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Because You Asked

Are American-Made Items Better for the Environment?

By Recyclebank |

Reasons for buying products made in the U.S. vary; is “better for the planet” one of them?

Dear Recyclebank,

I’ve been considering the benefits of purchasing items that were made in the U.S.I like American-made items for quality and economic reasons. Is American-made also more eco-friendly?

-Emily S., Louisville, KY


Dear Emily,

The concept of U.S.-manufactured items has gained political credence over the past couple of decades as many American manufacturing operations have been relocated overseas. Political and economic implications don’t necessarily speak to the environmental implications, though.

There is one obvious environmental advantage to manufacturing items here: reduced carbon emissions associated with transportation. An item made in Los Angeles that ends up on a store shelf in Hollywood, Florida, traveled roughly 2,700 miles, while an item made in Beijing, China, traveled nearly three times that distance. Shorter distances traveled reduce the fuel (and accompanying emissions) needed to move the item from manufacturer to store shelf. Generally speaking, local items are environmentally preferable, even if “local” refers to the continental U.S., as opposed to China or India.

Less obvious are the environmental protections captured (or lost) through different countries’ regulations. Countries that have attracted manufacturing operations tend to have fewer or less stringent government regulations compared the U.S. For example, a factory in the U.S. may have to comply with emission standards defined by the Clean Air Act, while a factory elsewhere has no such standards, less strict standards, or poor enforcement of existing standards.

The human and environmental toll of poor environmental regulation is enormous. Sixty percent of China’s underground water sources is undrinkable, and the country’s headline-grabbing smog is significantly shortening the lives of its citizens. For now, it might be cheaper to manufacture in less-regulated countries, but rampant pollution isn’t sustainable on any level — politically, economically, or environmentally.

All this isn’t to say that the U.S. doesn’t have a long way to go when it comes to environmental sustainability. Just because something is made in the U.S. does not necessarily mean that the product itself is greener than a product made somewhere else. But when you consider the entire manufacturing process, it’s likely that American-made products are more eco-friendly than those manufactured and imported from far away.


Council on Foreign Relations
Washington Post



What buying choices do you make to minimize your negative environmental impact? Tell us in the comments below.


Share with Your Friends & Family
  • joanna l. 2 months ago
    Shop locally and seasonally at the farmers market!Foods eaten in season usually taste a lot better!
  • joanna l. 2 months ago
    I think that we should write to companies and tell them that we will or wont buy their products based on their origin (and take supermarket surveys when you can and tell them local and american products are for me
  • Eugene and Mary Ellen C. 3 months ago
    we look for recyclable packaging on products, we have recycled as much as we could for many years.
  • Alice B. 3 months ago
    I believe that it is wise to buy American made.If American lose jobs it is like a domino effect and eventually no one will have a job because there will be no one to buys our good and or services. That will leave and has left Americans with no jobs who do not care about the environment.They have bigger worries. Many Americans are 1 paycheck from being homeless. Homeless people make junk piles or stuff they can sell and when they move on the environment has all the junk and garbage left behind which is a major environmental disaster and the town involved has a major clean up problem that can take a long time to clean up.So if. you love this country please buy American.It is usually better made and often guaranteed. It is also better regulated and safer to consume or eat. Love this country or lose it.It is your choice.
  • Sue S. 3 months ago
    I never shop at Wal Mart!
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