Aug 09

Power Walking, Not What You Think

power walkingWalking is my favorite mode of transportation. It used to be running, but my joints and I came to an agreement several years ago to transition from that abuse to something less jarring. I take at least one and often two walks a day, rain or shine. That brings me to the topic of power walking, but it’s not what you think.

Although it’s true I enjoy walking at a brisk pace, my personal definition of power walking is a combination of purposeful striding and environmental stewardship. For me, power walking means exercising my responsibility to help save the world a little at a time while also keeping my cardiovascular system healthy and my muscles working. Toss in a bit of sunshine for my vitamin D production and I’m rockin’!

Power walking my way

Power walking involves carrying a small tote (washable/reusable preferred) on my trek and picking up recyclable items. Generally I stick with three basics: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, and cigarette butts. Oh, you didn’t know cigarette butts can be recycled? I get to that a little bit later.

power walkingAccording to the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2015 report, Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2013 Fact Sheet, the United States currently recycles less than one-third of its PET and HDPE plastic bottles. (PET and HDPE are recycle numbers 1 and 2, respectively, on plastic.) Americans toss away 35 billion water bottles alone every year.

Plastic bottles and plastic overall is toxic to the environment, wildlife, and people. The BPA (bisphenol-A) and phthalates in plastics can leak into our water and food supplies and disrupt our hormones. Plastics choke our sewage systems, lakes, and streams. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located off the coast of California, is a mass of plastic twice the size of Texas. One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year because of plastics in our seas.

Americans do better with aluminum soda and beer cans, managing to recycle 55.1 percent of these items. Aluminum is a sustainable metal and 100 percent recyclable. Enterprising individuals (and this is great for kids and/or nonprofits) can even make some money picking up aluminum cans. As of this writing, you could get about 40 cents per pound of aluminum at your local aluminum recycling center. (I used to collect aluminum cans for an animal shelter during my power walking days in Arizona. The money provided lots of kitty food!)

Cigarette butts are the item most littered in the United States and around the world. Much of this waste ends up in our waterways. Butts accumulate in gutters and sewers, along curbs in cities and neighborhoods, and on beaches. About 95 percent of cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that degrades slowly. Butts also are hazardous to land and marine animals—as well as small children–who may ingest them.

power walkingI have been recycling cigarette butts for several years. All you need is a small bag while you walk and you’re set to go. A company called TerraCycle will recycle them for you if you send them the butts—and they pay the shipping!

We generate entirely too much unnecessary stuff and are left with too much waste. Combine that with our throwaway mentality, and we have a solid waste problem. If the United States were progressive like Sweden, where they actually now have to import waste because what they don’t recycle they transform into energy, our streets, lakes, streams, meadows, forests, and beaches would not serve as dumping grounds for everything from cigarette butts to plastic bottles and tires—and much more.

Until that day comes to America and other countries—and I’m hoping it does—we can all do our part by power walking. It’s a satisfying activity for kids of all ages.


Environmental Protection Agency

Prevent Cigarette Litter


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