I’ve spent time recently meeting with the environmental group, NRDC (Natural Resource Defense Council). This is an environmental action and advocacy group who uses science and law to help promote a healthy environment for all living beings. At a meeting last night a man named Allen Hershkowitz led the discussion by explaining his role in the “greening” of baseball. ( as well as NHL, NFL, oscars and emmy’s). It was a a fascinating story because a group of 5 people ( along with Robert Redford!) decided to do something about the way America creates waste. The results are dramatic–from saving energy, to using forest certified building materials, to reducing waste–this team has changed the way America’s past times adversely affect our planet.
One of the most valuable pieces of information I took away from the night was the importance of using post consumer recycled content. This means buying goods made from recycled materials.Recycling can be cost effective and successful only if there is sufficient market demand for products that contain post-consumer content. In the stadiums and at the concert halls, NRDC has effectively managed to replace everything from toilet paper and tissues to tickets and programs and year books to be post consumer content. Instead of chopping down virgin forests to create the resources for these facilities they are now using recycled goods. (BTW, when forests are chopped down not only is carbon no longer being absorbed by the millions of trees lost, but massive amounts of carbon are released as the the soil is churned up and the trees are destroyed. Planting new trees does not even come close to absorbing the same amount of carbon as the old trees did. Some of these forest are tens of thousands of years old and the efficacy of these trees can not be matched.)
It is getting easier and easier as a consumer to find post consumer recycled goods and this is an extremely important part of the recycling chain or loop. Its really important that it say post consumer, the higher percentage the better (i.e plastic garbage bags made from 50% post consumer waste are better than bags made with 18% PC waste).
Manufacturing products from recycled materials conserves natural resources, consumes less energy, and saves landfill space. Here are a few examples:
- Recycled aluminum saves 95 percent energy compared with virgin aluminum
- One ton of paper made from recycled fibers instead of virgin materials saves 7,000 gallons of water, 17 to 31 trees, 4,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, and 60 pounds of air pollutants
- One ream of 100% post-consumer recycled paper prevents 5 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere
- Using recycled glass requires 40 percent less energy than making glass from all new materials.
- Recycling plastic takes 70 percent less energy than it does to make it from raw materials.
Purchasing products made from recycled materials closes the recycling loop, helps preserve more natural resources, and fuels a growing industry in recycled products, which creates more jobs and thus is ultimately good for the economy as well as the environment. (Deborah Mitchell)
Here are some stores that sell post consumer products:
- http://www.recycledproducts.org/— office products, paper products
- seventh generation — cleaning supplies, trash bags, toilet paper, paper products, laundry detergent (I use all of their products and I am so happy with the way they work)
- wee generation–diaper bag (made from 100% post consumer content)
- Gaiam— yoga supplies, cleaning supplies, household goods, fair trade items, clothing, rugs
- Uncommongoods.com–really, really fun collection of gifts, household items
- tenthousandvillages.com–fair trade and many recycled products
Even Wal-Mart is carrying t-shirts made from recylced coke bottles. there is a way out of this mess that we are in, its just going to take a huge effort on ALL of our parts.
A little disclaimer here: I can’t promise that post consumer toilet paper is as soft as charmin, BUT, and this is a big but, there were no trees chopped down for it and it works just as well!
Switching over to post consumer products like garbage bags, office supplies, cleaning supplies, paper towels is hardly a big deal and so worth the extra effort it may take to find it.