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2015 Rating Yellow Pie chart showing resource consumption Indicator Key

About this Indicator

Every society uses the earth's natural resources. Fossil fuels, water, and other raw materials are just a few of the resources we rely on every day. We must understand and monitor our use of these resources in order to manage them fairly and with future generations in mind.

Our ability to reuse or recycle the wastes we generate reduces demand for new resources. Decreasing waste generation—through conservation or recycling—also reduces the waste we send to landfills. In 2009, single-family households in King County recycled 54 percent of their solid waste, and solid waste disposal for single-family households remained at 26 pounds per week.

Status

Targets as established in the King County Solid Waste Comprehensive Plan for both solid waste recycling and disposal were not met in 2009. The decrease in the recycling rate reflects improved measurement of non-recyclable materials placed in recycling containers which now count as disposal, not recycling. Disposal rates stayed the same as 2008 despite the continued economic downturn, perhaps due to an increase in residential waste generation, as residents spent less time at work or recreating outside the home and more time pursuing in-home activities.

Adoption of green building practices in the commercial sector continued in 2009, as shown by the number of completed projects that have been certified as LEED™ buildings by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED™ stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a nationally recognized green building rating system.

And the ratio of single-family BuiltGreen™ homes to new single-family construction permits rose from 18 percent in 2008 to 25 percent in 2009. This trend reflects both an increase in consumer demand and improved capacity of builders to achieve BuiltGreen™ performance requirements.

Influencing factors

Automotive fuel makes up the greatest proportion of total King County energy use. Land use patterns and gasoline prices are two of the factors that affect automotive fuel consumption. Reducing vehicle miles traveled and increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles are key to decreasing energy consumption in King County.

Because King County's electricity infrastructure includes six hydroelectric plants, residential and commercial sources emit fewer greenhouse gases than does the transportation sector. Energy conservation strategies and the county's leadership in residential and commercial green building have contributed to the decline in residential and commercial energy use.

Economic growth and population are two primary influences on the waste stream. As the county's population and economy grow, so does the amount of goods consumed and disposed of. Solid waste disposal levels have historically increased in prosperous times. The recent downturn in the economy may have contributed to reductions in recycling levels.

Market demand for green buildings is rising in this region, which contributes to the increased number of LEED™ certified buildings and the increased percent of new homes that are BuiltGreen™ certified in King County. Increased social awareness of the environmental benefits of recycling as well as increased regulatory requirements for recycling are factors that bear on household recycling rates.

DNRP response

Affecting the building, recycling, and disposal behaviors of King County residents requires a range of strategies, from collaborations with cities and non-profit partners to direct outreach to developers and residents. King County also delivers recycling and resource conservation education and outreach programs to schools.

King County encourages sustainable development and green building practices to help balance growth with protection of our region's valuable natural resources. King County also offers a variety of incentives for builders and developers to pursue BuiltGreen™ or LEED™ certification.

What you can do:

When considering building or remodeling projects

When making purchasing decisions, consider environmental impacts

More information about King County's Resource Consumption indicators is available by continuing to these indicators:

Data source: King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks and King County Office of Management and Budget Annual Growth Reports.