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How Big is Your Footprint?
Bertha Leone | Crest Road

Thinking of buying something? Trying to decide if it’s the right color? Size? Price?

What if we were to first ask ourselves a much more important question: “What will I do with it when I am done with it and its packaging?” Everything we purchase has a useful life. But where does it go when it has outlived its usefulness, at least to us? Most of us choose one of four ways to discard things: the trash container, the compost bin, the recycle bin or the donation box.

According to CalRecycle, the City of Del Mar generates approximately 9,800 tons of solid waste annually. Approximately 3,200 tons of this waste is diverted through recycling, reuse and composting activities. That leaves 6,400 tons annually to pile up in our landfill.

What then? According to the National Solid Waste Management Association (NSWMA), landfills are not designed to break down waste, only to store it. As the 6,400 tons of annual Del Mar waste is filling up our landfill, bacteria in the organic waste is producing and releasing into our atmosphere a potent greenhouse gas known as methane, more potent even than carbon dioxide. The typical composition of greenhouse gas emissions from landfills is methane 40%-60%, carbon dioxide 25%-50% (Waste Management World).

Back to the question. If the answer is “throw it in the trash” let’s rethink the answer or the purchase. Can I recycle it? Check the label on the recycle bin. Can I compost it? Can I (or someone else) reuse or repurpose it?

If the answers are NO, is there an alternative product that gets the answer to YES? Can I find the product in environmentally friendly packaging?

If the answer is still NO, then simply refuse to buy it. And if you are so inclined, write to the manufacturer letting the reason for your choice be known. Consider sending a copy to your senator and representative.

Reducing our footprint requires living with awareness and intent. Awareness of the impact of our choices on the environment, and the intention to adjust our behavior to do no harm.

For more information on zero waste, check out the Zero Waste page on Del Mar’s Go Green website www.delmar.ca.us/675/Zero-Waste.
Bertha Leone is a member of Del Mar’s Sustainability Advisory Board, established to assist the City Council in promoting clean and reliable energy and in taking a leadership position in educating its residents and businesses about sustainability and energy savings programs. Check the City website for meeting locations and times.



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