November 15th is America Recycles Day!
This national celebration gives us the chance to reflect on the wise use of our planet’s resources and reminds us that we need to take greater responsibility for our daily actions and choices.
At the National Aquarium, we’re continually challenging ourselves to improve our efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. It’s especially important to us because the positive results are directly linked to the health of the animals and ecosystems we care about!
Over the last few years, we've implemented a composting program for our staff and visitors, improved our single-stream recycling efforts and identified common items that could be recycled through alternative methods (kitchen grease, batteries, corks, shoes, e-waste, etc.). As a result, we sent more than 100 tons of materials to the recycling center and composted more than 22 tons of organic material in 2012 alone!
By simply looking at what we were putting in our trash, we were able to find better ways reduce the amount we sent to the curb each week. Sometimes that meant changing our consumer habits (i.e. buying products with recyclable or less packaging) and sometimes it meant looking at our waste in a new way - as a resource, rather than a nuisance. For example, empty paper towel tubes can be used as enrichment for our animals, old wet-suits can be made into drink cozies and street banners can be re-purposed into tote bags!
Limiting the amount of stuff we purchase is important, but it is only part of the answer. As hosts to several clean-up events every year, we see first-hand how destructive it can be when we dispose of our waste improperly. In fact, over the years, we've removed more than 660,000 pieces of debris for the small wetland adjacent to Fort McHenry. Close to half of that was made up of plastic bottles. Today, plastic bottles can be recycled into a wide variety of amazing products – including park benches, fleece clothing, construction materials, floating islands, etc. It is our responsibility to extend the life of the products we use through recycling.
The good news is, there are lots of resources out there to make it easier for you. Earth 911 has a great search tool for recycling options in your area. They even have an app for smartphones!
Together, we can work to create healthy communities. Join me (and 47,000 of my friends) and take the pledge to increase your recycling efforts!