Getting Wasted

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source : Possibilitator, September 21, 2016

I have been meaning for months to raise the issue of the great waste ignored by us in this community. There are numerous reminders, but the one that sets me off the most is the ongoing construction near the MSU Federal Credit Union’s headquarters off State Road and US 127.

Driving by the rising structure one can’t help but notice that there must be a minimum of 100 lights (it could be three times that number) burning 24/7 including all through the night and weekends  when no one is there.  For the sake of easy math let’s estimate those are 100 watt bulbs and that there are 100 of them. That means every hour they are using 10,000 watts. Let’s assume there are people working in that space 48 hours a week. That leaves 100 hours a week when no one is there. That means there are one million watt hours of electricity wasted weekly.

My memory tells me this has been going on for months, but let’s just say 10 weeks. So  over that time 10 million watt hours of electricity up in smoke. Some readers will say,” who cares”, the owners or the construction company are paying for it. But alas, we are all paying for it. Tell the folks in Baton Rouge suffering from 1,000 year rain event;  in Syria, where the droughts moved farmers into the cities creating the kindling for the eruption that is the Syrian tragedy;  in California, where wildfires destroy square miles of vegetation and homes. The cumulative impact of our consumption over time has changed our atmosphere.

It is one thing to use energy when we NEED to. But to waste it needlessly is a crime, or should be. I know those lights don’t need to be left on. Drive by a similar three story structure going up across in the area, where no lights are burning at night. Each of us of course, myself included, leave energy sucking items on when  they are not being used. Many of us recall our stern fathers telling us to turn the lights off when we leave a room. President Carter encouraged businesses to turn off their outdoor  lighted signs when they were closed during the oil embargo of the late 1970’s to save energy.

While individual actions matter, especially when added up by the thousands or millions, larger organizations, like the  example I began with, have a more dramatic impact. The electricity wasted in two months by that building would power our house for 2,500 years or 2,500 homes like ours for one year.

But waste is not limited to just electricity and power. Food waste is another major problem that we have failed to address adequately.  By some estimates 30-40 percent of food grown is wasted.  USDA is calling for 50 per cent reduction in food waste by 2030. Locally, Woody Campbell of Compost Katie, is trying to rescue food waste from the landfill and turn it into compost that could be utilized as soil amendments, thereby closing the loop.

Compost Katie

Campbell, who started the successful local Green Cab company years ago, is trying to develop a model of rescuing surplus food that is not edible from households and businesses and stimulate more waste reduction. Talk about entrepreneurship that is really needed, this is a great effort. His weekly  pickups of your food waste has 5/25 gallon options. In nature, there is no waste. Campbell is taking a ‘waste’ and turning it into compost for enriching the soil, completing nature’s cycle.

Of course, recovery of edible food has long been the focus of “Food Movers”, a program of the Greater Lansing Food Bank since the early 90’s that works with local restaurants, bakeries,  grocery stores, and catered events to get surplus edible food to those who need it in shelters and community kitchens.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 12.51.56 PM

The mantra that has guided the recycling community for decades is “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle”. Notice that recycling is the last of the hierarchy. Reduction and reuse are of a higher order in reducing the impacts of our consumption. To waste is to squander or to use carelessly or inefficiently.  We can’t afford to waste materials or human lives. The over consumption, especially among the developed countries of the world cannot continue without suffering further consequences from Mother Nature and the dispossessed.

We can either choose to work with nature and becomes its partner, or to allow the consequences of our wasteful habits to be hoisted on to the backs of our children and grandchildren. The bumper sticker slogan, “Nature Bats Last” is a fundamental truth.

Waste Not!!

Turn it off when not being used!!!

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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