San Francisco Department of the Environment

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Consumer Responsibility

Consumer responsibility is taking personal responsibility for the environmental costs and consequences of your consumption patterns and lifestyle. 

How does consumer responsibility fit in with zero waste?

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

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.

How can I become a more responsible consumer?

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. 

What are some tips to live Zero Waste?

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 or empty paper milk cartons.  
  • Save used, empty food jars to store small household items or other food products, instead of buying special containers.

Bring your own!

  • Bring re-usable 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 local products to reduce transportation costs.

Our home. Our city. Our planet.