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How much does one person's consumer consumption affect the climate? One EGLE staffer found out.

Climate savings graphic from Rhonda Oyer's presentation Michigan has a trash problem. That’s what Rhonda Oyer learned as part of a project for an online graduate class at Miami University in Ohio. But by making small changes in consumer consumption, she was able to see a noticeable impact on her personal climate impact.

Oyer, as part of her class in "Conservation in Your Community," undertook a "life-change" project to reduce her personal climate impact. She learned that while the amount of waste generated per person per day in the U.S. is 4.51 pounds, Michigan's per capita waste generation is over twice that at 10.19 pounds per day.

"Consumer consumption has resulted in a huge growth in the amount of trash we produce," she notes. "By reducing what we consume, we can reduce the trash we produce and our carbon emissions and impact on the environment."

First, Oyer established a baseline by tracking over two weeks how much she spent; the weight and volume of the trash she produced; and the weight and volume of the recycling she produced. Then, over the following four weeks, Oyer made lifestyle changes to reduce her consumption.

This involved buying less food, using what she already had at home, and buying items with less packaging. For example, instead of buying small, individual containers of yogurt, she purchased a bigger container.

The results of the project produced a noticeable change:

  • A 41% reduction in total waste generation and
  • A reduction in spending of $100 per week.

"By being mindful, I did not feel like I was denying myself anything I wanted or needed," Oyer added. "It was painless and easy to reduce my waste by reducing my consumption. And reducing my waste felt good. Less consumption also meant less clutter in my house."

And how did the project affect the climate? "By reducing my waste over four weeks, I saved 0.06 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That equals 6 gallons of gasoline per year or two grill-sized propane tanks a year."

Interested in undertaking a similar project? Use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's online Waste Reduction Model and its Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculators.

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