All this week, we’ve been focusing on reducing our use of plastics as part of our Oil and Our Lifestyles: A Month of Action.

We’ve talked about plastic bottles, those pesky plastic bags, and phthalates.

Well, today, we”re going to focus on reducing our packaging waste. According to EcoLife, containers and packaging make up over 30% of the average American’s trash bin, most of which is not recycled. And that packaging represents wasted resources such as petrochemicals, trees, chemicals, water as well as transport emissions – the heavier the product, the more greenhouse gas emissions emitted.

Here at NWEI, we focus on individual behavior change and small group learning through our discussion courses and in our EcoChallenge. So we’re challenging each of you to decrease the amount of plastic you use.

Today’s proposed action is:  Consciously reduce the amount of products you buy that have excessive amounts of packaging.

How to reduce packaging waste

  • Look for unpackaged consumer goods: Many companies have put in a lot of effort to reduce their packaging to zero. When the option is available, take it!
  • Bring your own containers: Whether you’ll need a water refill while at the park or are looking for ways to take your restaurant leftovers home, you can reduce packaging waste by bringing your own reusable containers like glass water bottles, stainless steel coffee mugs, and collapsible food containers.
  • Select products in refillable containers: Some personal care products and food items can be purchased in refillable containers like glass jars and reusable plastic bottles.
  • Buy in bulk: Real bulk items are those in a single large container (refillable is even better) that holds many individual servings. Don’t confuse bulk with many individually-wrapped items bundled together in one large palette, though.
  • Look for recycled packaging: Wrappers and boxes made from post-consumer recycled materials are definitely better than virgin-made packages, though this option should come only after you’ve looked for ways to reduce your packaging waste.
  • Choose lightweight packaging: Minimal packaging is always the best and can significantly reduce the materials needed for packaging, the fuel needed to transport an item, and the energy needed to make it. Aluminum beer cans made with 12% less metal saved Coors 637 tons of aluminum.
  • Seek out biodegradable packaging: This type of packaging is usually made of some sort of corn-based plastic that can be broken in a commercial composting facility (not your backyard compost pile) that reaches very high temperatures under just the right conditions.


  • Contact companies you support with your concerns:  It’s not enough to merely avoid buying products with excessive amounts of packaging. As consumers, we need to communicate our decisions to companies in order to encourage them to significantly reduce the amount of packaging they use for their products.