April 22 is Earth Day, an internationally recognized event that began over 40 years ago. Today, individuals and responsible companies are helping to build a greener, sustainable, healthier and cleaner future. There are many informative websites and resources that provide information on everyday things that you can do to help the environment from tips on better recycling to reducing car idle time, turning off lights, eliminating toxic cleaning chemicals and reducing your carbon footprint.
Most people see the importance of recyling and understand the hazards of toxic chemicals, many people really do not understand what “carbon footprint” really means. An understandable definition of carbon footprint that I’ve read is “the amount of energy used by yourself, an organization, an event, or product to sustain itself”. In other words, the total amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse emissions required. This sounds reasonable. But, as I learned, other factors need to be considered in the calculation. I’ll use an example that I read about – The familiar grocery plastic bag. Apparently, China as part of their pursuit of a greener and cleaner future, has prohibited the use of the thin plastic bags in an effort to sway consumers to use reusable cloth bags. Here’s the challenge. A new study by the Environmental Agency of England found that the thin plastic bags actually have a smaller carbon footprint than the reusable cloth bags and even disposable paper bags. According to their findings, you would have to reuse a cotton bag at least 131 times to equal the carbon footprint of a plastic bag (USA Today). Furthermore, if you reuse plastic bags, say as garbage liners, the difference is even greater.
The point of this short post is simply to suggest making informed decisions while acting responsibly to do your part in recycling and reducing harmful chemicals in your home and environment. And, as far as plastic bags ..I think the jury is still out on this one. I recently also found myself in a conversation comparing cloth diapers to plastic diapers and use this post as an example.
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