by Dawn Weller
Sustainability. Recycle and reuse. Zero waste. Perhaps you’ve heard some of these terms on the TV or radio, or in an article. What do they really mean to us in Lyons? Next month, Tuesday, February 15, the Lyons Sustainable Future Commission will be hosting “Sustainability 101,” a class to help those new to the idea of sustainability decode what this type of living looks like in the real world, and why it is critical to a healthy future.
In its 2010 Living Planet Report, the World Wide Fund for Nature said that humans currently exceed the planets capacity to sustain us. One of their key findings warns “Under a ‘business as usual’ scenario, the outlook is serious: even with modest UN projections for population growth, consumption, and climate change, by 2030 humanity will need the capacity of two Earths to absorb CO2 waste and keep up with natural resource consumption.”
Human consumption of natural resources is at the root of most of our global environmental problems. Our appetite for these resources contributes to global warming, creates waste, and dumps toxic byproducts into the air and water.
The goal of sustainable living is to reduce our use of these natural resources. Since we are all consumers, each of us has common and unique opportunities to consume less. Recycling is an element of sustainability. For example, extracting and smelting bauxite to create aluminum takes a huge amount of power and creates pollution. On the other hand, recycling aluminum consumes 95% less energy than the original mining and processing. By doubling our recycling rate, millions of tons of pollution could be eliminated every year.
Another powerful component of sustainability is the concept of reuse. While recycling means the item is destroyed so that it can be used to produce something new, reuse utilizes the item in its original form. Did you buy a cup of coffee today? If you brought your own cup, you are already practicing reuse. This simple practice is sustainable because it reduces waste, doesn’t create air or water pollution, and conserves natural resources.
When you start considering how to live more sustainably, you have entered the philosophy of zero waste. Zero waste focuses on recycling and reuse, minimizing waste, reducing consumption, and encouraging products that are designed right from the start for reuse, repair, or recycling.
An overwhelming goal? Perhaps, but ponder the other options. And take heart from the words of Helen Keller. “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”
Take a moment and think of opportunities you have to reduce your consumption and environmental impacts. Stumped? Learn more about sustainable living and the vocabulary associated with it (net metering, carbon footprint and permaculture, for example) by dropping in to the Sustainability 101 class on February 15. It will be held at the Walt Self Senior Center from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Learn more about the Sustainable Future Commission by visiting www.townoflyons.com and selecting the link to “Sustainable Lyons.”