Autumn is Change
The effects of carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions on the environment are something you might have been able to notice over the course of your lifetime. Over the last decade or so, you might have noticed that summer seems to last longer into the year. As autumn approaches at the end of September and you expect the colors of leaves to change and the air temperature to cool down, you might not be feeling these changes until later in October.
Additionally, with the intent of plastic industries to expand their production, the issues of plastic pollution and carbon emissions are slated to get worse, which will only further exacerbate the already changing seasons.
However, this doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to combat the effects of fossil fuels and global warming. With a change in habits and a commitment to reduce our use of plastics and disposable and single use products, we can make a difference to help lower our carbon footprint.
The Carbon Footprint of Plastics
Production of plastics creates literal tons of carbon emissions. Not only does this process contribute significantly to global warming, but the number of plastics being produced is also increasing, resulting in a steady increase of harmful carbon emissions over time. This increase is only expected to continue to rise as well. Currently, carbon emissions resulting from the lifecycle of plastics are a threat to keeping the global temperature rise below a threshold of a 1.5°C increase.
During the lifecycle of plastic, carbon emissions are a harmful result at each stage of its production, use and disposal. This includes the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels, which are necessary to produce plastic. In 2015, carbon emissions from the extraction and production of plastic were as high as 10.5 million metric tons of CO2 per year.
In 2015, global carbon emissions from refining and manufacturing plastic also reached up to 213 million metric tons of CO2, which is equal to the amount of emissions released by 45 million passenger vehicles. Furthermore, in terms of plastic as waste, the incineration of plastic packaging, which constitutes 40 percent of the demand for plastic, resulted in 16 million metric tons of CO2 globally in 2015.
Finally, a landmark study from Sarah-Jeanne Royer established that plastics that have made their way into the world’s landscapes, waterways and oceans continually release methane and other greenhouse gasses.
While 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, approximately 380 million metric tons of plastic are currently produced in a year. In 2019, the production and incineration of plastic released more than 850 million metric tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.
If plastic use and production continue to grow as expected, emissions from these processes could reach 1.34 gigatons per year by 2030. Furthermore, by 2050, the cumulation of these greenhouse gas emissions from plastic could reach over 56 gigatons.
How To Cut Down On Plastic Causing Emissions
Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the United States. This means by using a reusable water bottle, such as EcoVessel’s The Boulder Insulated Water Bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic water bottles annually.
Approximately 50 billion coffee cups are being thrown out every year in the US as well. Although paper cups seem like a more eco-friendly option, they’re actually lined with polyethylene, a plastic that acts as a moisture barrier which is what holds the liquid. In order to recycle these cups, the lining must be removed from the paper portion, and since the process is both difficult and costly, the cups more frequently end up in landfills or incinerators.
Rather than purchase new single-use cups every time you want coffee, with reusable thermoses and tumblers, like the insulated stainless steel The Metro from EcoVessel, you can prevent nearly 200 reusable coffee cups from turning into harmful waste.
Furthermore, Americans use upwards of 561 billion plastic utensils each year, which are much more likely to end up in our environment, landfills, and incinerators than be recycled. However, with reusable utensils, such as this stainless steel utensil set from EcoVessel, you can help curb the harm that stems from the production and disposal of plastic utensils.
Changing Seasons and Habits
Because the primary cause of seasonal trends such as a longer summer and a shorter autumn is an abundance of greenhouse gas emissions creating a warmer global temperature, if emissions don’t slow down, these changes in seasons will only continue to intensify.
However, even with such a staggering number of carbon emissions stemming from plastic production and use, the seasons don’t need to be the only thing that change, and summer doesn’t need to be the only thing that’s lasting longer. We can all play a part in curbing carbon emissions. However you choose to do so, there are a number of great ways to stay eco-conscious. Whether it’s commuting by car less frequently, shopping locally, or reducing consumption of single-use plastics by opting for reusable water bottles and utensils, you can create habits that will reduce your carbon footprint and last a lifetime.