied officials in several parts of the country, including Tallahassee; Providence, Rhode Island; Bridgeport, Connecticut; Los Angeles; and Massachusetts.

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About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options' Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor's degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism. After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era. Shirley's always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning. Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley's environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina -- and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 -- has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That's why she's become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

8 Responses to Want to Curb Global Warming? Start Recycling and Composting

  1. MillMichelle says:

    I agree! Let’s hope more people out there are willing to help make the difference! I’ve submitted my project idea for Earthworm Heaven http://www.membersproject.com/project/view/NGI9FY

    We need more community compost piles, with our champion Earthworms to help reduce landfill space, improve soil quality and help reduce ozone destroying toxins!

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  7. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

    1 Thessalonians 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

    1 Thessalonians 4:15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.

    1 Thessalonians 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

    1 Thessalonians 4:17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    1 Thessalonians 4:18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

  8. brocks says:

    http://www.powerhouserecycling.com can help with electronics recycling in Charlotte.

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