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You Can Make a Difference

Essay by   •  February 11, 2011  •  Book/Movie Report  •  2,805 Words (12 Pages)  •  2,091 Views

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"You Can Make A Difference" is a book that describes the land, water and air while examining man's impact on all of them. It delves into the many messes and ill attempted cover ups by corporations who sell products that are in some way detrimental to the earth. Many of the things covered in this book are not common knowledge to the otherwise seemingly educated American consumer. However, this book is one that brings these many things to light.

The author, Judith Getis, first addresses the issue of the land and the amount of garbage and waste that is produced and improperly disposed of. This has been an issue for many years and unlike a fine wine, it has not gotten better with time. This problem is two-fold. There's too much trash and it's too toxic. Each of these problems could stand very well on their own merit but together, they pack a powerful punch. One of the more shocking statistics is the one that shows that the amount of trash produced has doubled in the past 30 years with the average per year being approximately 200 tons or, 3.5 pounds per person per day. This figure does not just include the every day household garbage; food, plastic wear, etc. Municipal waste, as it is referred, includes things like rusted cars and refrigerators.

Most of this "municipal waste" is dumped in sanitary landfills, most often run by states and municipalities. The waste is deposited, compacted, and then covered with a layer of clean dirt. These landfills, however, are not as sanitary as one may think. Rain water washes toxins from paint, pesticides, and other waste into the land which eventually makes its way to the groundwater supply. Decomposing food products produce methane. Methane is a gas that leaks into the air as well as surrounding soil and can have devastating effects.

The number of landfills has also decreased in dramatic fashion. The number of landfills in the United States in the late 1970's was 18,000. In 1996, that number fell to a mere 4,000 and a great number of these will be closed due to overflow or because they pose a danger to the environment. Some states are paying other states and countries to take their trash because of the shortage of space. The public has become increasingly aware of the impact that landfills have on the air, water, and land and that has made it increasingly difficult to place landfills within communities.

There are alternatives to burying trash. About 15% of Americans burn trash using incinerators. The incinerators use extremely high temperatures to reduce the trash to piles of ash, which are then buried in landfills. This method, albeit seemingly logical, pose several environmental problems. The incinerators themselves give off toxic pollutants and the ashes which are left burning and buried in landfills, are also toxic. Burying trash is bad. Burning it is not the best choice either. What is a citizen to do? The book addresses the "Five R's": reduce, reuse, recycle, reject, and reward.

By reducing the amount of trash we produce in the first place, less of it needs to be disposed of. Manufacturers can do their part by reducing the amount of paper, plastic, glass and metal that they use to package products. Each individual can do their part by following a few easy steps. Some of these are listed below:

* Use cloth instead of paper napkins

* Store food in containers; don't cover with aluminum foil

* Use a lunch box instead of a paper bag

* Avoid products packaged in nonbiodegradable materials

* Try not to buy products packaged in single unit servings; buy the largest affordable size

Junk mail is also a tremendous source of waste. The book mentions a few places that can be contacted to stop junk mail from arriving at your door. By following these and other helpful hints, you can greatly reduce the amount of trash you throw away.

Respond by reusing items whenever possible. This method has several advantages. It saves money because it cuts down on having to buy things constantly, it cuts down on the amount of trash that goes to landfills and incinerators, and it reduces the amount of energy used to produce goods. The book gives tips on how to accomplish this. A few are:

* Reuse paper and plastic bags; you can line trash cans with them and also cover food in the refrigerator

* Use plastic containers to store food in your desk

* Use rechargeable batteries

* Save ashes from the grill and use as a deicer in the winter

If you can find absolutely no other use for an item, give it to an organization that could get some use out of it. Clothes can go to churches or a bazaar, books can be donated to a library or sold to a second hand books dealer, and magazines can be donated to hospitals or given to a friend.

Recycling is another form of response mentioned in the book. It reduces the amount of waste needing to be disposed of. The amount of aluminum buried in landfills annually is enough to rebuild the entire American commercial air fleet. The wood and paper dumped could heat at least 5 million homes for two hundred years. That statistic is staggering. Recycling is relative to where you live and the types of services offered. There may be collection sites in supermarket and shopping center parking lots or dumpsters in dormitories or apartments. Aluminum cans are very easy to recycle and most communities have curbside pick ups and drop off sites.

Recycling glass bottles and jars, newspapers, and food and yard products are also response methods. All glass jars and bottles are recyclable and can be reused for peanut butter jars, beverage containers, and a host of other things. Recycling newspapers saves trees, the water needed to make it from scratch, and it preserves forests. Furthermore, newspaper does not decompose well in landfills with liners that are meant to protect the environment from toxins. When newspaper finally does decay, the ink leaks into the soil and groundwater. Food and yard wastes can be composted. There are a few benefits to composting including the fact that it increases soil's ability to hold water and breaks up clay soils making it easier for plant roots to penetrate the soil.

Disposables, nonbiodegradables, and polystyrene foam products should all be rejected. Diapers present the largest problem out of all the disposables. Statistically, a child will wear 5,000

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