Paper or plastic? How about neither? All those Styrofoam peanuts and impregnable plastic CD cases cost energy to manufacture and deliver, and that means carbon. You can reduce the amount of packaging with a little consumer vigilance. Give back the extra napkins or unwanted sugar packets; carry that gallon of milk by its handle. True eco-nerds will even bring their own cup to a Starbucks.
Corporations are also beginning to pitch in. Hewlett-Packard announced in February that it would switch to lighter packaging for its printer cartridges, which will reduce carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 3,500 cars from the road for a year. Megaretailer Wal-Mart, far out front in this effort, has trimmed everything from its rotisserie-chicken boxes to its water bottles, each now made with 5 g less plastic. The company plans to cut packaging 5% starting in 2008enough to prevent 667,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.