Posts filed under ‘Facts & Figures’
Paper use is, at times, astounding. The average American uses 700 pounds of paper per year, which is over 7 trees per person. There are some very easy things you can do to reduce your paper use.
- Stop getting junk mail. This probably won’t be much of a burden. Simply visit Waukesha County’s website to learn how to get off of junk mail lists. Think this won’t make a difference? Every person in our country gets about 250 pieces of unsolicited mail every year, and in the course of a lifetime, you’ll spend about 8 months sorting through it! This easy fix saves time and money. As a quick reminder: if you do get junk mail it is recyclable. Even paper envelopes with plastic windows belong in your blue bin, not the trash.
- Cool as the other side of the paper. Set your printers at work and home to print duplex. Work printers usually have this option, which is easily set. At home, you may need to feed your paper through the printer twice. This post by TechSoup will walk you through the duplexing do-si-do whether you have a duplexing printer or not. Duplexing just not possible? Use the other side of the paper for scratch paper. I like using junk mail envelopes for grocery lists, for example. I just keep all the coupons for that week in the envelope.
- Make paper reduction automatic. Set up automatic bill pay through your bank or the companies that send you bills. Everyone saves postage and paper, and everyone is happy.
- Give wrapping the axe. Wrapping paper is a huge use of paper products. Consider using more creative wrapping that is reusable, like wrapping a kitchen gift in towels or use reusable gift boxes. Need some ideas? I kept track of gifts & how I wrapped them for the holiday season in 2008 and 2007.
- Use & Reuse. Whenever possible, use reusable plates, cups, and napkins, and rags for cleaning. By avoiding single-use paper products you can save yourself a lot of money as well as a lot of paper.
Waukesha County’s sustainability program has a lot of great information about reducing paper use at work.
So why not give it a try? This week, try to reduce your paper use. What ideas worked for you? What other ideas do you have? I’d love to hear about them!
- There are currently 70 operating, licensed landfills in WI, which is down from 1,158 in 1980. These landfills took in 10.8 million tons of solid waste. 1/5 of all waste landfilled in 2007 was from other states. Trash is down 3.2% in 2007 from 2006. 2008 numbers were not in this part of the report.
- Over 11,000 Wisconsin businesses, schools, and government institutions create hazardous waste each year.
- 1,061 different recycling programs in the state (a.k.a. Responsible Units)
- 411,047 tons of paper and containers were recycled by residential recycling programs in 2007. When businesses are included, this number rises to over 1 million tons of recyclables. This is the equivalent of taking 657,480 cars off the road for the year.
- It was a big year for construction & demolition waste. UW-Whitewater while demolishing old buildings and constructing a new business building recycled over 14,000 tons of materials. The demolition recycling rate was at 98%! Also, the Marquette Interchange project reused fly ash and some other industrial waste material to reduce costs and the environmental impact of road construction projects. There is also a growing mechanism to support asphalt shingle recycling.
Closer to Home
- Waukesha County processed 22,662 tons of residential recyclables. That saved enough energy to power 2,281 homes for 2008.
- Recycling earns your municipality money! In 2008, recycling dividends totaled $879,246.
- Over 2,000 people visited the Materials Recycling Facility. Schedule your tour today by calling 262.896.8300 if you are a community group, school group, or scout troop in Waukesha County.
- If you can’t make it to our facility, let us come to you! In 2008 our staff completed 63 presentations.
- Collected a total of 200,270 pounds of hazardous waste, a 1% increase compared to last year.
What is on our agenda for this year?
- We would love to inform your organization about recycling, green gardening practices with less pesticide use, green cleaning presentations, composting, and more.
- We are planning several Boy Scout Merit Badge Workshops.
- We will have a new traveling trunk to supplement the LEAF curriculum. If you are a teacher, visit our teacher page at www.waukeshacounty.gov/EnvironmentalEd to stay up to date with all of our new curriculum assistance and to download lessons that are already currently available.
- And tons more! Make sure to stay tuned!
This video follows 2 students through their day to show ways that we can all save energy and reduce trash.
While there is a lot of press release gold around this event, the larger goal should be to identify little changes in our everyday lives to save energy. There is a possible involvement of 1 billion people in this years Earth Hour. While it is great that all of these people are going to shut off their lights for an hour, think of the impact if these people also made easy changes to ‘go green’ for the every hour, not just Earth Hour. Little actions could include:
- Getting a reusable mug. The average American uses 100 Styrofoam cups a year. If everyone involved in Earth Hour got a reusable mug, 100,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups would not be used this year.
- Getting a reusable bag. For every reusable bag in use, 288 disposable bags would not be used per year. If everyone involved in Earth Hour used 1 reusable bag, 288,000,000,000 plastic bags would not be used this year.
- Getting a lunchbox. The average school child creates 67 lbs. of trash and food waste per school year. This comes from too-large portions as well as disposable bags and single serve items. If everyone involved in Earth Hour committed to eating what they pack for lunch and packing it in reusable containers, 33,500,000 tons of waste.
- Recycling an aluminum can. Recycling a single aluminum can saves enough energy to light up a regular lightbulb for 4 hours. If everyone that participated in Earth Hour recycled 1 aluminum can, we could light up a light bulb for 456,621 years. In other words, we could light up every lightbulb in every residence in America for almost 2 hours.
- Unplugging appliances not in use. When an appliance is plugged in, even if it is not turned on, it is still using energy. Is your phone charger plugged in right now? What about your coffee pot? These items use ‘phantom energy’ which accounts for up to 5% of your total energy bill. Unplug items not in use or get a power strip that can easily be unplugged when items are not in use.
- Eating 1 local meal a week. The average meal travels 1500 miles. In other words, one meal eaten by every Earth Hour participant travels around the globe 60,236,125 times. By eating one local meal a week, we can save a lot of energy as well as support our local economies. (and eating locally doesn’t necessarily mean eating at a local restaurant!)
While there are some that think Earth Hour is not a good idea because it gives the wrong impression that we need to all sit in the dark to save the planet and others participate just to spite different organizations, I think its a good chance to reassess how much we depend on all of our electronic gizmos and look forward game of scrabble while drinking out of my reusable mug and eating a locally grown salad.
Are you participating in Earth Hour? What do you plan to do?
Let’s talk some trash. The average Wisconsinitte creates over 4 1/2 lbs. of trash a day. This is what we put into landfills, and does not include all that we recycle. Despite the fact that we put so much stuff into landfills, most people know very little about them. So here we go: a little bit of info about landfills.
Where is the dump?
Nowhere. There are no dumps in Waukesha County, only landfills. This may seem like picky syntax, but there used to be dumps and now there are not so depending what you are getting rid of, you may have to go to a different location. Do you have something to trash? The first step is to make sure you can throw it in a landfill. According to Wisconsin state law the following items are banned from landfills.
- Lead acid batteries
- Major appliances
- Used motor oil
- Yard waste (Scroll down to ‘Item Questions’)
- Newspapers, magazines, courrugated cardboard, office paper and other recyclable paper
- Glass, aluminum, steel, tin, and plastic (#1 & #2) bottles and cans
Other items can be recycled, such as electronics and textiles. Some harmful substances like paint, chemicals, medical wastes, and antifreeze can also be disposed of in a more proper way than tossing it into a landfill.
If landfilling is the only option, check with your municipality to inquire about how much trash you can put out for curbside collection. Each municipality contracts (or allows their residents to contract) for trash service individually. They may or may not have included bulky items in their contract. If the municipality did not contract for large or bulky item trash pick-up, there may be a drop off site your community pays for, or you may have to call your hauler and arrange for a special pick up.
If you need to take your items to the landfill, there are 2 in Waukesha County. These are privately owned enterprises and you should contact the landfills for information about their fee schedule. Muskego (Emerald Park Landfill) — W124 S10629 S 124th St. — (414)529-1360. They are open Fridays & Saturdays. The other option is in Menomonee Falls (Orchard Ridge Landfill) — W124 N9355 Boundary Rd. –(262)253-8620. They are open Monday through Saturday.
They are going to charge me to throw it away?
Yes. Wisconsin has some of the cheapest disposal rates, but there is a cost to toss. Your contracted collection through your municipality is paid for by your community, some part of which you may see broken out on your tax bill. On average, it costs $35 a ton to throw something away in Wisconsin. This does not account for collection costs.
Isn’t a landfill just a hole in the ground?
It may seem like a tiny portion of the waste stream, but 340,000 tons of cork are harvested annually. 13 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) cork wine stoppers are made every year. So rather than throw these little stoppers into the landfill, here are a few helpful tid-bits.
Reduce. Some wine makers are going to screw top lids or plastic corks, which actually work better than their cork counterparts, but these items are not as readily recyclable.
Reuse. If you are feeling froggy, I found a few (very fun looking) DIY projects with corks. Click on the pictures to get to the respective websites.
Recycle. Several services offer cork recycling.
- The EcoSpheric Blog looks at Korks for Kids
- Yemm & Hart recycles corks
- ReCork America
- Cork ReHarvest for Willamette Valley Vineyards via Whole Foods. Learn more at stumptown savoury
Update: For information about the future of cork stoppers please read this post by Pays to Live Green.
When I am giving presentations or MRF Tours, people have a lot of questions about recycling paper. The first tends to be “Why should I recycle paper?” Recycling paper is important for several reasons. Like all recycling, it creates jobs and supports a very important industry in Wisconsin. Additionally, recycling paper saves natural resources. For every ton of paper recycled:
- 17 trees are not cut down
- 7,000 gallons of water are not used
- 380 gallons of oil will not be used
- 3 cubic yards of landfill space will not be filled
- enough energy will be saved to heat your home for 6 months
So while saving trees as a natural resource is great, it is by no means the only natural resource being saved. Additionally, when you use recycled paper you are not only saving trees but, in some cases, you are saving diverse forests. There have been accounts that some forests cut down for paper are not ‘tree farms’, but rather old-growth forests. A recent article in the New York Times explains that for certain types of paper, old growth trees must be used. This article focuses on the need to use old-growth forests to make certain types of toilet paper.
Another very common question is “What kinds of paper can I recycle?” In Waukesha County, Wisconsin the following types of paper can be placed in a paper bag or bundled with twine to be collected for recycling:
- newspapers can be recycled
- magazines can be recycled
- advertisements in newspapers can be recycled
- junk mail can be recycled
- envelopes with plastic windows can be recycled
- old homework can be recycled
- printer paper can be recycled (and also reused!)
- construction paper can be recycled
- cardboard can be recycled (and also reduced or reused!)
- phone books can be recycled
- chipboard can be recycled (i.e. cereal boxes, the box that comes around your soda, etc.)
- toilet paper tubes can be recycled
- paper towel tubes can be recycled
Types of paper that cannot be recycled include any paper that has come into contact with wet or greasy food (i.e. pizza boxes or ice cream boxes) and wrapping paper. Also, when you get those credit card offers, make sure to throw the ‘sticky booger’ that attaches the credit card to the paper makes it in the trash as well. All of these items can ruin the paper recycling process down the line.
Paper is 70% of the material that comes into our material recycling facility. We use a ton of paper – if you stack up the paper used by an average office worker in a year, the stack would be over 4 feet tall! Not only is this a huge use of natural resources, but it is also a huge cost. The cost of an average ream of paper is minimal in comparison to the total cost of that paper when you factor in printing on it, storing it, mailing it, and disposing it. The average cost of a ream of paper with all these factors, rises to $62. How much money and resources could you save if you reduce your paper use? In the Department of Parks and Land Use at Waukesha County, the answer is over $17,000 in 2 years.
Some strategies that you can easily implement to your daily routine include:
- Think before you print. Can you store it electronically? A well organized electronic filing system allows you to store e-mails, documents, pictures, and other data in an easily searchable environment.
- Think before you print multiple copies. In our office we have to print lots of agendas. Sometimes we know how many people will be coming to the meeting, sometimes not. Create standards for average attendance and don’t print more than you think you will need. Alternatively, consider making agendas available online or via e-mail before the meeting and have people bring their own copy. This also allows attendees to be better prepared for the meeting.
- Think before you print a copy for everyone and their brother. Route memos through the office. Have a central filing cabinet for documents used by multiple people in the office. One example of a file I keep in the central filing cabinet is background information on Houseshold Hazardous Waste and another on composting.
- Think before you print a ‘final copy’. Use document editing software to review comments via your network. Print draft copies or copies that will not be seen by clients or the public on scratch paper. Default your printer to a tray filled with this type of scratch paper.
- Network. Make sure your computer is networked to others. If you don’t have a network, consider online applications like Google documents to make sure that everyone has access to documents. Google Documents saved me a lot of printing while I was planning my wedding. I was able to keep everyone up-to-date with schedules, to-do lists, and more.
- Get your name off of junk mail lists. Whether it be personally or professionally, there are a lot of sites that can help you get your name off of mailing lists. A few to visit include Catalogue Choice, Yellow Pages, and for more information Waukesha County’s Recycling site.
These are just a few ideas… What are your favorite ways to reduce paper?
mk. With all the hulabaloo about some other famous birthdays this week, I figured I would take a moment to honor Thomas Malthus. Basically, he theorized that population could grow faster than our ability to produce enough food to support said growing population. Awesome. He influenced such people as Charles Darwin and John Maynard Keynes. Have I mentioned that (sans mascot costume) I am taking an Environmental Economics class this semester? I am assuming we will get to the Malthusian Catastrophe at some point. Basically, this guys huge theory that gets him all famous is that he thinks eventually we will run out of stuff to fulfill the needs of people. This is oversimplified, of course.
Takeaway point? Because, yes, I indeed have one.
Don’t use up more resources than you need to. Why speed up this guy’s theory?
Reduce. For every trash can of garbage (or bin of recyclables) you put on your curb, around 70 other trash cans were filled just to make the stuff in your 1 garbage can! Easy ways to do this? Buy in bulk if you will use all of a product. Use a lunch box and reusable food storage containers. Get reusable bags for shopping. Get a reusable mug for coffee or a canteen for water.
Reuse. If you do end up with a plastic bag from a store, why not use it as a trash can liner rather than buying the little liners from the store? After all, Americans spend more on trash can liners than 90 other countries spend on everything. Donate items you no longer have a use for. Feeling really froggy? My favorite reuse strategies to get your garden going for spring include making seedling pots from toilet paper roll tubes and then making a little greenhouse to help the seeds grow.
Recycle. Don’t send valuable resources to the landfill where they will never again see the light of day. We landfill enough aluminum in this country to rebuild every single commercial airplane every three months! Americans throw, on average, 2,502,500 water bottles in the garbage every hour! This statistic doesn’t even count soda bottles. When people throw away these materials they are throwing away natural resources (in this case bauxite, oil, and water), energy, and the economic benefits that recycling provides (because no matter how you slice it in Waukesha, recycling makes money and trash costs money).
Three little words could help slow Malthus’ Catastrophe quite a bit.