By Ellery Grace Carbone | GFDA Contributor
The last time I checked, nobody was making a Halloween costume out of garbage. Garbage is garbage. We throw it away and we forget about it.
And while you think you may know where it goes, let me lay out a couple of facts. The average American produces a little over 700 pounds of recycling and 1,300 pounds of trash per year. This is roughly the weight of a large adult male polar bear.
Individual consumption is growing. Between 2019 and 2021, we added 2.2 pounds of trash per year per person. This doesn’t begin to touch the waste produced by construction and demolition in our landfills. In 2018, the EPA reported 600 million tons of C&D debris generated, representing more than twice the amount of our personal waste.
Waste out of sight equates to waste out of mind. Unfortunately, we must accept that the majority of everything produced on this earth ends up in a landfill or the surrounding environment.
Why does this matter? Landfills are large emitters of greenhouse gases. Organic materials, like food waste and construction remnants – that could be recycled and composted – often end up in the dump. The issue here is that the breakdown of these organic materials produces an abundance of methane gas and carbon dioxide which directly contribute to global warming.
According to the EPA, methane accounts for about 20% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Even though it accounts for a fraction of our output, it traps heat in the atmosphere almost 25 times greater than carbon dioxide does.
What does that have to do with us? Methane is produced through a variety of anthropogenic and natural activities. Anthropogenic means human generated. Some sources include landfills, agricultural practices, oil and gas, and certain industrial processes.
Methane concentrations in the atmosphere are growing significantly. Greatly influenced by the Industrial Revolution and the uptick of global technology, concentrations have more than doubled over the last two centuries. We are producing waste at a much faster rate than ever before.
We’ve all heard the dire consequences of not paying attention to what will result if we continue heading in this direction. Think about melting sea ice. How about the larger and more frequent storms, fires, and other natural disasters that the world has experienced during the last few years?
This is not meant to scare you. Realistically, we must put our minds together to solve the issues affecting our global climate. There is no compromise.
The questions that face us now are creative ones: What materials can we use that we’ve already extracted? How can we make something new out of it? What are the most innovative ways to use materials that produce the least amount of waste?
Changing habits can sound scary. We can all do our part to reduce waste by adopting a few key low-waste strategies. At the GFDA, our vision is to support you with resources and tips to guide you on your journey in becoming a low-waste leader.
One such tip to keep home goods out of our landfills is to use Remoov. Remoov is a GFDA member who will declutter your space and get money for your items through their network of specialized resellers and online marketplaces. You can also donate your items.
Currently serving the Bay Area, Phoenix, and Miami markets, Remoov will come and get your unwanted stuff and do all the legwork, so you don’t have to. Rest assured that whatever you don’t want isn’t going “out of sight, out of mind,” but rather responsibly recycled or repurposed for a second chance. The GFDA is the spot to find and promote services—like Remoov—to help put your sustainable mindset into action.
Like the boy in the AI-produced image above, there is an innate childlike essence that we can tap into if we are to build from materials already extracted from our environment. Let’s not revert to old thinking, with all the waste we’ve accumulated in our new era.
Join the movement today. Your planet will thank you.
Ellery Grace Carbone is a contributor to the GFDA. As a graduate from USC with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology, she has researched environmental policy in Paris, and oceans off the coast of California, the Bahamas, and Australia. When she’s not surfing in the ocean (or teaching kids to surf), you can find her on the beach with her golden retriever in one hand, and her journal or film camera in the other.