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Taking out the Trash

The aim of this blog series is to reflect on sustainable living practices that will inspire change in us.
by khepler Apr 07, 2015
Contributors: Jameliah Inga Shorter

The aim of this blog series is to reflect on sustainable living practices that will inspire change in us.

In 2011, The Environmental Protection Agency reported that Americans disposed of 250 tons of trash, which is about 4.4 pounds of trash a day per person. Perhaps some those items could have been safely reused or passed along to someone who needed them. Instead, these items are dumped into massive landfills. At Penn State, we are taking up the challenge to reduce and reuse the waste that is too often simply tossed away.

The habit of throwing things in the trash presents an ethical challenge. Some of these ethical questions are: What part do we play in prolonging the life and health of our planet? What should we do to help our fellow human beings get the things they need? To be more ethical in this regard means changing our habits when it comes to the trash can. We need only to recognize the problem and be deliberate about making better choices. Penn State University has recently launched a campus wide movement to reduce and reuse trash in the spaces where we work and learn. Together, we are closing the loop on waste!

One of the obvious objections is that we just can't save every piece of trash. This is a valid point, however, with a change in mindset, we can save or reuse things. Think of some of the items you've recently thrown away and consider how they could have been reused. In fact, it is to our benefit to make such changes. Some benefits include saving money. For example, an empty butter tub can be reused as a container in the office to hold paper clips. Aluminum foil can be safely reused again, so long as it hasn't touched meat. With regard to composting biodegradable items, the benefits include enriching the earth's soil and preventing pollution. Whenever we reuse and compost, we make the choice to keep things that can be used again from rotting in landfills.

What are some of the ways you reduce and reuse items at Penn State and at home? Please share your comments below!