San Francisco Environment Department

Consumer Responsibility & Zero Waste

Everything we consume requires resources to produce. For every pound of goods produced, 71 pounds of waste is created during manufacturing. This waste comes from mining for resources, refining raw materials, manufacturing materials into a specific good, and the transportation involved with bringing the raw materials to production facilities and then the final product to the market.

At the store or on the street, before making a purchase or accepting a flyer, you can ask yourself "Do I really need this?" Free things -- like flyers on the street, signing up for informational brochures, or accepting junk mail -- come at a cost. People are faced with choices to consume every day, and not just at the checkout counter. 

Consumer responsibility is taking personal responsibility for the environmental costs and consequences of what you purchase and use. 

Zero waste is first about preventing waste – to reduce and reuse as much as possible before buying new, then about recycling and composting.  

Zero Waste Tips

Reuse and repurpose to reduce waste.

  • Be creative with gift wrapping. Use old calendars, catalogs, maps, or newspapers. Don't have compostable bags to collect food scraps? Use newspaper to line your bin.  
  • Save used, empty food jars to store small household items or other food products, instead of buying special containers.
  • Donate unwanted clothing and furniture, buy less, refuse to buy what you don't need. 

Bring your own!

  • Bring reusable bags when shopping. San Francisco passed the Checkout Bag Ban requiring a charge for each checkout bag provided.
  • Eliminate one-time use serving ware. Choose to use your own durable utensils, even if you have disposables available or are taking meals to-go.
  • Didn't bring your travel mug to work and need some coffee? Grab a mug from the office kitchen.
  • Practice bringing your own to-go container and bag to restaurants to pack leftovers.
  • Carry a handkerchief instead of using paper napkins and tissues.

Purchase responsibly.

  • Choose items that are made with recycled content.
  • Purchase services and activities for gifts instead of material goods.
  • Buy your produce at farmers markets whenever possible.
  • Buy local products to reduce transportation costs.
sfe zw graphic square building lg jpg
city seal png