Take Action

Help Your Parks on National Public Lands Day

September 21, 2011

It’s an annual day of caring for the land that we share. National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer event for public parks and land. The event will take place across the nation this Saturday, September 24. The yearly tradition started in 1994 with 700 volunteers and has grown every year since. More than 170,000 volunteers in every state removed an estimated 450 tons of trash during National Public Lands Day last year. They also removed about 20,000 pounds of invasive plants and planted an estimated 100,000 trees, shrubs and native plants.

National Public Lands Day keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, often called the ‘tree army’, that worked from 1933 to 1942 to preserve and protect America’s natural heritage. Volunteer events are being held at national parks, coastal areas, city and county parks and neighborhood green spaces. In addition to the time and energy donated to help maintain and preserve public land, the event is also about educating Americans about critical environmental and natural resource issues and the need for shared stewardship of valued land.

At South Mountain Park in Arizona, volunteers will be asked to clean trails and remove graffiti. Scuba divers and kayakers will help remove trash from the water at Lake Pleasant Regional Park. In Seattle, volunteers will be helping with trail construction projects at East Tiger Summit Trail. Also this Saturday, the National Park Service is waiving entrance fees to more than 100 national parks across the country. The park service is also hosting a Worldwide Day of Play that encourages children to get up and get active.

Charlotte’s New Recycling Program

Charlotte has a new residential recycling program and you can Do Your Part by not only participating but by knowing all of the items you can now add to your 96 gallon recycling bin. You can still recycle all of the items you recycled before but here are some of the new items you can now recycle.

Reduce Your Eco-Footprint

One of the simplest ways to Do Your Part is to reduce! You can reduce amount of energy you use, the water you waste and the toxic chemicals you bring into your home.

When you reduce, you conserve natural resources and create less air, land and water pollution. And you’ll lower your eco-footprint and save money too.

Using less energy is a big one. Start by weatherizing your home. Seal up gaps to make sure the warm or cool air does not escape. Opt for energy saving solutions in your home like a programmable thermostat, LED lighting, Energy Star-rated appliances and power strips that will kill the phantom load of electronics and chargers that sip power even when they aren’t in use.

Using less water is easy. Install low flow toilets and fixtures, turn off tap while you brush, lather or shave. Outside use your irrigation system only when needed, use a spray nozzle on every hose and incorporate native plants in your yard which naturally require less water.

It’s also important to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals in and around your home that ultimately end up in our environment. Use eco-friendly cleaners, paints and thinners with no volatile organic compounds or VOCS and limit the use of particle board that can release formaldehyde into your home.

Look for other ways to reduce your eco-footprint at DoYourPart.com. And remember when you reduce, you’ll start saving money too.

The Never-Ending Glass Recycling Story

Recycling glass is another super easy way to Do Your Part. It’s as close to instant gratification as you can get in the recycling world. A recycled glass bottle can be back on a store shelf in as little as 30 days and can be recycled over and over again!

Think about the glass that’s in your kitchen right now. Glass jars hold jelly, baby food, spices, drinks, sauces, pickles, oils and a whole lot more. It only takes a moment to rinse them out and recycle them.

Remember to take the lids off because they can jam the recycling machinery.

Recycled glass is all around us. You can find it in fiberglass insulation, concrete, matches, highway reflective paint and ceramic tiles.

Creating glass from scratch requires sand, soda ash and limestone to be heated to 2600 degrees. Making glass from recycled glass uses 40% less energy because the glass melts at a much lower temperature. So recycle all of those glass jars and bottles. You’ll be doing your part to conserve energy and cut down on pollution.

Recycling Paper Is A Success

Paper has quietly become on of the biggest recycling success stories in the United States. In 2007, 56% of all the paper discarded in the United States was recycled. Why? Because the paper industry itself promotes recycling and recognizes that it just makes sense.

Even when you account for the energy required to collect and process paper for recycling; it still takes less water and 40% less energy to make paper from recycled materials rather than virgin materials. And there is plenty of paper to recycle! Look at all the paper around your home: newspapers, junk mail, catalogs, phone books, school papers, bill inserts and envelopes. Paperboard is another paper product that’s recyclable. This is the thin cardboard like packaging that we buy so many products in. All that cardboard is recyclable too. Any paper or cardboard product without food on it is recyclable — that’s why you can’t recycle pizza boxes.

Paper that’s recycled is fluffed and sifted to remove heavier cardboard items. The paper is then bundled and sent to paper mills or immediately processed into cellulose insulation right here in the recycling facility. In one-hours-time a bale of insulation is made from paper dumped from the recycling truck.

The success of paper recycling is also driven by the growing demand to buy recycled paper products. From insulation to printer paper; look for the recycling symbol. And if you want to support your recycling efforts buy the highest post consumer content. That’s the paper we recycle — not paper scraps from the factory floor.

Recycling paper is easy and making products from recycled paper requires less water and energy. When we conserve energy we also create less air pollution. So Do Your Part to recycle all of your paper products and buy recycled paper products when you can. You’ll be doing your part to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Recycling Plastic

Plastics are everywhere and much of it is recyclable. I recently visited the Metrolina Recycling Center in Charlotte. This facility processes 16 one-thousand-pound bales of plastics everyday.

Recycled plastics can be made into lots of products including new plastics, apparel, lumber and carpeting. Paul O’Donnell, Director of Commodities for FCR, tells us what happens to the plastic processed at the Metrolina Recycling Center. He says, “once it leaves here it goes through another processing where it’s ground up, washed, pelletized and then brought into the new products.”

Recycling keeps plastic out of the landfill but there is also an economic benefit to recycling plastic. “It’s created a whole new industry set up to use this material. There’s the whole environmental issues, the sustainability issue and it just doesn’t make sense to bury this stuff in the ground when it can be used as raw material in other industries,” according to O’Donnell.

Right now, Americans only recycle 5% of the plastics produced in this country and up until recently that was partly because is was less expensive to make plastic from virgin material rather than recycled material. With the current price of crude oil, from which plastic is made, that’s no longer true. Recycling plastic is a profitable business but as Geoff Burdick, Project Manager for Charlotte Mecklenburg Solid Waste Services tells us, it’s not just about the money.

“Our current landfill in the south end of the county has about 23 years left in it and trying to get a new landfill sited with the State restructuring, it takes an act of God to make that happen. Although its in the future, we should think about it now because in 23 years we’re not going to have any where to put our trash,” Burdick said.

So Do Your Part by recycling all of the plastic you can and by buying products made from recycled plastic. Learn what kinds of plastics your local recycler will accept by clicking here.

To Learn More Visit:
American Chemistry Council: Recycled Plastic Products Directory
US Energy Information Administration
Earth911.org