The debate over humanity’s contribution to climate change continues to rage long after the evidence is in and piled up, but one element doesn’t get argued very much, because the facts are unassailable – Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels ARE rising.

This fact doesn’t care about anyone’s belief that it was Buick LeSabre’s, cow farts or natural cycles. The second fact that doesn’t get argued, and travels hand-in-glove with these increased carbon dioxide levels – global temperatures are rising.

Graphic from NASA. Used with the permission of our tax dollars paying for NASA.

 

At 4THBIN, we don’t see a lot of value in arguing the politics or trying to score points in debates on either side of the aisle. But we DO follow the science, and our entire mission is to create a better tomorrow. How can we work together to make that happen? One way we do it is by reducing the “Carbon Footprint” of every customer we possibly can. By keeping our trucks (and your materials) local, our processing energies as renewable as possible, and our reuse/refurbishment commitments high, we strive every day to reduce the impact we all make on the world we are guests on.

What is a carbon footprint?

Typically, a “carbon footprint” is eco-slang that represents the overall “emissions” an individual, corporation, event, product, or geographic region, is releasing into the atmosphere. These emissions are measurable greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, methane and of course, water vapor.

We directly release greenhouse gases when we exhale, drive our cars, make burgers on our grills. We indirectly release these gases by using systems and products that themselves have a footprint. Think of your power consumption – the power plant up the road makes a heck of a footprint. Think of the development, manufacture, and transport of the products you use every day. The burger came from a cow born and raised in Texas, shipped to Indiana for slaughter and prep, then shipped to your local Whole Foods, then final prepped and packaged by butchers in the refrigerated back area of the market. The iPhone you used to measure the temperature of your grill (with your handy Bluetooth thermometer), was designed in California on a huge campus by thousands of engineers, built in China by tens of thousands of factory workers, composed of materials gathered from all around the world, mined and refined by millions of laborers. Every step in that chain creates waste, and increases YOUR carbon footprint, as you consume these products. The sourcing and refinement of materials, the manufacture and shipment of products, the packaging, marketing and retailing of products: it is all energy expended and all carbon footprint.

Below are five ways to reduce your carbon footprint.

1. First, and most importantly, measure your impact.

As the master management consultant Peter Drucker was famed for saying: “what gets measured gets managed.” The single best way to reduce your carbon footprint will be decided by YOU, but only after you understand the sources of your impact.

Use some of these resources below to get an understanding of your footprint and impact. Keep a record of it. Make some changes. Start small. Re-measure yourself in six months. Better? Great! Keep it going.

Over time, you’ll make more improvements, adjust, adapt, improve, repeat. With measurement and adaptation as the cornerstone of your approach to reducing impact, you WILL reduce the damage we’re doing to the world around us. You don’t necessarily have to get to the stage of planting trees and volunteering on Superfund sites to make the world better. You just have to first open your eyes and understand what you/we/us are doing, and what you/we/us are going to do to make it better.

Shameless self-promotion moment warning:
At 4THBIN, we can provide our customers with an environmental impact report, because we feel that measuring your impact is the first and most important step to making a difference. Get a sample of our environmental report by clicking in touch with us HERE. Just ask, we’ll send you a copy.

2. Consume Less

The easiest way to make a change is to keep your wallet in your pocket more often. Making fewer impulse purchases of wasteful, unnecessary, unappreciated products reduces the amount of those products in the general production chain (since general product supply will naturally reduce to match reduced product demand). This has an immediate improvement in your own personal footprint. After all, if you don’t buy (then immediately throw out) the latest blinking widget you spot at Walgreens while you’re picking up a candy bar, then you are absolved of any carbon impact (but for the chocolate/sugar/wrapper of that candy bar, and nevermind the extra sit-ups you’ll have to do to burn it off).

3. Consume More Thoughtfully

We are definitely very big technology fans, and we use iPhones and laptops and printers, headlamps when we’re camping, Bluetooth speakers when we tailgate, we run our air conditioners in the summer, and yes, we find a fireplace quite cozy in the winter. Our recommendation is not to get out of the consumer stream, but rather to be considerate when we DO consume. Here’s some examples:

Get headphones that last: Apple’s AirPods only have a projected useful life of two years. That’s assuming you don’t run them through the washing machine (guilty), lose them in a bar (guilty), or just have them plain old fail on you (ahem). These ever-so-popular gadgets are absolutely NOT repairable, and don’t contain enough useful materials individually to be recyclable (profitably, that is). This last bit is most distressing, because even if an e-waste recycler wanted to help with AirPods, the manufacturing process Apple uses for AirPods makes accessing the materials simply too difficult to cost-justify. Read more on these techno nuggets here.

Get the better computer: Instead of getting a new computer every 18 months, get one that lasts three years. Get the upgraded CPU, RAM, and hard drive. Get the good screen. Get the protection plan. Make the most out of your dollars. Think of it this way, if you buy the cheap computer now, you’ll have a mediocre experience from unboxing to disposal. And, that disposal will come soon, since cheap machines don’t last, and like AirPods, often don’t bring much value to the e-waste stream, except as shredded material. Compare that to buying the good machine. You get a top-notch experience out of the gate, when you’ve wrung every drop of good service out of the machine, it may still have resale value, so you don’t even have to recycle the machine, you can actually arm a local person with a used machine that can give them good service. You’ve taken two entire computers out of the carbon footprint picture. One that you didn’t need to replace so quickly, and one the used-computer-consumer doesn’t buy at Best Buy.

Buy Used: With Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, Reverb, Letgo, and other sites, there are so many places we can pick up used gadgets. So, there’s no excuse not to at least look. It’s remarkable how many great deals one can get when you’re looking. Folks sell used gear for all sorts of reasons. Parents sell their kid’s Xbox because of bad grades, overdrawn folks sell unneeded gear to make credit card payments, savvy wealthy folks replace their gear promptly, and sell the old stuff to reduce the “net” cost of their upgrade.

4. Dispose Properly

Putting potentially recyclable material in the household waste stream creates a negative impact. First, because sanitation departments DO attempt to sort and handle waste by type, so the more stuff we mix in that doesn’t belong there creates work for them, and second, because those products create hazards in the waste stream that must be handled. Toxic pools are nobody’s idea of a good time.

5. Recycle

This is the word that most folks associate with “doing the right thing”. When done properly, recycling DOES have a positive impact on carbon footprint. The net result of reclaiming metals and plastics generally means less energy expended to put those materials back into service, when compared to mining/refining “fresh” materials from the ground. However, in the interest of being transparent, recycling across the board is a net environmental positive, but only on a razor-thin margin. As the commodity markets shift, the cost to transport recyclables goes up (more miles, more trucks, more smog). As the safety regulations increase, the costs go up (more filters, rebreathers, greater distances traveled find less regulated markets). Still, recycling IS the right thing to do, particularly with metal. Aluminum is effectively eternally recyclable.

The green messages delivered by the media can be loud, hopeless, and frustratingly accusatory. At 4THBIN, we strive to eliminate “blame”, and focus on improvement. We want to make things better and more hopeful for ourselves, our kids, and their kids. We hope you want the same, and we hope that some of these tips help you make your “footprint” smaller.