How Earth Works

A sign displays recyclable items at an 'e-waste' drop-off location inside a Staples store.
A sign displays recyclable items at an 'e-waste' drop-off location inside a Staples store.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

So you've decided to "go green." You've replaced your regular light bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs and purchased recycling bins. You've even organized that pile in the garage. You know the one -- outdated audio equipment, used cans of paint, even an old car battery. You're feeling pretty proud of yourself, until you realize, "Hey. How do I get rid of all this stuff?" And no, you can't just put it out with the trash.

That's where Earth 911 comes in. Log onto Earth 911's Web site, type in your zip code and you'll be presented with a list of recycling drop-off centers right in your area.

­Earth 911 consolidates thousands of hotlines, Web sites and other information resources into one North American information network. Its 1-800-CLEANUP hotline provides community-specific environmental information, in both Spanish and English. Earth 911 hosts a list of more than 74,000 recycling centers that offer more than 400,000 recycling services. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency endorses the site. So do Al Gore and Oprah Winfrey [source: Earth 911].

Although its main function is to tell users the easiest way they can recycle everything from a can to a computer, Earth 911 also posts original content and articles. An events calendar lists earth-friendly activities around the United States and Canada. Environmental experts offer advice and tips for living green. Communities can list their own recycling guidelines and events. Once registered on the site, individual users are encouraged to add their own content and feedback. The site also provides materials for teachers and students.

In addition to the information provided on the main Earth 911 site, several sub-sites focus on more specific areas -- clean beaches, clean boating and earth-friendly business operations.

On the next few pages, we'll take a look at Earth 911's beginnings and learn how to navigate the Web site's resources. What can you pull from its bank of data? And how could Earth 911 get you singing about recycling?