To follow the holy trinity of environmentally friendly consumerism and protect our planet, you should Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.
Reducing what we consume is hands down the best thing to do. When we are not purchasing new materials, we are totally reducing our environmental burden. In a school environment, consider keeping a computer a year longer before an upgrade, try to maintain your heating and air conditioning equipment so it keeps going longer before replacing, and repair chairs and tables rather than buying new ones.
Re-using is also great. Re-use a bag; re-use a textbook (by encouraging a library and a second hand textbook scheme); use re-fillable water bottles and coffee cups; re-use paper by printing on the reverse side or using scrap paper for your notes.
Recycling is also good, and has been around since the year dot. Newspapers were being pulped, glass bottles washed and reused and organic waste composted more than 50 years ago.
The UN Rio Earth Summit in 1992 called for action, and an increase in recycling facilities in many countries was a direct result of this. Households and businesses in many countries have become used to separating their waste. Here are three top reasons to recycle:
- It simply conserves scarce natural resources. When we have mined all the gold in the world there simply will be none left. Recycling metals means we are not mining new metal ores; recycling wood means we are less likely to be cutting down ancient woodlands.
- It protects wildlife and ecosystems, by reducing the need to grow, harvest or extract new raw materials. That in turn reduces the damage being done to the natural world: fewer forests cut down, rivers diverted, wild animals harmed or displaced, and less pollution of water, soil and air.
- It saves energy. Recycling something can often take a lot less energy than producing it in the first place. Making paper from pulped recycled paper used 40% less energy than from virgin wood fibres; aluminium recycled from cans and foil uses 95% less energy than to produce it new! (source: Friends of the Earth.uk). Saving energy reduces pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a win win.
So, recycling is good. Do more of it! If there are few facilities locally, you could lobby your local council or city authorities to improve that.
Read more about the IH Environmental Sustainability Scheme >>