Airdate: Dec 20, 2011
Scientist: Minal Mistry
As if you weren't feeling tired from all the gift shopping, there's a different kind of energy that is also used up in the holiday season.
With the holiday season here, you're thinking presents. But it's also a good time to think about the packages those presents come in and where they end up. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
"You can think about materials as things that have a lot of embedded energy."
Minal Mistry (Mih-Nal) is a project manager with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. He's reminding us that when we give a gift in a package, we're also giving away the energy invested in that package.
So it takes a lot of energy to make the plastics, to make the papers, to make the glass and so forth, and metals, that get made into packaging and made into products. If you've invested energy and money into creating something, would you just want to use it once and discard it? Or, could you figure out a way to extend that life and could you get more value over the long run by re-using the system. Many of the materials that are used and disposed in the single-use format are made directly from fossil fuels. So, you may use natural gas or petroleum as a starting point but essentially it's used to create something that's only used once and discarded. There's strong arguments to be able to keep that energy investment flowing into the system longer than a single use. Sustainability is about trying to get value in many different ways and the value of materials is quite high and if we can extend that, that is a positive for the planet as well as for society."
In this year's Kids' Science Challenge, our free nationwide competition for third to sixth graders, we're looking for designs for a package that never has to end up in a landfill. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.