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13 Reasons to Be Optimistic on Earth Day

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Earth Day has undoubtedly become a mainstream celebration in the 45 years since it was first launched in response to a massive oil spill in waters near Santa Barbara, California in 1969. Unfortunately, we just marked the anniversary of another massive oil spill (the worst one yet). But instead of giving you all the doom and gloom about how far we have yet to go, let's take a moment to celebrate how far we've come. By looking at these impressive statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, you will see there are many reasons to be hopeful this Earth Day.

There are many reasons to be hopeful this Earth Day.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Renewable Energy

$9.8 billion

Revenues in 2012 for electric power generation industries that use renewable energy resources, such as hydro, wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation. This figure is up 49 percent from $6.6 billion in 2007.

697

The number of wind, geothermal, biomass, solar and other electric power generation business establishments in 2012, up from 312 in 2007.

5,456

The number of employees in wind electric power generation, the most among the industries using renewable energy in 2012.

$5 billion

Revenues for the wind electric power generation industry in 2012, the highest among the industries using renewable energy resources. Hydroelectric power generation followed with revenues of $2.4 billion. Geothermal electric power generation had revenues of just under $1 billion ($995.4 million), followed by biomass electric power generation, with $934.6 million in revenues, solar electric power generation, with $472.4 million, and other electric power generation, with $59 million.

50,235

Estimated number of occupied housing units across the country totally heated by solar energy in 2013.

Sustainable Transportation

882,198

Estimated number of people who rode a bicycle to work in 2013. This comes out to about 0.6 percent of the American workforce.

4,000,459

Estimated number of people who walked to work in 2013. This comes out to about 2.8 percent of the American workforce.

Energy Use

18,817 trillion Btu

The energy consumption in the U.S. manufacturing sector in 2010, down 17 percent from the 22,576 trillion Btu (British thermal units) consumed in 2002.

-32%

The drop in the consumption of coal in the U.S. manufacturing sector from 2002 to 2010, going from 1,956 trillion Btu in 2002 down to 1,328 trillion Btu consumed in 2010.

Recycling

19.8%

Increase in the number of recyclable material merchant wholesalers establishments across the U.S. in 2012, from 7,377 establishments in 2007 to 8,838 establishments in 2012.

116,229

Number of employees working for recyclable material merchant wholesalers in 2012, up 11.0 percent from 104,671 employees in 2007.

$93.5 billion

Sales for recyclable material merchant wholesalers in 2012, up 16.7 percent from $80.1 billion in 2007. 2012 sales for recyclable paper and paperboard products: $9.8 billion. 2012 sales for recyclable plastics products: $2.3 billion.  2012 sales for recyclable glass products: $0.6 billion.

$8.4 billion 

Product shipments value for recycled paperboard in 2013.

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