Waste challenge-let’s get serious

by Don Doran
USAG Kaiserslautern

It’s time for many of us to reevaluate our habits. For example, do we waste water or energy because we can afford to or because the government is paying for it?  

For instance, are you thinking, “It’s not causing me financial hardship, so what’s the big deal?”

Let’s look a little closer at this philosophy. 

We hear over and over that “Americans are the most wasteful society on earth,” but you may be thinking, “So what?” If the majority of us can afford to use and discard these resources – whether it is water, energy, food or other commodities – what or who have we harmed? 

In fact, you may be thinking that a lot of our use-and-dispose habits create jobs and support entire industries.  
However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t simple and basic things we can do as a society and individuals that will help protect the environment and preserve many of the resources we take for granted for future generations.

For example, clean drinking water is a limited resource. Most of the modern world already has to filter and treat water pulled from wells and streams to counter the effects of manmade pollution.

Every step we take on a personal level to conserve water and keep it clean will help – fixing a leaky faucet, being more frugal about our daily water usage or by appropriately handling and disposing of our hazardous materials and wastes.
Another good example is electricity usage – changing our personal and workplace habits such as turning off lights when not in use and cutting power to unused appliances and electrical equipment.

These small gestures will help conserve energy.  In fact, each of us who set a good example for our family, friends, co-workers and subordinates to follow can make a positive impact on the overall energy consumption for years to come.

What about recycling? Local waste removal contracts are written so that our recyclables are disposed of for free, except for basic transportation and handling costs.  Meanwhile, all the waste material we don’t recycle costs us extra “disposal” fees. 

Each of us can help reduce the costs of solid waste disposal by separating and recycling more of our waste paper, cardboard, light fractions, glass and biodegradable wastes. 

Yes, government agencies, manufacturers and builders can change construction standards, and vehicle standards for more economical operation, as well as setting policies to recycle and conserve. However, each of us can also follow through and do our part. 

Only by raising individual awareness and challenging ourselves and others to make a difference, can we “close the loop” to prevent unnecessary waste and conserve precious resources.

(Don Doran is the environmental protection specialist with the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern’s Directorate of Public Works.)