Responsibility/ Blue Planet

- 1/3 of the harvested trees become paper (New Leaf Paper 2001).
- On average, an American uses 300 kg of paper a year, a Japanese 250 kg of paper, and people in developing countries only 18 kg of paper. The United Nations thinks that a person needs 30-40 kg paper a year for education and communication (Worldwatch Institute 2004).
- 2-3 tons of wood are necessary to produce one ton of paper (Worldwatch Institute 2004).
- It is the industry with the highest water consumption (Worldwatch Institute 2004). Both wood and water are essential resources for life, and are often exploited to destruction.

How can we save without lowering our living standard?
(We want our consumption to become more efficient, that is to use fewer resources per product)
- By two-side printing. Thus, we halve our paper consumption in document printing.
-By using scrap paper as draft paper, as often as possible.
- By buying second-hand books. They are also cheaper than new books.
- By using lower quality paper for packaging or notes (drafts). Glossy dense paper manufacturing uses more resources and costs more than thin paper, and, in packaging both types are typically used only once.
- By replacing disposable napkins and paper bags with textile napkins and bags.
- By buying recycled paper, depending on the budget. Thus no new resources are used in paper manufacturing and air pollution associated with this industry is reduced.
- By reading the online media, if you have access to a computer and the internet.
- by recycling the paper, if allowed by the authorities.

- one ton of aluminium is produced from 4-5 tons of bauxite ore (Container Recycling Institute) - aluminium recycling saves 90-95% of the energy used in producing one ton of aluminium out of pure ore

How can we save without lowering our living standard?
- We’d better give up on canned beverages. They are more expensive than beverages sold in larger quantities.- By recycling aluminium, if allowed by the authorities.

The plastic bag

(source: - 1 million plastic bags are used every minute worldwide, every year. 30 years ago, there was no plastic bag industry. In general, a plastic bag is only used once (20 minute product lifetime), although it can be reused tens, even hundreds of times before disposal. Bags become "food" for the animals and are extremely toxic for the environment. And people pay for them (in the form of environmental tax, also introduced to Romania in 2009 or by the goods they consume). The alternative is a paper bag. Studies have shown, however, that 4 times more energy is used in manufacturing a paper bag than in a plastic bag. Even if recycled, it uses up 100 times more energy than a plastic bag. Paper bags also have a cost, even if we sometimes get them "free of charge" in the stores. Their price is included in the price of the goods we buy. There are biodegradable plastic bags, too. In nature, they decay within 1 year. Meanwhile, however, they pollute and kill animals, as they are also usually used only once.

How can we save without lowering our living standard?
- By replacing plastic bags with textile bags. One textile bag replaces hundreds of plastic bags.
- By reusing a plastic bag several times.
- By using the plastic bags to protect clothes, containers we carry or as bin bags.
- By keeping a few reusable bags in our handbag or car for shopping.

Plastic bottle (source:
- Nearly 3 billion tons of plastic bottles and jars were discarded in 2008 (Environmental Protection Agency)

Waste Age and the discarding phenomenon

Why do we discard so much?
(Lester Brown, Eco-economy) - Some companies encourage product change every year and replacing them with new, more or less useful and improved models. Thus, older goods forcefully lose value, although their lifetime is much longer than that imposed by consumption behaviours. As self-image is important, people’s wish to be fashionable actually generates more waste. Tons of clothes are discarded or forgotten in wardrobes because they no longer meet the seasonal trends. Durable goods have been replaced with disposable goods (table napkins -paper napkins, textile bags - plastic bags).

The US Environmental Protection Agency calculated the disposal rate of current consumption products in the US in the year 1997:


Disposal rate in %

clothes and footwear

87 %


77 %

Paper napkins and towels


Disposable plates and cups


Office supplies

49 %


45 %

Aluminium cans

42 %

Steel cans

40 %

With the exception of aluminium cans, waste quantities generated in the US in each of the above categories is measured in millions of tons a year. The value of this indicator varies based on country and product. While this waste may get to special bins/containers for recycling or incineration, a lot is left on streets or in nature. According to UBC, the reasons why people litter include:
- convenience (manifested even near waste baskets)
- belief that others will deal with the waste. People do not think they are responsible for disposing waste in an appropriate manner.
- perception that waste is natural and present in our everyday life, the idea that waste is not an environmental problem and that it will build up anyway;
- smokers think that it is normal to throw butts on the floor. This is actually a socially acceptable norm, which seems to be part of the smoking "ritual".

Waste is not natural. According to Lester Brown, an economist, founder of World Watch Institute, modern economy is of a linear type. The packaging of products we consume as well as the products themselves, have a very short life. Packaging is created to protect the goods, then discarded (their life is "from womb to tomb"). In nature, any waste generated in one system becomes a resource for another system (Cunningham, Principles of Environmental Science). Thus, natural waste has a cyclic life ("womb towomb"). How can human-made waste be reused (packaging, old/ obsolete products)? By recycling, following the natural pattern, although it would be ideal to minimise it. UBC and Bureau of Land Management Environmental Education show the biodegradation rate of some current consumer goods.


Biodegradation rate

Banana skin (N, B)

3-5 weeks (BLM)

Paper (N, B)

2-5 months/ 2-4 weeks


3-14 months

Orange peel (N)

6 months

Woollen socks

1-5 years

Cigarette butts

1-12 years/ 2-5 years

Plastic bag (R)

10-20 years

Leather shoes

25-40 years

Nylon material

30-40 years

Aluminium cans (R)

80-100 years/ 200-400 years


10-20 years (BLM)

Glass bottles (R infinite)

1 million years

Plastic bottles (R)

Never degrade

Human life expectancy (N, B)

About 75 years

R= recyclable
N= natural/ of natural materials
B= biodegradable