Reduce, reuse, recycle: a cliché with meaning

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- A brown recycling bin sits in the garage in the same spot each day, never being used. You think, “There’s no point. I’m only one person, what difference does it make?”

Imagine a world where everyone thought the same – that one person can’t possibly make a difference. What would that world look like?

Recycling and conserving has always been a passion of mine. I get excited about recycling because it’s the larger picture of taking care of the place we call home. I wouldn’t dig holes in my backyard and dump trash in there every day. But it’s what we’re doing to our Earth.

By the numbers

On average, a person generates around 4 pounds of waste a day. That is the equivalent to dumping approximately 930,000 cars into a giant hole in the Earth each day.

What if there was some way we could lower that number and take better care of our Earth?

If each person placed one pound of waste into that lonely, unused, brown bin for recycling, that would equate to only 700,000 cars being dumped. That is 25 percent less trash destroying our Earth, our towns and our lives.

The impact may not be noticeable today or tomorrow. It may not even be noticeable next year. But multiply 25 percent by four years and that is 100 percent less trash than it would be if no one recycled and if everyone did their part.

Twenty-five percent may not seem like a lot, but would you pay 25 percent interest on a loan? Would you be satisfied with being paid 25 percent more? What if you were told you could live 25 percent longer?

It’s the little things

Everywhere I go, I’m always looking for ways to conserve resources and protect the place we live just a little more. I turn off running water while I’m not using it, turn lights off when I’m not in the area and I recycle everything that can be recycled in the local area.

These are things we should be doing every day but we may not care because we see no immediate impact to our daily lives. As humans, we love immediate results.

What if you tossed recyclables in a separate bin instead of your trash can? You can easily take it out the same day or when it’s full at the end of the week. There’s no extra work involved. Only a little knowledge of what materials are accepted on base, collecting them and placing the brown bin on the curb every other Friday.

We have a recycling center on base that accepts cardboard, number one and number two plastics, newspapers, magazines, aluminum, tin, bubble wrap and Styrofoam. If we took the time to place one aluminum can, plastic water bottle or cardboard box into the bin, we would see how effortless it is to just give a little more each day.

What the Air Force is doing

Since 1997, the U.S. has recognized Nov. 15 as America Recycles Day to remind Americans to take better care of our planet.

However, the Air Force set out to “Win the War Against Waste” each day as part of an initiative to reduce its solid waste production.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, the environmental agencies operate a zero-cost recycling program and use efficient budgeting and practices to promote recycling.

Both facilities invest the generated revenue from their recycled materials back into the programs for operating, maintenance and salary costs and has averaged a gain of more than $3,000 over eight years.

So the next time you go to throw something away, remind yourself about your 25 percent investment into our world and the possible returns you could receive. The Earth is our home and to ensure it stays that way we must reduce, reuse and recycle.