How Green Is It, Really?
The slogans are everywhere: “Eco-friendly!” “Recycled!” “Recyclable!” “30% less packaging!”
These little phrases are meant to signify to shoppers that a product is sustainable and doesn’t harm the environment. Or, at a minimum, they are meant to sell more product. But just because a bottle says something doesn’t mean that it’s true. In order to make positive choices and buy products that are truly eco-friendly to the core, a consumer has to be aware of product regulations and needs to think about the entire life of the product. A consumer also needs to think about what parts of the packaging are truly necessary, and choose a product with just what it needs (think: do you need that cereal box, or just the bag?).
Let’s examine product packaging in terms of what you should know:
- What is the packaging like? Is there any that’s not necessary? Some packaging, like using just a bag instead of a needless box for cereal, is smart, is as green as it claims to be, and has the science to back it up!
- Can the packaging be recycled after use? When you’re done pouring the pasta into the pot, or spreading your butter on a piece of toast, what will be done with that butter tub, or the plastic bread bag? You want to be able to throw them in the recycling bin, or send them into a recycling program like TerraCycle or Recyclebank.
- If you can’t recycle the packaging, can you use it in another way? Can you make a coin purse or pouch out of it? Use a glass jar as a water glass? Then, you should also think about what will be left over from the product itself, like food waste. For example, if you make coffee every morning, you’ll have coffee grinds leftover, and those can be used as a fertilizer in your garden.
The “green” grade of a product can’t just focus on one aspect of what you’re buying. It’s about the life and the details of the item. The ideal product is one that lives within a closed loop: it’s made from what we already have, or made to the bare minimum of what we need, and when you’re done with it, it can have another life. When you pick up a product, think about which of those aspects of a ‘green’ product you’re sacrificing, and then make your choice.
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