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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

April 3, 2009

Green tip of the week: Good things don't always come in small packages

by Merry Rankin, director of sustainability programs

We live in an age of convenience and single servings. It's just so easy, running from meeting to meeting or class to class, to grab a single of a favorite food and move on. But there's a messy, landfill-loading downside to all this convenience -- packaging. Lots of energy, waste and expense are involved in packaging, and single servings only make matters worse.

Here are some not-so-fun facts about packaging:

  • Packaging makes up 30 to 50 percent of municipal waste. When you buy a single serving, you also buy a serving of packaging. While some packaging can be recycled (beverage containers), most, like chip bags, clamshell packaging and Styrofoam, is virtually nonrecyclable.
  • Packaging uses energy and resources and adds to our carbon footprint. Each single-serving package requires its own production process, energy and raw materials.
  • Packaging reduces your disposable income. Convenience is expensive. For example, a 12.5-ounce bag of Doritos regularly sells for $3.99 while a single-serve 2-ounce bag costs 99 cents. Similarly, that rubber grip disposable pen on your desk sells for about $1.25. A similar refillable model will cost a nickel more, but can be refilled multiple times for 71 cents.

What you can do

Here are three easy ways to help with the packaging problem:

  • Buy in bulk. Get the big bag of chips and make your own single-size snack in a reusable container. (You can afford that container with the extra cash you'll save by not buying singles.)
  • Pack your meals and snacks so you're not tempted to "buy on the run."
  • BYOB (Bring Your Own reusable Bag). Plastic bags used to carry purchases out of stores can amount to an incredible amount of waste and energy use.


Live Green!

More information on Iowa State's "Live Green!" initiative is online.