Greening Your Consumption


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Garbage, ​refuse, trash, waste... these are all different names for the stuff we may no longer want or use. There are plenty of options for what to do with our waste (read on), but one of the most important ways to become sustainable involves changing our consumption patterns. 


Changing Consumption Patterns

​​​​​​​​​T​his is​ what Strategy 5 o​​​​​​f the A2ZERO Carbon Neutrality Plan​ addresses: changing the way we use,​ reuse, and dispose of materials. At its core, this is about moving our community to​wards a circul​ar economy.​

While there are options to recycle and compost in Ann Arbor (in addition to your landfill waste bin), there is far more to the picture in considering our use of “things”.  To learn more, check out this video from The Story of Stuff Project about the system of waste and how it’s ​generated.

The Seven Rs.jpg 

There are many stages in a product's life cycle, and each one affects the environment. B​efore making a purchase, the above image can help you consider the full impact of the product's material, manufacturing method, and usage.

The Circular Economy

The circular economy is an economic system that generates value by reusing, repairing, sharing, lending, and promoting all activities that give goods and resources a new life or extend the useful life of an item. A linear economy makes waste. Items are produced, sold, used, and thrown away. Building a circular economy means rediscovering a culture of reclaiming products and materials, following the model of many cultures - notably indigenous ones - that prize conservation and creative reuse of material resources. Learn more on our Circular Economy page​.

Composting and Recycling

Around 33% of Ann Arbor waste is diverted from ​landfills for recycling or composting. About 40% of typical Michigan​​ household waste could be composted. ​Ann Arbor residents are awe​some recyclers - ​​​​​​but we can always do more.

Strategy 5 of Ann Arbor's A2ZERO plan identifies ways for the community to be more sustainable while using and reusing goods and services. The plan set these goals to help divert materials from the landfill:
  • Expand composting to include commercial and multi-family
  • Expand commercial recycling
  • Move toward a circular economy

​Reaching these​ goals​ requires a lot of help from residents and businesses in the community.​​​

​​Returna​​​​ble Container Program

​OSI has partnered with several local businesses on a returnable container program. This program aims to reduce the amount of waste produced by restaurants and other busines​ses in our community by providing patrons with reusable, returnable​ take-out containers. After enjoying a to-go meal from a participating restaurant, you can return the container to any of the participating businesses.​ To see participating businesses and learn more, visit​. ​​​

Wh​​at C​​​an Y​​​o​​u Do?


Gre​en Purchasing​​​​ Checklist

​If you do need to purchase an item, consider the following: 

  • Is it necessary?

  • ​Does it contain 30% or greater post-consumer recycled content (paper)?

  • Is it made of biobased content?

  • Is it environmentall​y preferable, energy efficient, and/or water efficient?

  • Does it have minimal life cycle costs?​​​​

  • Does it have minimal risk of toxic/hazardous chemicals?

  • Is it durable or does it have a long product life?

  • Can you buy a slightly used version as opposed to a new one? ​​​