Thu October 27, 2011

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America Recycles Day: Get Involved

By Mattias Wallander
CEO, USAgain

America Recycles Day, founded in 1997, is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to the promotion of recycling in the United States. It serves as a great reminder to all Americans that we are responsible for doing our part for the planet. America is appropriately considered a nation of consumers and every year we use an astonishing amount of resources. Our consumption is significantly disproportionate to our population. It would take more than five Earths to be able to sustain the world population if everyone consumed resources at the same rate as the United States, according to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), an independent research body.

Moreover, according to the Clean Air Council, every year Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times. We use over a billion plastic bags, less than one percent of which are recycled. And according to the EPA, 12.7 million tons of textile waste is generated each year. Only 15% of this is collected for reuse and recycling, the remainder going into landfills.

America Recycles Day is a time to think about how we can recycle and reuse materials of all kinds. I'm thrilled to see young people across the country taking initiative to raise awareness about environmental causes of all kinds, especially recycling. Recently the Student Taskforce for Environmental Partnership (STEP) at Yale University held "Greenfest," on the Yale campus, which educated hundreds of students and alumni about various recycling methods through a series of interactive activities.

11-year-old Eco-Erek, whom I've written about in this column before, collects denim and shoes through drives that he holds across the state of Ohio. This year he collected 2,916 pairs of shoes in an effort to raise money for Project Kaisei, a non-profit raising awareness about ocean debris. He has also collected over 3,800 pieces of denim this year which he will donate to Cotton. From Blue To Green.® where they are manufactured into housing insulation that is used in communities that have been struck by natural disasters. This month Eco-Erek will receive the Environmental Achievement Award from the Ohio Environmental Council.

And now, even some major corporations are showing the willingness to participate at a deeper level than mere window dressings that's common (though not completely unimportant). The apparel company Patagonia launched the Common Threads Initiative recently, focusing on reducing, reusing and recycling clothing and footwear. This is a brave step -- and the right one -- for a company that makes its living off selling new clothes. I assume that just like us, they have realized that environmental issues can be used to boost the bottom-line and the "green-line." I urge you to read more about Patagonia's Common Threads Initiative and join me in applauding their sincere and unprecedented approach to do good for the environment.

There are many ways to celebrate and get involved on America Recycles Day. At USAgain we've chosen to engage with kids through a video contest, which invites K-12 schools to submit short videos (2 minutes or less in length) highlighting how their school is making a difference by 'going green.' We'll award cash prizes to winners and promote the best videos through our online and social media platforms.

America Recycles Day is a day to educate and motivate. It's a day to get neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together to raise awareness and make a difference. I encourage everyone, at any age, to get involved with the America Recycles Day through their website. You can find out how they can help you promote your own event. You can also sign their recycling pledge to learn about recycling options in your community and reduce your own personal waste by recycling one new type of material within the month.

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