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Sustainability

Garbage Glut: Each of Us Toss Out 7 Pounds of Trash a Day, Spending Billions to Manage It

Read the following excerpt published in The Wall Street Journal by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Edward Humes. Click HERE to read the entire article. Humes’ book, “Garbology” was recently published.

“Each week, we push our trash to the curb, and it seemingly disappears. But where does it all go: the spent cartons of milk, the computer keyboard fried by spilled coffee, those empty dog food cans?

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to find out. In 2009, they began attaching transmitter chips to thousands of pieces of ordinary garbage. They tossed this “smart trash” into the bin, sat back and watched the tortuous, disturbing path that our garbage often takes: the meanderings of electronic waste as it headed for distant shores, of ratty old sneakers that ran the equivalent of a dozen marathons, of printer cartridges that transversed the continent not once but twice on the road to recycling.

This clever experiment threw a spotlight on the biggest, costliest, dirtiest secret about our garbage: our ignorance of how much we produce, what it contains and what happens to it once it leaves our hands.

Take the nation’s official trash tally – used alike by environmentalists, buisnesses and policy makers – which maintains that the average American tosses out 4.4 pounds of trash a day, with about a third getting recycled and the rest going to landfills. These numbers are found in the Environmental Protection Agency’s exhaustive annual compendium “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States” – America’s trash Bible – and are determined by an array of byzantine estimates and simulations, based on manufacturing data and the life expectancy of products.

But the EPA’s “materials flow analysis” dates back to the bad old days when there were 10 times the number of town dumps and many more illegal ones, with little actual weighing and regulation. Today the business model of the landfill and recycling business depends on precise measurement (and billing per ton), so we have much  more real-world data. Using these sources, the most recent survey conducted by Columbia University and the trade journal BioCycle found that Americans actually throw out much more than the EPA estimates, a whopping 7.1 pounds a day, and that less than a quarter of it gets recycled.

So how does America’s trash weigh in? Here are some key numbers from the emerging science of garbology: 

  • At 7.1 pounds of trash a day, each of us is on track to produce a staggering 102 tons of waste in an average lifetime.
  • Trash has become America’s leading export: mountains of waste paper, soiled cardboard, crushed beer cans and junked electronics. China’s No. 1 export to the U.S. is computers, according to the Journal of Commerce. The United States’ No. 1 export to China, by number of cargo containers, is scrap.
  • American communities on average spend more money on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, according to U.S. Census data on municipal budgets.

As these snapshots suggest, garbage costs are staggering. New York City alone spent $2.2 billion on sanitation in 2011. According to the city’s department of sanitation, more than $300 million of that was just for transporting its citizens’ trash by train and truck – 12,000 tons a day – to out-of-state landfills, some as far as 300 miles away. How much is 12,000 tons a day? That’s like throwing away 62 Boeing 747 jumbo jets daily, or driving 8,730 new Honda Civics into a landfill each morning.”

Read the rest of this WSJ article HERE.

 Some final facts on Our Annual Waste (from Garbology)

  • 19 billion pounds of polystyrene peanuts
  • 40 billion plastic knives, forks and spoons
  • 28 billion pounds of food
  • Enough steel to level and restore Manhattan
  • Enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas

UW-Green Bay Holds 3rd Place in International MobilizeU Competition

When the call went out for colleges and universities to participate in the Earth Day Network’s MobilizeU campaign, Jeff Cook, PEAC’s president and SGA Environmental Affairs delegate, signed up the UWGB campus. Halfway through the competition, UWGB is in third place out of 260 participating schools across the globe. MobilizeU is an international movement of concerned and active college students competing and uniting around environmental action in support of a sustainable future and supports the Earth Day Network’s global effort to Mobilize the EarthTM .

The competition encourages students to engage their campus communities in four weeks of environmental activism surrounding Earth Day 2012 (March 29 – April 29). Students work to generate as many “acts of green” – actions that either educate someone about the environment or reduce an individual’s carbon footprint – as possible. Acts of green are quantified by the number of people educated at an event or the number of service hours donated during a community project.

Some of the efforts undertaken by students during the month include wildflower and tree plantings, fight for your food film festival, canvassing the dorms to raise awareness about energy conservation for the Energy conservation competition, an e-waste collection drive, and promoting awareness about Earth Week Events in the 4th Estate newspaper.

For more information visit the Earth Day Nework.

UWGB a “Green College” According to The Princeton Review!

UW – Green Bay is proud to be included for the first time in  The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges: 2012 Edition. The publishers bill their product — created in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council — as focusing “solely on colleges that have demonstrated a notable commitment to sustainability.”  

Being in this guide is a testament to the hard work and commitment the University’s faculty, staff and students have shown over many years of maintaining a focus on sustainability and working to live up to the “Eco-U” name.

Other Wisconsin schools in the guide are Marquette University, Northland College and the UW campuses at Eau Claire, Madison, Milwaukee and Stevens Point. You can see a state-by-state list at http://www.princetonreview.com/green-schools-by-state.aspx.

E-Waste Recycling – April 23rd, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Have an old CPU, dead laptop, antique scanner or anything with a plug gathering dust in your dorm room or at home? Faculty, staff and students have an opportunity on April 23, 10:30 – 2:30 p.m., to bring those old electronics in for recycling by local company Cyber Green (http://www.cybergreenllc.com/). The event will be held in the MAC Circle, off of Campus Ct., with students available to help you haul things, if needed. Only four items have fees for disposal and they are:  CRT/Monitors, $10; TVs, $10; TVs over 30”, $20; Console TVs, $20. Anything else with a plug can be recycled at no cost.  

Note: this is NOT for University-owned or purchased electronic items. An e-waste recycling opportunity will be held in the future to collect those items.

FINAL RecycleMania Results!

The 2012 RecycleMania competition is complete! This year, during the eight weeks of the event, our campus recycling rate was 31.33%, or 15.17 pounds/person. Our non-recycled trash going to the landfill weighed in at 48.41 pounds/person over the eight weeks.

The tables below show the final results  as well as where our efforts placed us among all the Wisconsin Colleges and Universities participating in the competitive category.

State of Wisconsin Results

 

News Bit: NIKE, NASA Just Do It, Partner on Waste

By Leon Kaye, TriplePundit.com, April 9, 2012

“Last week NASA and NIKE kicked off ‘LAUNCH: Beyond Waste Challenge’ to find 10 ‘game changing’ innovations that could revamp current waste management systems. The immediate steps are to find new methods to minimize waste or alter it into new products. In the long term, the goal is to have these new waste processing systems aid space travel in the future.

Those interested in participating in the program have until May 15 to submit ideas for the elimination, transformation and mitigation of waste. LAUNCH is also seeking proposals for waste reduction education and financial strategies. This initiative welcomes any innovations that can help with waste diversion or zero-waste strategies that can benefit in households, communities, businesses or industry.

The fundamentals behind LAUNCH are growing concerns over the effects that the world’s increasing population coupled with diminishing resources call for a complete redesign and rethink of how societies approach waste. Current practices from the obvious, incineration and landfill disposal, to even more sustainable processes like recycling and ‘upcycling,’ (which use energy and do not always address consumerism and the accumulation of ‘stuff’) are untenable in the long run.”

To read more about how shoes and rockets work together go HERE.

Go Green: 11 Awesome Earth-Friendly Jobs

Do you care about making a difference as musch as you care about your career?

“Green” jobs – defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as jobs that produce goods or services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources, or jobs that use more environmentally friendly processes or fewer natural resources – have outpaced jobs in other categories by almost 250 percent over the last decade, and growth doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

The 12 in-demand jobs profiled in this article show how you can make some green – while going green.

To view the slideshow, go HERE.

Source: salary.com

News Bit: Want Young Customers in China? Cut Your Emissions.

By Jessica Shankleman, Greenbiz.com, April 3, 2012

“Businesses have been urged to accelerate their environmental footprinting strategies to include emerging economies, after new research by The Carbon Trust revealed young people in China could hold the key to unlocking mass demand for greener products.

The survey of 2,500 young people across six countries carried out the TNS found 83 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds in China would be more loyal to a brnd if they could see it was reducing its carbon footprint. In contrast, just 57 percent of U.S. respondents and 55 percent of young people in the U.K. made the same claim.

Globally, 78 percent of young people said they want their favorite brands to reduce their carbon footpring, but again those in China showed the highest demand for emission reductions with 88 percent calling on firms to cut their footprint.

South Africa came in second place with 86 percent of respondents calling on blue chips to reduce their impact, followed by Brazil at 84 percent. Again the U.S. and U.K. lagged far behind, with only two thirds of respondents demanding more action from big brands.

The analysis was launched just days after The Carbon Trust unveiled the first four Asian companies to receive the Carbon Trust Standard, its independent label awarded to companies that reduce their organizational carbon footprints year-on-year.

Tom Delay, chief executive of The Carbon Trust, said the survey results were “startling” in that they revealed how Chinese consuemrs could lead the global demand for greener goods.

‘Sixty percent of young adults questioned in China would stop buying a product if its manufacturer refused to commit to measuring and reducing its carbon footprint, compared to just 35 percent of those in the U.S.,’ he said. ‘Perhaps it is the Chinese, no the U.S. consumer, that really holds the key to unlocking the mass demand for new low carbon products necessary to deliver an environmentally sustainable economy,’”

Read the entire article HERE.

Would you buy from a product from a company that could document that product’s carbon footprint? And would you be loyal to that company because it makes the effort to be transparent on the environmental impact of the product?

RecycleMania Results: Week 7

Latest RecycleMania results are in:

Saved to date through recycling efforts:

  • 62 Metric tons of CO2 equivalent
  • 33 cars off the road
  • energy consumption of 16 households