15 Things You Might Not Know About New Mexico

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istock

1. At 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe is the highest capital city in the U.S.

2. The road less traveled in New Mexico: the paved one. Nearly 3/4 of the state's roads are dirt or caliche.

3. Meep, meep! The roadrunner is the state bird.

4. New Mexico's the only state with an official question: "Red or green?" It refers to chili preference, of course! And if you don’t want to look like an out-of-stater, spell it chile. Chili refers to the meat dish from Texas.

5. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, 9.4 percent of the New Mexico population is Native American. That number might seem small, but it's the second-largest Native American population in the U.S. (Alaska's the first at 14.8 percent.)

6. New Mexico also has the largest Hispanic population of all the states—47.3 percent in 2013.

7. The state flag honors both groups by combining the colors from the Spanish flag with the sun symbol of the indigenous Zia tribe.

8. The open-air Santa Fe Opera House, originally built in 1957 and given a complete overhaul in 1998, incorporates the Sangre de Cristo Mountains into the set design for each of its productions. The stunning scenery draws crowds from all over the world—an estimated half of the 85,000 people present during the season hail from outside New Mexico.

9. Only you can prevent forest fires, but we'd like to prevent misinformation about Smokey Bear. (Starting with the fact that his name isn't Smokey the Bear.) Smokey Bear was a mascot created in 1944 by the USDA Forest Service and the War Advertising Council. He wasn't inspired by the real Smokey, a black bear cub rescued from a tree in 1950 after a wildfire in New Mexico's Capitan Mountains. Instead, the real bear was named after the mascot.

10. That's not to say that the real Smokey didn't have his own legacy. The bear was a National Zoo celebrity with so many fan letters that he received his own zip code. In 1963, Smokey inspired New Mexico to make the black bear the official state animal. And three years after his death, his burial site was turned into Smokey Bear Historical Park.

11. Bill Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft in Albuquerque in 1976. The company moved to Washington in 1979.

12. New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment for a number of reasons. White Sands National Monument, the largest gypsum dune field in the world, is definitely one of them. The white dunes stretch 275 square miles and stay cool in the sun. Visitors can sled down them or just sit and watch the landscape slowly change shape.

13. If you prefer your wonders man-made, you can visit the Los Lunas Decalogue Stone. The large inscription-bearing boulder, on the side of Hidden Mountain, is rumored to be 500 to 2,000 years old—if it's not just a hoax, that is. Or you can check out the miraculous Loretto Chapel spiral staircase made with no nails. And don't forget to make a reservation at the hair-raising Land Art work "The Lightning Field."

14. Or you can go here: The nine-day Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta held each October is the largest balloon convention in the world. It started in 1972 as a way to honor the fiftieth birthday of a local radio station. Sid Cutter, the one man in town with a hot air balloon, gathered 13 balloons for the inaugural event. Today, nearly 1,000 take flight.

15. Albuquerque's cool early temperatures and predictable wind patterns make it particularly well-suited for hot air ballooning. So even if you miss the Fiesta, you can still see balloons flying over the city most mornings. Enchanting!

8 Surprising Facts and Misconceptions About Recycling

iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz
iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you pat yourself on the back for just remembering to separate the recycling or haul that big blue bin to the curb each week, you're not alone. Despite the strides we appear to be making toward eco-consciousness as a country, we have a long way to go in helping the Earth, as evidenced by our complicated relationship with recycling. These facts about the most prevalent of the three Rs will make you pause the next time you throw anything away.

1. The United States's recycling rate is low—really low.

Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show that America recycles about 34.7 percent of the garbage it produces. (The world's top recyclers—Germany, Austria, Wales, and South Korea—report a rate between 52 and 56 percent.) But Mitch Hedlund, founder and Executive Director of the organization Recycle Across America isn't even sure the recycling rate often quoted is accurate because there is so much junk mixed in with actual recyclables.

Recycle Across America is currently working to encourage the use of standardized labels for recycling bins to eliminate the confusion over what actually belongs in these receptacles. "If the U.S. gets the recycling number up to 75 percent, which we believe is completely possible once the confusion (over what to place in the bins) is removed, it will be the CO2 equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the roads each year in the U.S. and it will create 1.5 million permanent new jobs in the U.S. (net)."

2. Proper recycling can result in monetary savings.

Businessman stepping on green squares with recycling symbols
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While Hedlund admits the idea of providing universal labels clearly stating what should be placed in the bins is a simple one, it's making a serious impact on those who have jumped on the bandwagon. "Many schools are seeing dramatic increases in their recycling levels since using the society-wide standardized labels on their recycling bins," she says. "For instance, in the pilot program at Culver City schools in Los Angeles [County], their recycling levels doubled when they started using the standardized labels and the materials they were collecting in their recycling bins were so much less contaminated with garbage." Another story, she says, is that "as a result of a donation from Kiehls (who makes a donation to Recycle Across America each April in the sum of $50,000), all of the schools in the San Diego Unified School District and San Diego County started using the standardized labels. San Diego Unified School District reduced their landfill hauling fees by about $200,000 (net) in the first year."

3. Recent changes from China have severely impacted the recycling industry.

Until 2018, China took 40 percent of the United States's recycled paper, plastic, and metal. But in January of that year, China imposed strict new rules on the levels of contamination (think food or other garbage mixed in with the recyclables) it's willing to accept—standards American cities are largely unable to meet. Because of that, and a lack of suitable destinations closer to home, many cities have been forced to incinerate or stockpile recyclables until they can find a better solution.

4. Only 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S.

The nation recycles less than 10 percent of its plastic, compared to 67 percent for paper materials, 34 percent for metals, and 26 percent for glass. And China's restrictions have especially affected plastic—while exports of scrap plastic to China were valued at more than $300 million in 2015, they amounted to $7.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, down 90 percent from the year before.

5. Clothing can be recycled, but it rarely is.

Clothing at a garage sale
iStock.com/alexeys

Unfortunately, most curbside haulers don't accept textiles, and America has a serious problem with old clothes ending up in the trash. In 2019, the nation is on track to throw away more than 35 billion pounds of textiles, according to the Council for Textile Recycling—almost double the number from 1999. On the plus side, some cities have set up drop-off points for unwanted clothes, and there are a variety of ways to sell or donate unwanted items. Some brands, including Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, have also introduced buy-back programs for their items.

6. Aluminum is the world's most-recycled packaging product.

Crushed aluminum cans
iStock.com/hroe

Nearly 70 percent of aluminum cans are recycled internationally, according to Novelis, a leader in rolled aluminum products and recycled aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without degrading, meaning it can be reused in a way completely different from what it was in its previous life, or recast into its original form. Not only is aluminum the world's most-recycled product, it's also the most profitable and the most energy-efficient. Using recycled aluminum instead of virgin materials saves about 95% of the energy, compared to 60% for paper and 34% for glass [PDF].

7. That soda can you're drinking from could find its way back to you more quickly than you think.

According to Novelis's research, an aluminum can that is recycled can be back on a grocery store shelf within 60 days [PDF]. That's a seriously speedy turnaround.

8. Scrap recycling is big business.

While the words scrap recycling might have you humming the Sanford & Son theme song, it's far from being a junkyard industry. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in 2017 U.S. scrap recyclers processed more than 130 million tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, and more—material that was sold back to industrial consumers in the U.S. and around the world, generating close to $18 billion in export sales. All told, scrap recycling was a $117 billion industry in 2017 [PDF].

This list first ran in 2015 and was updated by Mental Floss staff in 2019.

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures

YouTube
YouTube

Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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