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The Carbon Footprint of Packaging

Packaging.  From shiny plastic bags to dull paper bags to environment sacs to re-usable bags, there are endless forms of packaging in the market today. Individual pieces of produce can be wrapped in the grocery store, and boxes abound for gadgets that are constantly evolving by the day. Some forms of packaging are adequate, while others seem a little over-the-top.  Plastic and cardboard used to pack products has accumulated a significant and alarming carbon footprint.

Carbon Footprint of Packaging Remains Unknown to Many

The truth is that the exact figures for carbon footprints are not accessible to just anybody. Measuring of carbon footprints is conducted poorly by manufacturers and there is insufficient life cycle analysis for the measurement of the carbon footprint of packaging. Groups such as the Sustainable Packaging Coalition are rallying for this to change. They have released a software program called COMPASS that is useful for helping designers and companies assess the environmental impact of their packaging. This is in line with the belief that what is measured is managed. If companies do not take the time to measure their packaging expenditures, there is not much room for improvement or figuring out ways to cut costs.

Sean Durham / CC BY-NC 2.0

Another reason why numbers are lacking when it comes to the carbon footprint of packaging has to do with inadequate transparency in the marketplace. When goods are manufactured, it is best to be transparent with information so that consumers have a full understanding of the impact of what they are buying. This is why many environmental groups and associations are pushing for carbon footprint labels on products.

How Much Waste Packaging Generates

  • The state of California generates about 66 million tons of solid waste every year. A third of this is composed of packaging
  • 38 billion water bottles make their way into U.S. landfills each year
  • Landfills are made up of 30 percent paperboard
  • More than 6.4 billion cardboard boxes were used for shipping items via air or ground in 2007

Packaging and Our Role in Decreasing Our Carbon Footprints

Americans emit about 20 tons of carbon footprints each year. That is for each individual person residing in America. For stabilisation of greenhouse gas omissions to occur and for the curbing of global warming to be successful, this number needs to be reduced to about 2 tons per year. This calls for significant changes in the way that we normally do things. If possible, it is best to eliminate packaging altogether.

Leonski / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Few Ways to Cut Back on the Carbon Footprint of Packaging

  1. Buy products in wholesale and store them in containers that are re-usable.
  2. Avoid the use of plastic wrap or foil. Instead, use glass containers for food storage.
  3. Opt for ‘Frustration-Free Packaging’ when you order products from Amazon.
  4. Buy used items whenever possible as these often come with significantly less packaging.
  5. When ordering several things, try to have them shipped all in one go.
  6. Bring reusable materials with you on your grocery run, coffee run, and food run. These include re-usable coffee cups or thermoses, environmental sacs, Tupperware, etc.
  7. Avoid packaging whenever you can.
  8. Support products or companies that use recyclable, renewable and re-usable materials.

Take a look at how Kite Packaging are producing more environmentally friendly packaging for businesses in the UK.

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