Environmental science

Environmental science

Part 1: Go to a Grocery Store!

1. Talk to the manager whether they recycle paper and plastic bags. Make sure to determine whether the bags are recycled, or simply labeled recyclable.  What do you think are the environmental costs of paper versus plastic bags?  Which do you think is better or worse? How do these costs change with recycling? How about reuse?

2. Choose five different products which come in different sized containers. Examples include flour and sugar (1 Ib versus 5 Ib bags), vegetable oils, or cereal and powdered detergent (small versus large boxes). Make a short table of the products you chose. For each type calculate the cost per unit volume of that packaged in small versus large containers. This is done by dividing the price by the volume. Which is cheaper?  Which uses more packaging per unit volume? Which is the better buy? Make sure you make comparisons for the same brand name, packaged differently (e.g. small versus large box).

3. Choose ten different products that come in plastic containers. Examples include ketchup, milk, peanut butter, etc. Check the bottom or sides of each for the PETE, PET, or HPDE number, which is an indication of what type of polyethylene was used to make the container. Numbers should range from 1 to 7. Make a table of the name of the products and the numbers you found. Which containers can or cannot be recycled in your area? You may need to make a phone call to your waste collection firm to find this answer.

4. Choose any five different cleaning products and read their labels for ingredients and warning signs. Examples include floor cleaners, carpet cleaners, ammonia, bleach, bathroom cleaners, etc. Make a table of the products, the ingredients and the warnings. For each product you choose list alternatives which would reduce your use of these substances, many of which are toxic. Think in terms of non-toxic products that would get the job done.

What do you think would be the savings for your household if you replaced many of these cleaning products? How about for the environment and human health? 

5. Check the labels on five different products packaged in cardboard boxes.  List the products you chose and indicate whether there is any indication on each about whether these packages are ‘recyclable’ or made from ‘pre-‘ or ‘post- consumer’ recycled products. What do these different designations mean? Which do you think is preferable and why?

6. Choose several (5+) examples of recycled paper products in the grocery store.  List the products you chose and answer the following questions. What is the recycled paper content? Is it made from pre or post-consumer recycled materials? Has the paper been bleached? What are the environmental effects of paper production?

7. Using the given information, determine the cost of one no rechargeable alkaline battery ~ and compare with the cost of one rechargeable NiCad battery ~.  *Assumption: The cost of the electricity to recharge the NiCad is negligible (about $0.01). NiCad batteries can be recharged (reused) 100 times. A 4 pack of AA NiCad rechargeable batteries cost $10.80. A 4 pack of AA alkaline no rechargeable batteries cost $3.69.

Part 2: Personal Consumption Patterns

Track your personal consumption over the period of one week. After the one week period is over, describe your general consumption patterns for each topic listed below. Between 4 -7 products for each category is appropriate.  Answer the questions in each section.  Present your information in table form.

1. Miscellaneous products you buy on a regular basis (e.g., daily/weekly/monthly).

a. Does the product have excess packaging?

b. Is the packaging recyclable/reusable/biodegradable?

c. Do you have other options to avoid the dollar and environmental costs of excess packaging?

d. Does the store stock similar environmentally friendly items?

e. Are the shopping bags reusable/recyclable/biodegradable?

f. Was the purchase item a ‘need’ or a ‘want’?

2. Food

a. Does any of the food you buy has excess packaging?

b. Do you buy many individually packaged items (eg. fast food)?

c. Do you have the option to buy in bulk to decrease dollar and environmental costs of packaging?

d. Are the packaging/containers reusable/recyclable/biodegradable?

3. Clothing (including accessories and shoes)

a. How many items do you buy, on average, in a month?

b. Are the items ‘needs’ or ‘wants”?

c. How do you dispose of the items when you no longer want them?

4. Newspapers and other periodicals

a. How much do you buy in a month?

b. Are they printed on recycled or recyclable paper?

c. How are they disposed of?

5. Hazardous Materials

a. What kinds of hazardous materials (eg. bleach, batteries, pesticides, motor oil, etc.) do you have?

b. Where is the nearest hazardous waste disposal site?

c. Are there any alternatives to using some of these hazardous materials?

After answering all questions, write a short discussion (no more than1 page) on how choices you make in the store can affect broader environmental issues.

Part 3: Product Analysis

In addition to your research of a local supermarket, you need to complete an in-depth analysis of a product that claims to be environmentally sound. This product must be sold ON-LINE. Please provide the website and address of the product that you analyzed. In order to fully analyze the product you must:

· State the environmental claims of your product (this could include recycled content or ability to be recycled/limited chemical content/ability to reduce environmental impacts/low energy consumption/limited packaging/durability etc.)

· Discuss any eco-label claims that your product has (and the reliability of those claims)

· Conduct a life-cycle analysis of your product

· What processes/substances/energy/raw materials/packaging/transportation were used to create your product?

· What impacts does your product have during use (energy use/creation of by-products/creation of waste)?

· How is your product ultimately disposed of?

· Use quantitative analysis to determine if this product is truly environmentally sound. (I.e. How much energy is used by this product compared to one that does not claim to be energy efficient?)

· Make a final decision on the environmental responsibility of your product. Does this product hold up to its environmental claims? Are the claims at all misleading to consumers? Would you recommend this product to someone who is looking to make responsible consumer choices? What would you modify to improve this product? Are there comparable products on the market that would be a better choice (if applicable discuss price differences)?

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