It's a new year! Time for a whole new set of green tips and ideas for 2013.
People are forever asking me questions about "going green," and for more specific information about several of the topics that I write about. I always welcome and encourage emails posing questions and ideas for future columns.
A question I received over the holidays about recycling programs got me thinking: What are the most frequently asked questions about going green?
After a little research, I found that, according to Ask.com, the following are some of the most-asked questions pertaining to going green.
I decided to take a few of the top user-generated questions and answer them here for you.
Why Should I Recycle? There are many advantages to recycling. Recycling can help us with everything from saving money to improving the quality of the water we drink and the air that we breathe. It reduces pollution in both our air and water by potentially removing harmful substances from the waste stream. It conserves natural resources and saves energy by decreasing our need to use raw materials, thereby saving money. It brings new life to old products, keeping them out of landfills. It decreases toxic emissions, and just generally helps sustain the environment in which we live. Did you know that if every person who reads a daily newspaper recycled just one-tenth of them, we could save about 25 million trees? Given that conservative estimates have us cutting down about 6 billion trees annually worldwide, it seems like recycling, particularly of paper products, is essential. For me, it's hard to believe that there are still people and places here in this country that don't do this easiest of earth-friendly tasks.
Which City Recycles the Most? Since there is no national law that mandates recycling, state and local governments often introduce recycling requirements. A number of states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Oregon and Vermont, have passed laws that establish deposits or refund values on beverage containers to encourage recycling materials. It is believed that San Francisco, according to many survey based studies, has an approximately 86 percent recycle rate. This would make it the city that is recycling the most. Interestingly, nearby Woodbury, NJ, was was the first city in the United States to mandate recycling.
Are Hybrid Cars an Effective Way to Go Green? Typically, a hybrid car has elements of both gasoline- and electric-powered engines under the hood. These combined functions take the benefits of both types of motors and combine them, thereby creating benefits such as improved fuel economy, increased power, and better gas mileage. To find out specifically how gas and electric are fused together to make a hybrid vehicle go, check this out at How Stuff Works.
How/Where Can I Recycle Batteries? I get asked a lot about where you can recycle different items that don't go into our single-stream recycling containers, but none as much as batteries. Apparently, this is a commonly asked question everywhere. Battery recycling is extremely important as it aims to reduce the number of batteries being disposed as municipal solid waste. Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals and dumping them out with the trash has raised many concerns over the risks of soil contamination and water pollution. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of places that recycle non-rechargeable batteries. To search for places in our area, click here and enter your location. The list is ever-changing and some places will provide occasional battery drop-offs. In the meantime, it is better to store old batteries than to throw them in the trash. I put mine in an old shoe box and keep them in a closet until I can get to a battery recycling drop-off. Keep an eye on this site, and the Gloucester Township website as well, as, from time to time, they will announce a drop-off site for unusual or difficult-to-recycle items.
What is the Cheapest Way to Go Green? There is no one answer to this, as there are hundreds of inexpensive ways to go green. In fact, many suggestions that I have given in my columns over the past year have been things that cost little or no money at all. The simple answer is, in most cases, going green actually saves you money. And in some cases, it even makes you money, such as returning recyclables for deposit (although that is not an option in New Jersey at this time). The best answer I can give you is this—less is more wherever possible. Consume less. Drive less. Buy less. Throw away less. Unplug. Turn off. It really can be that simple. And what many people do every day, but would never think of as being "green," is actually helping the planet by leaps and bounds.
Living and maintaining a completely green lifestyle is clearly not the choice for some. And personal choice affords us the opportunity, in most cases, to do as much or as little as we see fit in this area. The way I see it is this: If you are saving money and creating a better situation for yourself and others in the process, what is the downside? Yes, the larger-scale green movement can be cumbersome and complicated in some of its ideas and explanations, but for here and now we are talking about simply living simply. We're making small changes. We're getting questions answered. If you have any questions that you would like answered in an upcoming column, or suggestions for future green columns, please email me.
Have a Happy New Year!