We talk a lot about pollution and how to cut back on emissions, but if you haven’t heard by now, we also have a trash problem – a worldwide trash problem. About 2.01 billion metric tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) are produced annually worldwide, according to The World Bank, and that is projected to increase by 70% by 2050.
In 2018, the United States alone generated 292.4 million tons of waste, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While a large percentage of that waste was biodegradable, like food, wood, paper, and yard trimmings, 37.7 million tons of it was not. Those numbers are in addition to the billions of pounds of trash and other pollutants that enter our oceans each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
While properly disposing of our trash will help keep our oceans, cities, and green spaces clean, it still has to be processed and stored. The World Bank estimates that 1.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) were generated from the management of solid waste in 2016 – roughly 5% of our global emissions.
It is a number that is estimated to rise year over year as the world’s population continues to grow. Thankfully, there is something we can all do to improve the health of our planet today and in the future. Consume smarter by using eco-friendly products.
“Eco-friendly” simply means “not environmentally harmful.” While no manufactured products can be 100 percent eco-friendly, some products can be more environmentally friendly than others can. Some eco-friendly products help us to use less single-use products – lessening the amount of waste we produce over time – while others are sustainably produced and packaged and have a smaller carbon footprint overall.
If everyone consumed just a little bit smarter, we could make a big impact on the amount of waste (and emissions) we put into the world.
Here are a few tips for incorporating eco-friendly products into your life to reduce your carbon footprint and generate less waste:
Opt for reusable items. If you’ve never tried to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, chances are there are a ton of items you use every day that can easily be swapped out for a reusable version. Start the day off on the right foot with a reusable single-serve coffee pod for your Keurig or Nespresso, or pack your lunch in a reusable sandwich bag in a fun lunch box or make it fancy with a lunch bag. Always be sure to take a few reusable bags with you to the grocery store – the single-use plastic bags they give at most stores cannot be recycled through your home recycling bin.
Buy products with minimal or sustainable packaging. Try swapping your body wash and shampoo bottled in plastic for shampoo and conditioner tablets, or buy your bar soap with paper packaging. There have been a lot of innovations when it comes to packagings, like these laundry detergent sheets that dissolve in water and refillable deodorant inserts for men and women. Nowadays you can even buy toothpaste tablets to avoid the plastic packaging that comes with traditional toothpaste.
Look for eco-friendly certifications. Be careful with items marketed as “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, or “all-natural”. Oftentimes, these claims are used deceptively and to mislead customers. Look for products bearing third-party logos certifying the credibility of their eco-friendly claims. A few examples are Cradle to Cradle, Ecocert, GREENGUARD, EPA Safer Choice, and B-Corp.