You never know when something good can come out of something that seems to be negative. Very often we as humans are motivated to make a change only when our back is up against the wall and we really have to.
For instance how many people finally start to eat healthier when they find out they have a health problem, even though they have known they should have been eating better. And another example is our love of big cars in America, which was made easier to handle with our relatively inexpensive gasoline, until recently at least. Although compared to other parts of the world we still pay a lot less. When I lived in Europe, and not too long ago, the price was way over one dollar a liter, and there are four liters in a gallon-I think that usually it was over $5 a gallon, and often a lot more when the dollar was weak.
It has only been recently that more people have been willing to embrace smaller cars, and lately hybrid or electric cars, to gain better gas mileage…our pockets drive our purchases, even when we have known better. We just seem to think that there is an unlimited amount of everything and it is there for the taking, and usually by us.
Well in the last few weeks Japan has had a rude awakening and that is because China had initiated an embargo of “rare-earth” minerals. These rare but essential materials are used in producing hybrid cars, wind turbines and computer display screens as well as other products. Obviously these are extremely important products for the Japanese economy and in some cases the rest of the world too. China is responsible for about 93% of these minerals, according to a N.Y. Times story but I imagine this could soon change after the world realizes how vulnerable we are.
Now it makes perfect sense that if these materials went into manufacturing these items, the minerals are still there, just combined with other materials. Out of this crisis a mining company has begun recycling old electronics parts for these “rare-earth” minerals. So far they have been able to recover gold, as well as the rare metals indium and antimony. They are working on ways to recover other minerals that are needed to produce batteries used in electric motors, something very important right now when there is a push to bring out alternative fuel cars.
It is estimated that used electronics in Japan hold “an estimated 300,000 tons of rare earths.” Imagine globally how much must be in unused electronics, and why not reuse it? This makes more sense compared to relying only on mining the materials. I wonder how much is already buried in landfills. Eventually the costs, beyond just money, of mining become too great. The effects on the earth, the environment, local communities and the workers. Mining is dirty business no matter how you look at it. Of course some of this is a necessity but not at the pace we have been moving.
We just need to start using what we already have before we go looking to buy more and this is a clear example of that. So out of a crisis for Japan a new alternative was found…recycling what they already had.
How many other examples are around us of ways that we could be doing the same, but before we are in a crisis.
How about reusing your plastic produce bags that you get at the market and even at farmers markets. They can be used again and again.
Or when you are brushing your teeth, do you turn off the water or just let it keep running.
Do you turn lights off in rooms that you are not in.
There are so many ways that we can save, without any real inconvenience-I’m not going to suggest reading by candlelight. It really is about common sense and valuing what we have, not wasting it and saving for future generations.
Let’s all take action to save what we have and not buy every new item that we see. Conserving our resources can start with each of us, and don’t forget it is our buying that is fueling the production of more goods.
What can you do today to live a smart life way? it’s really easier than you think.