Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Green choices - what we buy

Little choices can make a big difference in terms of environmental issues. If we choose to use disposable plastic or foam cups or plates, they may or may not be recyclable, as many recycling programs only accept #1 and #2 plastics. That assumes that one chooses to recycle at all. Even if we do recycle, it does not negate the fact that oil is a key ingredient in manufacturing this plastic. More oil is required to transport the crude oil from its point of origin to a refinery, then a distilled portion of that crude from refinery to plastic factory.

Buying drinking water in serving-size or 1-gallon plastic bottles raises the same issues. Using a filter system and tap water from your sink (unless you have really horrible water) is a greener choice, as it uses only a small fraction of the plastic (and oil for transportation) required by buying bottled water on a regular basis.

Buying products with less packaging also reduces energy consumption. A product encased in a lot of plastic uses more oil than one in simple cardboard packaging. The plastic may or may not be recyclable.

More tomorrow....


Thomas Westgard said...

This motto "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" seems to me to have been invented by a committee of very moderately green people with a stake in consumerist culture. Elsewhere in the world it might make sense to put these three tactics on an equal level, but here in the US, the message really needs to be "Reduce, Reduce, Reduce, (and, failing that, reuse & recycle)."

The bottled water example is a great one. Chicago has some of the world's finest tap water. Every year there's a competition that tests tap water for taste and lack of contamination, and we've come in first or second every year for at least ten years. We have a huge natural resource of the highest-quality raw material, and excellent engineers to produce excellent drinking water. If you've traveled, especially in the American West, or in the Middle East, you know how good Chicago's water is.

There is no sane reason to buy bottled water in Chicago, other than as a fashion statement at the expense of the environment - exactly the same reason why people like to drive a Hummer. Yet marketing moguls have convinced us that there's something "low" about tap water, so as a consequence, all these plastic bottles are needlessly created to hold a water of lower quality than what comes out of the tap, and we expend gasoline and other vehicular resources to drag around and refrigerate Fiji, Mountain Spring, on and on. Recycling water bottles is a terrible irony - they need never have been produced!

Juneway said...

The contents of many bottled waters is tap water from another location.
The plastic bottles used are not designed for reuse and will leach impurities into water from excessive use.

Fargo said...

Yes, reduce, reduce, reduce is really the way to go. Between non-recyclable packaging, overpackaging, too much single-serve convenience packaging and too much processed food (as opposed to fresh produce), we're drowning in unnecessary trash.

I'd love it if it were easier to eliminate junk mail. Putting in a request to the Direct Marketing Association only goes so far. Too many vendors send catalogs every other week, creating a mountain of wasted paper. I do recycle it all, but it would have been better it could have stayed as trees instead. I put in requests to the vendors to eliminate duplicate mailings and just send less, but most of them don't get it.

RPCommentator said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RPCommentator said...

Energy efficient florescent light bulbs, in lieu of incandescent bulbs, is another way to save fuel, and thus reduce pollution. Florescent light bulbs use 1/3 to 1/4 the power of traditional incandescent bulbs and last many times longer, up to 5-7 years in some cases. As opposed to a year or so.

They do cost about 3 times as much, but the savings on your electric bill will cover the cost of the bulbs in about a year. We replaced all of our incandescent bulbs with fluorescents, and noted about a $ 10.00 a month reduction in our electric bill. Did a quick calculation, estimating how many and how long a 100 watt bulb would be on over the course of one month, and came up with about $ 7.00 per month for a 1200 sqf condo.

I’m just wondering if there is any data on how much more these florescent bulbs impact the environment during the manufacturing phase of their life span v.s. the less efficient incandescent ?