The Natural Product Repository at NCI is home to more than 230,000 substances derived from plants, animals and microbes found around the world. Scientists there are developing new methods of understanding the complex chemistry of natural compounds and conserving the samples they have. By mapping the genomes of bacteria and plants, they are gaining information they can use to synthesize new compounds with medicinal potential. Even as we rely on nature for fundamental medicines, we’re losing its diversity, and we’re losing it fast. Deforestation and climate change are driving species to extinction 1,000 times faster than you’d expect if no humans lived on Earth. Protecting the diversity of life on earth is not just important for saving the wild places and animals we love. It’s essential for saving ourselves and the health of our loved ones. Editor’s note: The article has little to do with materials management, but offers a fascinating look at the importance of nature in our lives and the vital need to protect it.
Efforts such as lightweighting, moving to plant-based plastics and using renewable energy sources have helped companies get closer to their carbon footprint goals, but betting on recycled content has the potential to be just as powerful. In addition to ensuring the recycling system works well, using recycled content can help companies close the loop, by putting recycled materials back into packaging, starting the cycle once again, while at the same time lowering carbon footprints.
Americans toss a lot of food in the garbage, equaling about $165 billion every year. About $293 million of our food waste dollars are spent during Thanksgiving, and that’s just from tossing turkey. For our Thanksgiving meal, we’ll purchase nearly 3 million pounds of collard greens, 2 million pounds of kale and 1.2 million pounds of Brussels sprouts. In fact, food purchases during the week of Thanksgiving are second only to the week of Christmas for all food and beverage categories combined in the U.S. So, in being thankful for our food bounties, should we really strive to eat so much of it during the holidays? Especially since I doubt a celebration resulting in so much food (and other) waste would be something our Puritan ancestors would take pride in.
The problems currently faced by the recycling industry cannot be solved by consumers or municipalities alone.