What is the link between your stuff, climate change, and solid waste?
It’s easy to not give it any thought, but our choices as consumers have a significant impact on climate change. There’s a process behind every product that you buy, use and ultimately reuse, recycle or throw out. Energy is required during each step along a product’s life – from raw material extraction, manufacturing, transportation, purchase, use and finally to disposal.
Consumption, climate change and solid waste
Click on the icons in the figure below to learn more about each stage.
How much we consume has a direct impact on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that are produced. When we buy more and new products, our consumption sets off a chain of events that produce greenhouse gas emissions, from extracting raw materials for the manufacture of products to the amount of waste to be managed when we no longer want them. Fewer greenhouse gases are produced when we prevent waste by buying less, or buy goods and services that have less impact on the environment.
Before we pick up a product from a store shelf or purchase it online, the materials that it is made up of go through several stages to become a product. Once we’ve purchased a product, we use it until we no longer want or need it. Then it becomes a waste that we either give away for someone else to use, recycle or throw away as garbage. Reusing what we have, composting or recycling help reduce climate change. Learn how recycling, waste prevention and composting minimize our impact on the climate.
You can make a difference!
Historically, efforts to curb greenhouse emissions have focused on transportation and building sources, sources over which local government can have the greatest influence. While these remain key emissions sources, King County has released a ground-breaking study (PDF) that offers a more complete picture of its environmental footprint, as it shines a light on emissions associated with the production and consumption of food, goods and services. The report’s research shows that efforts such as reducing waste food or purchasing sustainable and low-impact products can help to create a broader and deeper impact on global greenhouse gas emissions.
As individuals, we are in the middle of the consumption process and we can change it through our choices. Fewer harmful greenhouse gas emissions are produced when we prevent waste in the first place by consuming less, reusing what we have and recycling and composting more.
Your choices and actions make a powerful difference! There are many resources that address how consumption, smart shopping and sustainability reduce impacts on climate change. Learn what you can do to reduce waste and the impact it has on our climate.
Updated: Oct. 25, 2013