We’re responsible for our human impact on the landfill, natural resources, emissions, using less & recycling. If we only knew how our garbage added up over a lifetime.
Think about what you use, consume and discard in an average lifetime.
When you eat an egg you are not just eating an egg. You are eating the gas the truck used to deliver the egg, the coal used to generate the electricity for its refrigeration and the resources to boil, fry or poach that egg. That’s an example of your human footprint – how much of the world you use in your lifetime. Calculate this for every American and then for every person on earth.
Our footprint varies around the world. Americans makeup 5 percent of the worlds population, own 30 % of the worlds cars and consume 25% of the worlds energy. By their first birthday, the average American will be responsible for more carbon dioxide emissions than a person in Tanzania generates in a lifetime.
Global population trends impact our footprint. Today’s global population (estimated at 6.6 billion) is expected to rise to nine billion by 2050 and to over 36 billion by 2300. In some areas of the globe, people are already in conflict over a limited amount of natural resources. How will this growing population affect peoples access to food, drinking water and fuel?
Over an average lifetime (based on living 77.75 years with the US population rounded to 308,000,000) each American will :
– burn 31,350 gallons of gasoline
– read 5,054 newspapers, equaling 43 trees
– discard 64 tons of garbage
– use 1.8 million gallons of water
– eat 87,520 slices of bread
– take 28,433 showers
– 1.2 million gallons down the drain for hand washing, flushing and lawn watering
– eat 1,055 pounds of sugar (in the form of candy bars alone!)
– drink an astounding 43,371 cans of soda
– drive the equivalent of 25 times around the world
– toss out 29,700 pounds of plastic packaging
Speaking of plastic, did you know that almost all plastic is made from oil or natural gas? And when we talk about plastic packaging, we are talking about plastic food wrap, plastic grocery bags, plastic garbage bags, plastic toy boxes, and more! Americans throw out 694 plastic bottles per second. That’s 60 million bottles per day! No one knows how long plastic takes to break down. Once it’s in a landfill, it may stay there forever.
But the world’s largest trash “landfill” isn’t on land-it’s in the Pacific Ocean. The so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” covers an estimated 5 million square miles of ocean waters. That’s the size of the United States, Mexico and Central America combined! The trash is carried-and trapped-by a system of surface currents called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. A whopping 80 percent of the trash is plastic, carried from the shores of Asia and the Americas. Over time, plastic in the ocean becomes brittle and breaks apart into pellets called “nurdles” or “mermaid tears.” These pieces make it into the food chain and wildlife that eat the pellets can sicken or die. Some parts of the Pacific Ocean contain six parts of plastic to one part of plankton, which is a primary food source for many animals.
Try to make your footprint smaller. Make up your mind to use less plastic. Use cloth bags at the grocery store and recycle the bags you do find yourself with. Be aware of the items you buy and how much packaging they come with. Can you find something similar with less plastic packaging that would go into the landfill? Buy in bulk when you can and certainly try to use a concentrate and mix items (example: your cleaning products) yourself whenever possible to cut down further on packaging waste.
More good ideas for a smaller footprint is to save water, one of our precious natural resources. Is there a leaky faucet in your house? If you stop a faucet from leaking as little as 1 drop each second, you’ll save 2,700 gallons of water in a year! Did you know that you use 5 to 10 gallons of water per minute when you shower? How about switching to a low-flow shower head. It cuts the water usage to less than half that or less than 2.5 gallons per minute. The minimal cost of the shower head will be more than paid back to you in water cost savings. Last but certainly not least is EAT MORE VEGETABLES! It takes only 6 gallons of water to grow a serving of lettuce. Compare that to the 2,600 gallons it takes to produce a serving of steak. Your body will thank you and so will the planet!
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