[GRRN] waste reduction article in 9 July 2000 SF Chronical newspaper

From: Stephanie C. Davis (ScD18@WasteReductionRemedies.com)
Date: Mon Jul 10 2000 - 12:05:18 EDT

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    The below articles are copied from the following website:

    Waste Not
    Richer than ever, we're squandering more, too. And some of our best efforts
    to think and act green are falling short.

    Bob Lilienfeld   Sunday, July 9, 2000

    The economy is strong. Crime rates have dropped. Now, as any pollster can
    tell you, the environment has crept up on the list of worries Americans are
    losing sleep over.
    A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California and the David and
    Lucile Packard Foundation found that Californians are so concerned about the
    environment they are willing to tolerate higher housing and gasoline prices
    to protect it. Seventy percent of state residents see environmental problems
    as a threat to their health and well-being, with one in four characterizing
    the danger as ``very serious.''
    In the Bay Area, the environmentally correct routinely sort bottles, cans
    and newspapers on garbage pickup day. We weigh whether we want paper or
    plastic at the checkout stand and agonize over decisions like what type of
    diapers to buy. We may even choose to shop on the Internet, believing that
    e-commerce is a greener way to go.
    Meanwhile, our increasingly affluent population is producing and consuming
    at unprecedented rates. We can pat ourselves on the back because we're
    recycling more than ever, but the fact remains that we're also producing
    more waste than ever, especially in the areas of energy consumption, land
    use and packaging. Ironically, even when we mean to think and act green --
    by shopping on the Internet in order to save gas, for instance -- our best
    efforts fail.
    Breathing Uneasy
    It's sobering to think about the amount of carbon dioxide each car, truck
    and SUV emits into the atmosphere. For reference, one gallon of gasoline
    creates about 22 pounds of carbon dioxide, the gas most responsible for the
    types of atmospheric changes that could lead to global warming. Let's say
    you've got a big SUV that gets around 12 miles per gallon, and you drive an
    average of 12,000 miles per year. The 1,000 gallons of gas you burn will
    create 22,000 pounds -- 11 tons
    -- of carbon dioxide.
    Even smaller, fuel-efficient cars create a fair amount of carbon dioxide. A
    car getting 30 mpg would need only 400 gallons to go those 12,000 miles but
    would still create 800 pounds, or 4.4 tons, of greenhouse gas annually. Put
    another way, each car creates its own weight in carbon dioxide every 4 to 6
    Our reawakened love affair with big gas guzzlers is one reason we continue
    to pump huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But an
    overlooked contributor is that we no longer commute into the city as much as
    we used to. In the 1970s, about 25 percent of people carpooled. Today, the
    number is closer to 8 percent. A good part of the reason is that many of us
    no longer commute into the central city, but now move from suburb to suburb.
    There is no efficient and convenient way to do this, so we're forced to
    drive, mostly individually, from home to work and back.
    Now that gas prices are high, we have good reason to think about saving
    energy and finding ways to do things differently. First and foremost, try to
    carpool. Second, take public transportation when you can. Third, consolidate
    your trips so that you can take fewer of them, saving time, money and
    gasoline. And when you need to go out, exercise your legs, rather than the
    gas pedal, by walking and biking.
    Land Misuse
    Besides discouraging carpooling and use of public transportation, suburban
    growth has harmed the environment in many ways. It has reduced the amount of
    green space available for wildlife habitation and species diversity, which
    in turn lowers an area's ability to absorb excess carbon dioxide and
    generate oxygen. The more obvious and easy-to-spot damage includes increased
    flooding, because there's less ground available to absorb storm water, as
    well as lower air quality from smog and other pollutants.
    One of the major causes of suburban growth has been the spiraling cost of
    living in places like San Francisco and Silicon Valley. The Bay Area's
    beauty and hot economy is a double-edged sword, since the strong desire to
    live here has created an explosion in population growth, which in turn has
    helped send the price of food, shelter and other necessities skyward. The
    high prices have helped lead an exodus to suburbia.
    These population shifts have taken a potentially environment-friendly
    situation of many people living close together who can walk or bus to work
    and turned it into an environment-unfriendly situation of many people spread
    over a large area who must drive virtually everywhere.
    Solutions to these issues include policies that encourage businesses to
    locate, and people to live and work near cities. Also required is the
    development of transportation and communications infrastructures that make
    it easier and cheaper to commute into the cities rather than between
    Not-So-Pretty Packaging
    Americans are recycling trash and garbage like never before -- but the
    tonnage of discarded waste has also started to grow after several years of
    decline, according to a recent report by the Environmental Protection
    One of the key culprits here is the amount of packaging we create, which
    continues to not only increase, but is growing faster than the rest of the
    garbage we generate. According to the EPA, packaging waste grew from 64.5 to
    71.8 million tons between 1990 and 1997. In 1990, packaging accounted for
    31.4 percent of household waste. By 1997, it grew to 33.1 percent of the
    total. EPA estimates show these growth trends continuing through at least
    If we're so aware of the need to use less, why is packaging waste still
    growing? First, we are overwhelmed by all we have to do, and therefore wish
    for more free time. Second, we are an insecure lot, and need to feel that
    we're getting the most for our money.
    Our frenetic lifestyles make spare time scarce and therefore precious. To
    compensate, we demand that products provide high levels of convenience. We
    want our foods precooked, preportioned and pre-plated. We want other goods
    and services to be prepackaged, prearranged and precisely measured. And
    we're willing to pay a premium price to get all of this.
    Unfortunately, with more convenience comes more packaging, and lots of it.
    Think about how much material is thrown away after serving individual frozen
    dinners and prepackaged lunches, for example. And if you serve an entire
    family this way, the waste can easily fill up a small trash can.
    Think of mini-bags of Goldfish. Junior sizes of yogurt. Kool-Aid in little
    bottles. All of these come with as much packaging as product: little bits of
    food in little packages, put in bigger packages that are then over-wrapped.
    Think of Happy Meals. Look at the colorful box! Inside is another colorful
    box filled with french fries. And another colorful wrapper with a hamburger.
    There's also a cup filled with soda and covered with a lid. Of course,
    there's also a little toy, wrapped for your protection. If you're eating at
    the restaurant, why can't they just put all that stuff on a tray?
    At grocery stores, you're increasingly likely to see fresh food sold in
    specific portions and packaged plastic containers. Suppose you have a recipe
    that calls for shallots. You need only one or two. Can you buy one or two?
    No. The store insists on packaging a dozen together. Yes, they sell more
    shallots. And yes, you throw more stuff away -- the container and the 10 or
    11 sorry-looking shallots that rotted in your refrigerator three weeks
    later. Ditto for zucchini, squash, corn and other veggies packed this way.
    In addition to convenience, our need to feel that we're getting what we paid
    for makes packaging a potent tool for marketers and retailers.
    Take toothpaste, for example. The product -- the toothpaste
    -- is basically the same from brand to brand. For marketers, the trick is to
    get us to buy their product, and preferably, to pay more for it than we
    would for anybody else's. How do they accomplish this? Some genius comes up
    with the idea of dispensing toothpaste in pump form. Consumers fall for the
    -- a fancy package dispensing the same old product -- without stopping to
    consider that the old way of dispensing toothpaste not only worked just as
    well as the new way, it generated less waste.
    Perfume is another good example. Take off the cellophane and open the
    cardboard box. Reach in and grab the smaller ``presentation box.'' Take off
    the top of this box and see the tiny bottle of fragrance nestled in a
    felt-coated cardboard or plastic holder. Odds are you spent a fortune --
    mostly for the packaging and advertising that got you to pick this brand in
    the first place.
    Computer software is a notorious example of bigger is better. Inside that
    big box is a slab of cardboard or foam. Wrapped inside is a little bitty CD
    or disk. Why the big box? To charge you a big price.
    There are some simple things you can do to reduce waste while still saving
    time. In many cases, these suggestions will save you money, as well. For
    example, let's say your kids are off to day camp tomorrow, and you have to
    go shopping for lunches. The first thing to do is buy large-size, rather
    than single-serve, bags of items like carrot sticks, celery, cookies and
    pretzels. Second, pick up some reusable Ziploc-style bags. Third, as soon as
    you get home, break these down into smaller sizes and store in the Ziploc
    bags. When it's time to pack lunches, most of the work will already be done.
    There are also ways to overcome the big-is-better syndrome, too. Take
    software, for example. Many companies now make their products available over
    the Internet, as well as through stores. You can download and install the
    software directly from Web sites and keep manuals on your hard drive rather
    than on your bookshelf. The result? No packaging at all.
    Our real environmental problems are due to the ways in which increasingly
    affluent, ever larger populations produce and consume food and energy and
    make use of land. Recycling is great. Keep doing it. But it's also time to
    find ways to consume less and to make better use of what we have.



    Excess packaging is not only on the rise, it's growing faster than the rest
    of the garbage we generate. That's because many of the items we consume come
    with as much packaging as product. Here are a few examples of particularly
    wasteful packaging, as well as some alternatives.
    -- Little bitty drinks packaged in paperboard cartons and covered with
    shrink-wrap. How about making Kool-Aid from concentrate and serving it in a
    reuseable container?
    -- The ultimate convenient school lunch. An outer paperboard box, with a
    plastic tray inside. Most items inside are prepackaged. Far more packaging
    than product.
    -- All the ingredients in one plastic single-serve package. How about
    putting some peanut butter and jelly on crackers and putting the crackers in
    a reusable container?
    -- Oh, those teeny little cans! Single-servings mean you get as much can as
    you get food. Buy larger cans and cover with foil. Better yet, buy dry food
    and add your own water.
    -- Inside this package are a few carrots in one pouch and some dressing in
    another. Pack carrots in reusable Ziploc bag and put dressing in a small
    reuseable container instead.
    -- Nice-looking bottle. In a nice-looking paperboard box with a see-through
    plastic window. No other cold cream needs a box. Why this one?
    -- Snack packs are just a little bit of food packed in a bag, put in a box
    and shrink-wrapped. Save money and resources by buying a large bag and
    putting one serving in a Ziploc.
    -- Tiny cups of yogurt held together with a big paperboard container. Why do
    you need the paperboard? And why not buy large sizes of yogurt and divvy
    them up yourself?



    The more we recycle, the better we feel. The better we feel, the more we
    justify consuming -- especially if we're going to recycle. But you can't
    recycle the most important thing we consume: Energy. It takes energy to fuel
    the factories that create products, to get the products to the store and to
    melt down or otherwise recycle products. So while it's great to recycle,
    here's a list of things you can do to cut down on the consumption of energy.
    -- Choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive
    -- remember that transportation is responsible for about one-third of energy
    consumed in the United States.
    -- Make your next car more fuel-efficient -- especially you SUV drivers.
    -- Consolidate trips. Going to the west side of town? Think about everything
    you can do while over there, rather than making separate journeys.
    -- Buy secondhand. More and more people are discovering the joys and value
    of buying all sorts of used stuff. This means that items last longer,
    reducing the need to produce new ones. And whole new stores are catering to
    these needs. There are used computer stores, sporting goods resellers,
    outlets for children's clothes and used CD stores popping up all over the
    place. So before you buy new, do the following:
    1) Check the yellow pages for stores that buy and sell the used items you're
    looking for, and search the Internet for sites selling ``pre-owned items.''
    2) Consider trading unwanted items you have for something else. This keeps
    your old stuff in circulation and out of the landfill. Clothes are a good
    example, since we get tired of them long before they actually wear out.
    -- Share. Why buy stuff if you can share it? Talk to your neighbors about
    jointly purchasing things you all need but only use occasionally. Examples
    include lawn mowers, hedge trimmers and other lawn and garden tools.
    -- Compost yard wastes and grass clippings. Cut the grass with a mulching
    mower to save time and resources while reducing waste. Since mulch acts as a
    fertilizer, you save money and reduce the amount of chemicals that seep into
    ground water and aquifers.
    -- Water the lawn in the early morning or evening, not during the heat of
    the day. This way, water will soak into the ground instead of evaporating.
    -- Improve the efficiency of home appliances, heating and cooling systems by
    dusting off coils and cleaning or changing filters.
    -- When birthday invitations arrive, try making the gift wrap yourself out
    of newspapers, magazine ads, etc. Also, consider buying gifts that are both
    thoughtful and consumption-reducing, like tickets to concerts, movies,
    skating rinks and sporting events. Gift certificates to local book, record
    and clothing stores also ensure your friends choose something they really
    want, and thus won't end up throwing it away.
    -- Spend less time in front of the TV and computer. Not only will it save
    energy, but it might bring you closer as a family.
    -- Use the library. It's a great source for magazine exchanges or checking
    out the latest video or CD. You can even borrow a book there for free.
    -- Thinking about buying something? Try the 30-Day Rule. If you still want
    it 30 days from the first time you saw it, chances are it's something to
    really consider purchasing. Waiting the 30 days helps eliminate impulse
        ©2000 San Francisco Chronicle   Page 1

            Stephanie  C. Davis - BFA, MPA
        Experienced Professional of Healthcare &
    Non-Residential Waste Programs

    Waste Reduction Remedies sm A Multi-Waste Stream, Multi-Material Waste Management Company

    1497 Hopkins Street #2D Berkeley CA 94702-1201 Telephone: 510/527-8864 Pacific Time Fax: 510/526-6218 (MUST INCLUDE MY NAME & TELEPHONE #) E-mail: ScD18@WasteReductionRemedies.com

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