(From the March 5, 2012, issue of Rubber & Plastics News)
AKRON—As this issue contains our annual “Rubber Goes Green” special report, I got to thinking about my own impact on the environment. With all the innovations in the rubber industry designed to make processes and products more earth friendly, I wanted to see how I was doing personally.
My gut feeling was that I was a better partner to the environment than in the past, but that I have a long way to go. I remember years ago when, in the early days of recycling in our city, our oldest daughter wanted us to recycle as a household. Instead of embracing it as a family project, I told her she was in charge of our recycling efforts, knowing full well her attention span was short. When her interest stopped in a couple of weeks, that was that.
But today, my wife and I are quite conscientious at home. We do an excellent job of splitting up the recyclables from the other trash and have much more going in the recycling bin each week than the regular trash container.
I'll admit, though, there are a lot of contradictions to my environmental approach. I love to bicycle, but I do it for exercise. I don't like riding on streets for safety reasons, so anytime I ride I'm generally hauling my bike via my car to a trail. I'm sure that gives my environmental grade a negative mark.
From a transportation standpoint, I still enjoy a “Sunday ride” for relaxation, especially through the National Park area between Akron and Cleveland. My wife would love for us to buy a hybrid car, but there's still too much sticker shock and too long a payback period to make that feasible.
On the home front, however, we did invest in a new furnace and air conditioning unit. But that was something that brought a large reduction in our energy usage and a quicker payback for us—a standard I'm sure companies use as well.
At work, I now keep a recycling bin by my desk, and take advantage of the aluminum-can recycling others set up. Being a publishing company, our office still uses reams of paper, printing out page proofs and documents, etc. I think it's a good sign that the large recycling containers at work are normally full, but I sometimes wonder how many trees we're responsible for killing each year.
To get a more objective measure of my environmental impact, I went to www.myfootprint.org and took the quiz designed by the Center for Sustainable Economy. The results weren't pretty. It said that if everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need 8.1 earths. It did provide some interesting ideas on how I could reduce my footprint, but I did find one thing hypocritical about the test: Many of the pages explaining the test and results included a printer icon for you to print out the information.
Anyway, I think I'll use this as a guide to continue making improvements where I can. Hey, at least I didn't print out my notes before writing this column. That's got to count for something.
Meyer is managing editor of Rubber & Plastics News.