Long before I began my career in the waste industry, I was aware of the simplicity of and reasons for recycling. I was an Eagle Scout, and we were trained to always leave our campsite cleaner than we found it. It makes sense, then, that companies should have that same mantra toward our environment and natural resources. As a longtime resident and now business owner in the Upstate of South Carolina, I’ve always been thankful for the beauty of our region. Nowhere else in the world will you find the views and access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, lakes, our storied downtown, and low cost of living. It’s hard to imagine our mountains littered with waste, or our air full of smog and contaminants.

recycling in south carolina

Lake Jocassee, as appeared in USA Today Travel Tips

It might seem we take our beautiful area for granted. You don’t often hear stories in the local news about our air quality. Sure, in the warmer months of Summer our weather forecasters advise us of air quality alerts. Rarely do those alerts significantly alter our daily life or cause us much concern. However, as an attendee for the recent Ten at the Top Clean Air Upstate seminar, it was shocking to begin to understand the importance of air quality and how we can impact it in our daily lives.

Large cities like Los Angeles must monitor and manage their air quality relentlessly. Look out the window on a flight to LAX and you won’t need to watch the local news or conduct a google search to know the air isn’t the cleanest you’ve breathed. However, did you know it takes, and there has been for quite some time, a concerted effort to maintain the air quality we enjoy in the Upstate? Long gone are the days of ignoring ozone levels or blaming our neighbors Atlanta and Charlotte for drifting smog. We’re sharing the air in the Upstate with over 800,000 vehicles on the road per day, and it was shocking to learn the true impact of air quality on our individual health.

Studies now show that air pollution, and exposure to particulate matter (the tiny particles in the air that make up pollution levels) can cause an inflammatory response. It’s official. If we don’t take care of the environment, our health will suffer. It’s even been proven, based on the inflammatory response, that unhealthy air can cause diabetes. With statistics and knowledge like this, what can we do? What can the business and civic community do?

Simply put, businesses must include sustainability practices and waste reduction in their overall operating strategies. As the organizations employing and shaping our community, it’s up to us to ensure our community remains the desirable and healthy place to live, work and play that it is today. As I sat and listened and learned from the many leaders attending the Clean Air Upstate event, it became evident that we all shared a common goal for our companies. Yes, it feels good to do good. But, where sustainability is concerned, it quickly proves itself as a benefit for both the bottom line and the environment. Having an attitude of conservation and waste reduction is always beneficial to a company’s results, and the people and community it serves.

Recycling is a natural first step in a sustainability strategy, and it’s more impactful than many people realize. After learning the ways in which local companies are reducing their impact on the environment, I became curious exactly how recycling could impact the environment beyond the obvious waste reduction benefits.

Overall waste reduction, and limiting what we ultimately send to landfills, has a significant impact on the air quality in the Upstate. According to the EPA, landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the US. As we are well aware, methane is a highly potent green-house gas, often times more than 30% more hazardous in its contribution to global warming than CO2.

Those are scary statistics. There is something we can all do. It may sound so simple, but it all starts with recycling.

I think we can all agree, waste reduction and sustainability are good for companies, good for our community, and good for the environment. Yet, the big question is how. Sustainability is a word many of us considered a buzz word not too long ago. As evidenced by the companies in attendance at the Clean Air Upstate event, it’s not difficult to take steps and implement programs that reduce our impact on the environment and improve our profitability. It can be as simple as a commitment to recycle office waste or reduce idle time of delivery trucks. We can all start small and see a big impact, resulting in our beautiful community of Greenville remaining the desirable and healthy place it is to live and work today.

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