The Impact of Recycling on Climate Change: What You Can Do

Climate change is not only a catchy buzzword used by politicians and environmentalists. It is a real phenomenon that poses a threat to humans, animals, and ecosystems. Climate change causes major shifts in normal weather patterns and creates a high level of instability in our environment. Not only does climate change disrupt typical weather patterns in certain parts of the world, but it also affects the overall temperature of the Earth. The effects of climate change cannot be measured by one unusual weather event, but instead it can be observed over the course of many years.

Unsustainable practices by consumers and corporations have had a direct impact on climate change. A failure to recycle and to properly dispose of hazardous materials, as well as vehicle emissions, have all contributed to the problem. NASA, an agency which studies climate change in depth, has conducted research indicating that certain areas of the Earth are becoming increasingly warmer, while other parts are growing cooler. The researchers say that if we continue on this path, the temperature of the Earth will continue to rise over the next 100 years, causing more snow and ice to melt, as well as a higher incidence of major weather events such as hurricanes.

The Paper Problem

forestTrees serve an important function in nature: to absorb greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere. When trees are continually chopped down, the remaining ones are not able to adequately absorb all of the emissions in the air, causing environmental issues such as air pollution and the buildup of greenhouse gases. In addition, the processes used in deforestation involve heavy machinery that releases toxic gases. As a result, fewer trees and greater greenhouse emissions leads to a significant problem that can only be quelled if we grow less dependent on products that result from deforestation.

Paper and cardboard utilize about 40 percent of landfill space. Paper is costly to deal with for both consumers and the municipalities that are tasked with recycling junk mail. It is estimated that 100 million trees are destroyed each year through the production of junk mail alone. While most consumers do not even want this type of mail in the first place, it accounts for a huge amount of the paper we consume. Paper recycling is of particular importance because deforestation is one of the major contributors to climate change.

If you want to stop the effects of paper waste and keep junk mail from ever reaching your mailbox, an organization known as can eliminate 80 to 90 percent of it by contacting those companies that send junk mail on your behalf. By stopping the cycle of junk mail waste, you can help contribute to water conservation and tree preservation, as well as free up the time you previously spent in dealing with large amounts of unwanted mail.

How Recycling Can Help Combat Climate Change

While some may believe that there isn’t much they can do on a personal level to fight climate change, that is definitely not the case. Changing your daily habits is a crucial step in addressing climate change, and recycling is a major way that we can all work together to address this issue. Recycling significantly reduces how much of the Earth’s resources are used for mining and deforestation.

A report by the US Composting Council indicates that by reducing the amount of waste produced by 1 percent a year and recycling up to 90 percent of it could have a dramatic impact on the environment, as it will decrease carbon dioxide emissions by over 400 megatons. Recycling is key because it reduces the amount of fuel needed to manufacture new items since these items never end up in landfills or incinerators to begin with.

What You Can Do to Reduce Damage to the Environment

composteAt its most basic level, reducing waste is the easiest way to conquer the damage that is being done to the environment. The Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that if Americans could reduce their waste to levels seen in 1990, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 11.6 million metric tons.

Many believe that a greater focus needs to be put on getting households to zero waste status. Zero waste simply means that everything that enters our households—from food to furniture—should be recycled in some way rather than being thrown out in the weekly trash. Those who actively pursue a zero waste household will be more inclined to think before purchasing things they don’t really need and throwing out those that can be recycled or donated. In addition, they will be more likely to think about how everyday tasks can impact the environment.

Reducing waste also decreases our dependence on fossil fuels, since it means that less energy is used to transport and process waste. Over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are connected to the production, processing, transport, and disposal of food and materials, according to a 2009 report titled Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices. You can do your part by consciously purchasing items that are created from recycled materials, sold in recycled packaging, and which can then be easily recycled.