U.S. Waste and Recycling
The U.S. generated approximately 251 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) in 2012. Almost 87 million tons were recycled and composted, which represents a 34.5% recycling rate. Solid waste generated per capita is the lowest since the 1980s. This is a 3 percent increase in the tons recycled.
Composting is the process of decomposing organic waste such as paper plates, food waste, and yard trimmings. By composting, less waste is sent to the landfill. Soil with compost improves plant growth with less water; compost can also be used for erosion control.
The Guiding Principles for Sustainable Federal Buildings are a set of sustainable principles for integrated design, energy performance, water conservation, indoor environmental quality, materials, and climate change adaptation aimed at helping Federal agencies and organizations:
- Reduce the total ownership cost of facilities
- Improve energy efficiency and water conservation
- Provide safe, healthy, and productive built environments
- Promote sustainable environmental stewardship
Glass, plastic, aluminum, cardboard and paper (including glossy magazines, envelopes with plastic windows and sticky notes) can all be easily recycled. Depending on the waste hauler, recycling bins can include commingled waste (i.e. all materials are collected in one bin) or they may require separated waste (i.e. one bin for paper, one bin for plastics, etc). By recycling products, materials are sent back to the marketplace rather than to the landfill.
Waste comprises all materials that flow from a building to final disposal. Examples include paper, grass trimmings, food scraps, and plastics. Responsible stewardship tries to divert as much waste as possible from the landfill. This can mean recycling paper, mulching or composting grass trimmings, and reusing large items, such as furniture.
Did You Know?
Buildings are one of the heaviest consumers of natural resources and account for a significant portion of the greenhouse gas emissions that affect climate change. In the U.S., buildings account for 40% of all CO2 emissions.
Source: Energy Information Administration (2009). Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the US.
The Workplace Environment as a Catalyst for Social Change
We know workplace design can influence functional behaviors, but can it be a catalyst for social change? Can organizations use the environment to improve the sense of community, increase morale, reduce stress, and develop cross group relationships?
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