Alternatives Fly coach to save room and take direct flights to save fuel. Drive or take the train to your destination when possible. Forgo business trips and hold meetings through teleconferencing.
Sources: Air Transport Association, Clean Air-Cool Planet, Carbonfund.org, Tufts Climate Initiative
Consumption Although soft drinks continue to dominate the beverage market and are responsible for most plastic beverage bottling, the staggering rise of bottled water sparked the backlash against plastic bottles. Sales of single-serving plastic water bottles more than doubled between 2002 and 2005 to almost 28 billion bottles.
Environmental impact The 1.5 million barrels of crude oil used each year to manufacture plastic water bottles in the U.S. could fuel 100,000 cars for a year. Thousands of tons of greenhouse gases are emitted transporting bottled water around the world. Just 23 percent of all plastic bottles are recycled, meaning some 52 billion end up in landfills or littered.
Saving grace The industry has reduced the amount of plastic in its beverage packaging by 40 percent during the past five years, and some companies such as Nestle are pushing initiatives to further lighten the plastic while others such as Coke are opening plastic-bottle recycling plants.
Alternatives Fill a reusable bottle with filtered tap water. Recycle the plastic bottles you do accumulate. Had the 2 million tons of plastic bottles thrown in the trash in 2005 been recycled instead, 18 million barrels of oil would've been saved.
Sources: Container Recycling Institute, Earth Policy Institute
Consumption There were more than 105 billion pieces of direct mail sent to U.S. households in 2006, accounting for half of all mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. That's up from 66 billion pieces of junk mail delivered in 1990.
Environmental impact The production of junk mail in the U.S. uses 100 million trees annually, and the manufacture and disposal of it consumes more energy than 3 million cars. Some 44 percent of bulk mail gets thrown away unopened, and less than 36 percent of it is recycled.
Saving grace Direct marketing is expected to generate $2 trillion in increased sales this year, account for 10.2 percent of total U.S. gross domestic product and employ 1.6 million people. One-third of the U.S. Postal Service's annual revenue depends on advertising mail.
Alternatives Visit the Direct Marketing Association's Web site at the-dma.org for information on how to remove your name from mailing lists. You can pay $1 to be put on the DMA's do-not-mail list, but also contact companies directly to remove your name from their lists because not all companies go through DMA. Also, visit optoutprescreen.com to cut back on credit card and insurance offers.
Sources: Direct Marketing Association, Center for a New American Dream
Consumption Almost 1,500 daily newspapers are published in the U.S., with a combined daily circulation of more than 53.3 million.
Environmental impact U.S. newspapers use about 9.2 million tons of paper, consuming more than six million tons of virgin fiber every yearmore than the book, magazine and catalog sectors combined.
Making a year's worth of newspapers in the U.S. requires 105 million trees and enough energy to power 3 million homes for a year. The greenhouse gases produced by newspapers are equal to the amount produced by 4.9 million cars in a year.
Saving grace Newspapers are the most recycled paper product, boasting a 73.4 percent recycling rate, and newsprint contains an average of 32 percent recycled fiber. Also, newsprint consumption has declined over the past 20 years, as newspapers scale back.
Alternatives Cancel subscriptions you don't use. Recycle newspapers, magazines and catalogs. Opt out of catalogs at https://www.catalogchoice.org/signup.
Sources: Newspaper Association of America, Green Press Initiative, Environmental Defense's Papercalculator.org