Usually when eating out or ordering food to go, as an example, most do it out of convenience. When they finish eating however, they’re left with a lot of trash. Depending on where one goes, they’re often left with a drink cup, lid, a straw and its paper or plastic casing, food bag, several unused napkins, whatever contained the entree, an empty side item container and any number of other things. None of these things are worth any kind of use afterwards and that was just one customer out of potentially hundreds in a day just at that location.
Realizing the magnitude of waste that perpetuates in daily life is a pretty heady and discouraging thing. It can feel like no matter what you do, there’s nothing you can do about it. Really though, we can improve if we just think a little differently about the waste we create and incorporate some new habits into our lifestyle.
“Being sustainable doesn’t mean sacrifice,” said Steve Boss, director of sustainability academic programs at the University of Arkansas. “It just means being being more aware of what you’re wasting and being smarter about it.”
Every year, the people of Fayetteville produce enough trash to fill the Razorback Stadium field seven stories tall, according to Fayetteville’s Recycling and Trash Collection Division. In 2013, the city disposed of 60,949 tons of waste in the landfill. At $33.80 a ton, that adds up to $2,060,076 spent on waste management.
About 50 percent of waste that is put into landfills could be either recycled or composted, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Additionally, the value of recyclables sold by the city averaged $94 per ton, according to the Fayetteville Recycling and Trash Collection Division.
If this information seems daunting, keep in mind you don’t have to go off the grid to be ecological. It’s easier than most realize. This article has a list of “10 Easy Ways to Incorporate Sustainability Into Your Lifestyle.” While most of them are pretty simple, Boss said sustainability can be effective if enough people do the little things.
“The little acts do make a difference,” Boss said. “We have a lot of conversations in the classroom where students think, ‘What if I reduced my energy usage by 10 percent?’ and after thinking about what they’d do, they realize that living with 90 percent wouldn’t be so terrible. They think to make a difference about things like why they leave the lights on at home when no one’s there.”
Starting the week of Aug. 22-29, Fayetteville’s Recycling and Trash Collection Division will be launching their “Pay As You Throw” waste saving educational campaign. They’re asking for two households from each ward to save their waste that’s produced within the seven day period and take notes on the experience. At the end of the week, their photo will be taken with the trash. Specifically, the division is interested in the “story” of the waste-saving experience and wants to know how it can improve its services while getting community members to consider the benefits of managing waste habits.
If interested in joining this program, contact Elizabeth Hill at 479-444-1725 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of the day, what is paramount in the sustainable movement is the public mindset, Boss said.
“People worldwide need to realize that they have an impact on the environment,” he said. “We aren’t going to get out of it overnight, but imagine the impact millions of people out there would have if they changed their trash mindset.”
It’s reduce, reuse then recycle for a reason. Recycling is more of a last resort for taking care of waste, and can be costly. If we can just reduce our waste on the front end, that will do the best work. Check out recyclesomething.org, which is ran by the city of Fayetteville, to see some of the things you can recycle if you need to.
Try carpooling, walking to your destination (if feasible) or biking. There are some wonderful trails in Fayetteville, and they hit the downtown district, too. Why not consider taking the trail on your group’s next outing on Dickson or the Farmer’s Market?
Avoid using toxic chemicals in your yard and home
The chemicals used can be harmful to the environment at the cost of convenience. Be sure whatever you may end up flushing down the drain or the gutter doesn’t have a toxic warning label on it, as these lead back to streams and rivers. The harmful stuff can be disposed for free at Washington County Operations & Maintenance facility, located at 2615 Brink Drive in Fayetteville. Their hours are Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and the first Saturday of each month 8:00 a.m. to Noon. Instead, try out mixing water and vinegar with baking soda. It’s an effective cleaning substitute, and can remove stains and odors.
Repair, don’t replace unless necessary
You ripped your jeans? Instead of buying a new pair and throwing the old ones out, patch them up. When we replace things, it creates waste.
If you aren’t using a device, make sure it’s off and unplugged
A lot of appliances, when not on, use power to stay in “standby” mode. While the power they use to do this may be minimal, this adds up with each device left plugged in. Phone chargers still draw power even when not being used. The same principle applies to leaving lights on in rooms where no one needs them.
Keep a mindful eye on water usage
Plug the sink to save water, fix leaks, and try to manage the amount of time you take in your hot showers.
Stop using paper towels, as convenient as they are
Instead, use cloth napkins and rags and wash them when you need to. They’ll feel better on your skin, and you won’t need to buy paper towels again. You can purchase a bundle of rags at Walmart for less than $5.
Use your own bottled water
If you were to tell a person from the 1800s that people in the future were paying for bottles of water, odds are they wouldn’t understand why. In the event that you need to buy water bottle, recycle it. Use a reusable canteen or bottle instead. Besides, 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
There are plenty of things going on around town by motivated people who are trying to make a difference in their local ecology. As an example, check out the next Beaver Watershed Alliance Town Branch Cleanup on Saturday, Sept. 6 from 9 am to 1 pm. Check-in will take place at the Walker Park Large Pavilion near the corner of S. College Ave. and 15th. For more opportunities, check out www.accessfayetteville.org/government/strategic_planning/
Pop some tags; hit up the thrift shop
Recycling goes beyond plastics and beer cans. While you might not find the most fashionable stuff there, there are still lots necessities there that could save you some money. Think of running and business shoes, polos, hoodies, jackets, as well as extravagant pajamas and goofy t-shirts.