Well Org

Waste Reduction 101: Rethinking Packaging

You’re supporting conscious companies by purchasing organic produce, getting your coffee from the local shop, and doing your online shopping with free-trade certified resellers. All important and noble pursuits. But, what is the cumulative effect of the packaging involved in your purchasing choices? Perhaps the next step in spending with social responsibility is to consider how to reduce the waste.

The Problems of Packaging

Packaging materials make up more than 30 percent of landfill waste in the US, around 75 million tons every year. In addition to generating tons of waste, packaging supplies lead to:

Some Positive Steps Forward

The story of packaging isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, packaging in the US has gotten slimmer and lighter over the years. As plastics and films get stronger, less of it is needed, reducing some of the environmental burden. For example, plastic bottles have gotten thinner and easier to crush, making for a smoother recycling process. Replacing heavy plastic with films means more can be transported in one vehicle, reducing fossil fuel use and emissions.

If you’re a business owner, here are some quick tips to consider:

Consumer Impacts

Consumers are forcing manufacturers to get creative as the demand for eco-friendlier options increases. The rise of social media has given opportunity for consumers to let their voices be heard by using direct communication to company representatives on a massive scale. This has lead to large companies like Dell swapping out their packaging for recyclables, and using less of it. Other companies are focusing on reduced emissions and resource use in the manufacture of their packaging, or even using renewable energy to run the plant making the materials.

Here’s What You Can Do Today

While there is exciting progress happening in packaging reduction, there is certainly more work to be done. And much of that work starts with the individual. Here are some practical tips for reducing the packaging that your household contributes to the waste stream.

In less than 20 years, US consumers have reduced the percentage of packaging in landfills by 39 percent. This is great progress, but there’s more work to do. To learn more about conscious consumerism and the impact you can make with your purchasing choices, check out our feature-length film, Prosperity.

 

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