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Education Trailer, Our Material World - Iowa DNR

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Uploaded on Aug 2, 2011

As Americans, we've come to expect a lot -- big houses, changing fashions, the latest gadgets, disposable containers. Buy it, use it, throw it away and get something new. It's simple, convenient and fun.
Some of this disposable culture is the result of innovation. We are constantly being offered better, smaller, faster and more convenient products. And some of it is by design. Companies make products that are designed to last only a short time. After that, we toss them and they get to sell us a new one. Advertising helps fuel this super-charged engine of consumption. We're bombarded with up to 3,000 advertising messages every day. In fact, today we see more advertising in one year than Americans saw in a lifetime only 50 years ago.
Our problem is that we only have one planet and we are making a mess of it.
Everything we buy requires the use of natural resources like plants, metals and oil. Things that come from the Earth. The raw materials are mined, cut or taken from nature in some way. Trucks, railcars, boats and planes take those raw materials to facilities where workers use energy and additional resources to clean and process them, mix them together with other materials and chemicals. Then shape, heat, cool, assemble and put them into eye-catching packaging. Finally it's shipped again to places where we can buy it.
So what's the problem? If everyone used up resources at our pace, we'd require 3 to 5 planets to provide the natural resources needed to keep us going. Americans buy and consume like no other people on Earth. And we consume twice as much today than we did just 50 years ago.
Businessess want your dollars. They'll do whatever it takes to get them, so your buying decisions tell business what you think and what to make. If you buy only products produced in an environmentally friendly way, guess what? More companies will start producing environmentally friendly products. It's already working. People are buying recycled paper products. Today, about half of all paper is recycled, which saves trees, water and energy and keeps millions of tons of a reusable resource out of our landfills.
We should continue to recycle, recycle, recycle. Recycling reduces the resources and energy needed to make something from scratch -- plus it saves landfill space. Cut back. Don't buy what you don't need. Buy smart by buying stuff that will last longer or buy used. And remember to buy green. Creating demand for things made with recycled materials, or things that are energy efficient, encourages the production and development of more of those types of products.
Most of all: Think. Think about how that shiny new thing at the store impacts the environment and ask yourself -- if it is really worth the total cost?
Check out the virtual tour of the Mobile Education Exhibit at http://www.iowadnr.gov/Environment/La....

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