Let's talk trash about the planet

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Green is the new black, and it's a fad that's sweeping the nation. More and more people are becoming aware of environmental needs and the fore runners of this craze are college campuses.

Over 110 colleges across the United States are turning down the power and saving thousands of dollars in energy, as well as recycling on campus. The more elite universities are replacing or buying solar panels and energy efficient windows to help stem the flow of rising energy costs. Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., even went as far as to have a competition between student housing buildings to see which group of tenants could save the most energy. Students in the housing reduced costs by nearly 40 percent in one semester just by turning lights out in rooms that weren't in use.

At the College of Eastern Utah, students are getting involved. One such student is Jacob Major, who is collecting paper from different offices and recycling it. He is also collecting cans for Habitat for Humanity and can tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Major is looking for new ideas of what students and staff would like to recycle on campus. For more information or suggestions contact Kathy Murray from the SUN Center at [email protected].

Now, some of you may not care about saving energy or recycling; but here are some facts that might just change your mind. Every minute of every day, Americans dump 16 tons of sewage into their waters – that includes all drinking water. According to statistics, 1 million sea birds, 100,000 marine mammals, and 50,000 fur seals are killed each year as a result of eating or being strangled in plastic. Not quite what you expected?

Here's another fact: around 110 million Americans live in areas with levels of air pollutants that the federal government considers to be harmful. That means if you live in these areas, going outside is actually harmful to your health. How about another one? Each year, 40 million acres of tropical rainforests are destroyed through logging or burning - that's an area larger than the state of California.

Finally, Americans throw away about 40 billion soft drink cans and bottles each year. If you were to place them end to end, they would reach to the moon and back almost 20 times. With all the trash we are throwing away, it's only a matter of time before landfills fill and new ones are built. It's quite possible that the next one might be in your neighborhood.

The world's not so pretty anymore is it? In the midst of all the terrifying statistics and toxic waste, there is hope on the horizon. More information is coming out that can help the everyday person save the planet one step at a time.

Close to 84 percent of a typical household's waste – including food scraps, bottles, yard waste and paper – can be recycled. And if every person in America recycled just one-tenth of their newspapers, they would save around 25 million trees a year. We need oxygen to breathe, and what is the best producer of oxygen – trees. The less number of trees we have, the more harmful the air becomes. And if we were able to recycle the amount of wood and paper we throw away each year, we would have enough energy to heat 50 million homes for 20 years. These facts, statistics and more can be found at www.geocities.com.

Although everyone can't suddenly turn green, there are little things we can do every day to help the fight against pollution and trash build up. These suggestions only take seconds out of your time, but help the environment in your area immensely.

First, reuse water bottles. It sounds simple, but how many have water bottles littering the floors of our cars or apartment counters? By reusing a water bottle, you can cut the amounts of trash you throw away; and you save money by not purchasing a soda or water bottle everyday, or even several times a day. If it's in your budget, go to your local grocery store and invest in a nicer water bottle; this way you'll think twice before throwing it away.

Another way to save is by turning off and unplugging all energy sources that aren't in use. Every curling iron or phone charger you leave plugged into the wall is still zapping energy even though you're not using it. Turn off your computer when you are finished doing homework and turn out the lights in a room when you leave.

If you are wary about the dark at night, especially in apartments or dorm rooms, purchase a small lamp and turn it on when you leave. By using the lamp, you are able to save tons of energy because the florescent lights aren't left on when no one is there to enjoy them. This small adjustment will help you save on utility bills and also help the schools you may be staying at spend less money too.

Water is another issue people need to worry about. Although water is a reusable source, it costs millions of dollars each year to process and treat. Now everyone has to do laundry right? Well by waiting to do a full load instead of just a few articles of clothing, you can save energy and water. And if you wash your clothes in cold water, you can save up to 90 percent of the energy a washing machine uses. Also, if you have to wash dishes, scrape all the food off the plates before you wash them. All the food that goes into your garbage disposal has to travel to water treatment plants; this costs them more to process the waste when it should have gone in the garbage in the first place.

Another small way to help is to recycle your old cell phones. There are several groups out there that take used phones and give them to less fortunate people, including an organization that gives them to troops oversees so they are able to call their families more often.

There are thousands of ways to help the environment by small and simple habits. If we are able to help protect the planet now, we are also protecting our future and the future of this planet we call home. Hundreds of organizations, web sites and information hot lines have been set up for the sole purpose of informing people and getting them involved.

If we each do our small part to help the planet, all those small things add up into one huge contribution and improvement. Besides, who wouldn't want to save thousands of dollars each year on energy and water bills? So save the planet and have more money in your pocket to spend on the things you love, like Starbucks coffee and toilet paper.

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