Compare the eco-impact of different packaging materials using this chart. For perspective: The average U.S. home burns 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy and produces 16,000 pounds of carbon dioxide through electricity use per year.

Material Energy cost to produce $1,000 worth Greenhouse gases produced Amount recovered in 2007 Landfill lifespan Alternatives
Glass containers 6,944 kilowatt hours 3,527 lbs. 28% 1 million years Always recycle glass — otherwise your great- great-great grandkids might find a bottle you threw away.
Plastic containers (#1, #2, #5) 3,889 kilowatt hours 2,425 lbs. 14% 450 years Reduce use of throwaways, and try to buy easily recyclable #1 and #2 plastics.
Plastic bags and film 3,611 kilowatt hours 2,270 lbs. 10% 500-1,000 years Use canvas grocery bags; wrap sandwiches in napkins.
Polystyrene foam peanuts 3,333 kilowatt hours 2,078 lbs. 7% 500 years Cushion fragile shipments with crumpled newspapers or magazines. Drop off excess foam packaging peanuts at your local FedEx or UPS store.
Coated and uncoated paper bags 3,889 kilowatt hours 2,381 lbs. 37% 1 month Switch to reusable canvas bags, and always recycle paper bags.
Coated and laminated paper, including gift wrap, tissue, and butcher paper 3,611 kilowatt hours 2,151 lbs. Negligible 2-5 months Wrap gifts in newspaper comics pages or reusable fabric wraps.
Corrugated cardboard 4,444 kilowatt hours 2,645 lbs. 74% 1-2 months Buy packaging-free products. Reuse cardboard boxes and compost shredded cardboard.
Steel and aluminum cans, boxes, and other containers 4,722 kilowatt hours 3,262 lbs. 54% 200-400 years Fill reusable containers at the bulk bins, and always recycle steel or aluminum containers.

Source: Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA), eiolca.net/copyright/index.html.